In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God lays down His life to redeem rebels who have forsaken Him. Even though they don’t love Him, He loves them. This is how He loves them: He dies their death, exhausts His own wrath, and satisfies Justice. He rises out of that death, the Victor. This dying and rising that those rebels, even us, might too rise and live with Him forever. He did not die for an abstract idea, for a general, generic love of people, the way some people simply love cats or chocolate. Our God deliberately laid down His life for specific individuals. It is not fair to say that He loves everyone the same. No parent loves all his children exactly the same. He loves them each individually, specifically, according to the uniqueness of their personalities and relationships. So, too, Our God.
His love is so great and precise that He knows the intimate details of each person, even counting the hairs on their heads. The specific individuals for whom He died includes the whole world, even those who reject Him. He knows them, even their secret sins and evil desires. And, yet, while they were yet sinners, rebels, bent on destroying Him, He loved them and laid down His life for them. Whosoever believes in Him, is drawn to Him by the hoisting up of that cruel cross, finds there eternal life. There is no other way to approach Him. But in this way, the way of the Cross, there is not only approach and acceptance but even adoption.
Thus, the rebellion is over. It has ended in the most unlikely of ways. The King has sent His Son into the hands of the treacherous rebels, knowing full well what would happen, and allowed them to kill Him. All the while, He held back the vast angelic armies that could have come and stopped the rebellion in an instant. The Heir to the throne was destroyed and the inheritance passed on to the rebels – because there is no one else. Peace has come by the ultimate violence. The terms of surrender were absolute: total annihilation, unconditional, no negotiating. He met the terms in Himself. The war is over. Peace reigns. Who can understand the ways of God? No one.
The greatest mystery of Our God is not His plurality within His Unity, or even the Incarnation. The greatest mystery is His mercy, His unfailing, steadfast love. The murderous rebels are declared sons, just as if they had never sinned, never rebelled. The murderous rebels are rebels no longer, but princes and princesses. The One they murdered is not dead, but He lives, and He is the First-born, the elder Brother, the Advocate and Mediator, the Redeemer and Restorer. This most Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – has created, redeemed, and sanctified. Or, to say it more simply and concisely: He has loved.
This Holy Trinity has rescued and recreated us in the waters of Holy Baptism naming us as His own. We are no longer who we were. We have been drawn into His death and resurrection, born again of Water and Spirit, renamed and reclaimed into His name. We are not the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. Those sons and daughters drowned. In Christ, by Christ, we are the living. We are the sons and daughters of the Most High, of the living God of Life. This most Holy Trinity, mystery of all mysteries, abides in us.
This is our life in Him: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Romans 5:8-12)
God has demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were still sinners He died for us, good for bad, right for wrong, God for the ungodly. He was lifted up on the cross for our salvation and thus we glory in it. Ye Sons and Daughters of the King, beloved and honored by the Most High, come to the Feast He lays before you. Be, once again, guests at the Father’s table, with the Son as the Host, in the unity of the Spirit. Enjoy food for which earthly kings and superstars are not fit, but which He has bequeathed in His unfathomable love and mercy to you. Dine on His Body. Drink His Blood. Lift high the Cup of Peace. Be purged of your sins. The rebellion is over. You have won!
In + Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana