Quinquagesima 2017

Feb 26, 2017
1 Cor 13:1-13; Luke 18:31-43

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

There is a marvelous move in today’s readings from the Epistle to the Gospel. The Epistle describes perfect Divine love, love that never fails. The Gospel then shows us perfect Divine Love in the Lord’s prediction of His death, preparation of His disciples, and the healing of the blind man.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is not a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. He goes to lay down His life for His friends and even for His enemies. He gives away all that He has, even His last garment, His last shred of dignity, His last breath. He delivers up His body to be burned in His Father’s wrath and tortured by Herod’s and Piltate’s soldiers and by the devil himself. In this He is ever patient and kind, never envious or boasting. He is not arrogant or rude – even to those who mock Him.  Even in the midst of His own loneliness and agony on the cross, He still thinks of others. He makes arrangements for the penitent thief to be forgiven his sins, relieved of his burdens, and welcomed that very day into Christ’s paradisal fellowship. He makes arrangements for His mother, not only that she would be looked after but also that she would be catechized and kept in the Church for He gives her care into the hands of the Apostle whom He loves. He looks after those who crucify Him but know not what they are doing, beseeching the Father’s mercy to forgive those who seem almost unforgivable.

He does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but He rejoices that God will use what they do in malice to Him for good. He is love and He bear all things. He believes all things, hopes all things. There on the cross He endures all things. His love never fails, never ends.

As for prophecies, they will pass away. The time will come when there is nothing more to foretell. As for tongues, they will cease. We will be one family in Christ. As for knowledge, it, too, will pass away, for we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, even the Lord in judgement, having been crucified, raised, and ascended, when He comes in that glorious mercy to get us and bring us home, then the partial will pass away.

Now we see in a mirror dimly, with scarcely more understanding than the disciples, and perhaps not yet as much as blind Bartimaeus crying to the Son of David for mercy, but then we will see face to face. Now we know in part; then we shall know fully, even as we have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down His life for his friends. But greater love has God, who has laid down the life of His Son for us, who has suffered Himself to be forsaken by the Father to have us, who went as a lamb to the slaughter. He has loved us to the end. His love never fails.

With the prediction of this love, He prepared His disciple for what was to come. It wasn’t the only time He prepared them. His whole ministry was leading them to this point and this most explicit prophecy is simply the culmination. Now, it might seem that they weren’t well-prepared  since they all failed at the cross. But with the exception of Judas the betrayer, they were prepared. Though they failed and sinned and were deeply hurt in the process, they did not lose faith. He rebuked them. He chastised them as needed. He taught them and He forgave them in their repentance and faith. This is how He prepared them.

Thus did He pray on the night in which He was betrayed:   “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:12, ESV)

To be prepared for martyrdom and ministry doesn’t mean to be free from the sorrow and pain those things bring. It mean that martyrdom will be glorious on earth. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of all His saints. Martyrdom is marked by the holy angels. I suspect it is celebrated in heaven, but precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of every saint – whether it seems glorious on earth or not, or whether is even noticed by the Church Militant or not. Being prepared doesn’t meant glory: it means passing over with faith and coming to the reward of Christ. Nor does being prepared mean that the ministry will be successful, that you will be respected and admired, that all your children will be in church every Sunday and also keep the faith. Being prepared means that you will not be lost, that you, who have been given to the Son by the Father in the Spirit of Baptism, would be kept and guarded, not merely by legions of holy angels, but also by the risen Son Himself.

That keeping and guarding are done by the Word. As He prepared the disciples with the foretelling of His perfect love on the cross so He still prepares us. And as He He took the twelve aside, apart from the multitude, to teach them of His love on the cross, so also would He take you aside, pull you out of the world, through the Scriptures and by the Sacraments, and tell you of His Sacrifice and love, to prepare you for what you must endure.

What must you endure? A cross, to be sure, custom-made; the raising of children, the alienation of enemies, the betrayal of co-workers, the loss of dignity and income? I don’t know. But I know that Jesus has gone up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets has been accomplished. He has been delivered over to the Gentiles for our offenses. He has been mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon as punishment for our sins, in our stead. And after they flogged and tortured him, they killed him in the most agonizing and shameful way they could. But on the third day he rose and He rose for us, as our Victor, to bring us home.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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