Easter Sunday Sermon "Empty Eggs" by: Pastor Chris Boyd
Psalm 118:1-2, 15-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-28
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Today is a most glorious and happy day, for today the doom and gloom of the last several days has been lifted. Gone is the depression of the buried King who was killed on a tree and placed within a tomb, and why? It hasn’t been very long since we last saw Him breath His last breathe. Many, if not most, of us are still mourning. Why should we be happy? What has happened to lift this dreadful weight off of our heavy hearts and slumped shoulders? Why should we be happy? Our Lord, our King, our Savior, our Messiah, is now dead, and our hands at that!
Have you not heard? Heard what? There is no need to have such heavy hearts or slumped shoulders, for I bring good news! What is this good News you bring to alleviate me of this ailment of shame and guilt? What good news is so powerful that it can wipe away the tears from cast down eyes and remove the permanent creases in my frowning face? I am tired, I am weary, I am worn. I killed my Savior, if not with my own hands then with my unwillingness to protect Him, to sacrifice myself in lieu of Him. I did nothing, and now He, the Son of Man, Son of God is dead! Why should I be happy?
He is no longer dead. He is no longer dead! That is the Good News, the grave no longer has dominion over Him, the deep holds Him no more, He has conquered Death! He is Risen! He is Risen! He is Risen!
That is the Good News, no more do you have to look down with eyes full of sorrow for the Lamb who was slaughtered is alive once more! Your King of which you thought was gone is here. Your King of which you killed is no longer dead! And he does not come with vengeance against those who persecuted Him, who wronged Him, who slandered Him, who left Him to die, but with forgiveness and open arms. Did He not say with his dying breath, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing”? So no more do you have to worry; instead rejoice, rejoice in the Lord, not just now but always, again I say rejoice!
Walk with joy in your steps, with vigor that causes you to leap. Lift up your heads, lift them high. Your Lord is not in the Ground, so stop looking down. He is here, so look up. And while you are at it cast away those worries and concerns, cast away that frown that mares your face, but know that your Lord is with you for not even death can hold Him. Smile! Leap with joy! Dance with mirth! Be Merry and have fun! Eat together in fellowship and celebration! And above all else, Worship and give Praise, for the tomb that once held our Lord is empty. He is Risen!
How is this so...? Does this have something to do with those most curious sayings of His when he said that He would raise the temple up in three days? It must be! For though I did not understand what He meant back then, now it makes sense! He is the temple! Tear this temple down and on the third day He will raise it back up. Is not today the third day? It is! He’s been foretelling this to us all along! How did I not notice? How did I not see? What else did I miss? What about His death? Why did He die?
In Scripture, does it not say many times that the Messiah must die, that this servant must give up His life? And does it not say in what manner He was to die? It says so in Psalm 22, Isaiah 52, and 53. And recently, our Teacher told us that the Son was to be lifted up. Does that not mean the cross? It does, but why did He had to die? He died so that through His death He may put to eternal rest the Old Adam, to put to death our sins, but He rises and with Him also rises within us the New Adam and newness of life! All this was foretold, and now we finally see what Scripture and our Lord has been trying to tell us. Christ died for our sake, but Christ is alive for our sake. Christ descended to Hell so we won’t have to, but then Christ ascended, is resurrected, so that we may never be alone.
In the days of old it was taught that because God is the God of the Living, upon death we go to Sheol, abandoned by God whose face is not cast on us. This was because God could not have any sin within Him. But through faith in Christ we are not abandoned but are guaranteed eternal life with Christ! How is this so? Here is the great mystery finally revealed. When God came in the form of Christ and died upon that Cross, He took on all of our sin and went to Hell for our sake. Yet Christ is not the God of the dead, but the God of the Living, therefore death has no hold over Him, so in three days, Christ rose from the dead, conquering Hell, and lives eternal. And because He already paid our ransom and went to Hell in our stead, upon our last breathe, through faith in Him, we will not certainly die but live with Christ and all the saints eternally.
Yes He died, but wipe away that frown, because He lives and wants you to know, each and every one of you, that he has already forgiven you and wants to walk with you, not as the Lord who died but as the Risen Lord.
One tradition we have in the Church that helps us with not only remembering the miracle of Jesus’ Resurrection but also to have a little fun while we remember, a very common Easter tradition, is Easter Eggs. There are multiple “hidden” messages and layers to the meaning behind this tradition. First, is the search for Jesus. He is Risen! Cool… So where is He? Have you ever try to find something and you can’t just figure out where it is, only to realize that you have been looking right at it, plain as the eye can see, the whole time? The same feeling can be used for the search of Jesus. He is here! Where? I do not see Him. Is He under that pew? Is He behind the NALC in the Narthex? Is He hiding in a bush outside? No, but I did hide some eggs there. No, Jesus is not hidden, it is plain as the eye can see that He is indeed Here. But I don’t see Him. Trust me, He is here. On top of that, notice how in all the stories of Jesus after His Resurrection that when many see Him they don’t recognize Him and how it is only when He reveals Himself that the disciples finally see Him. Jesus is not like some tamed animal who comes at your beckoning call and reveals itself when you wish to see it. He is like a free lion who does as He pleases. Who comes and goes as He chooses. He is here, that is most certainly true, but if He wishes to be seen He will reveal Himself. And yes, I just referenced Aslan from Narnia, written by C. S. Lewis, Father of modern Christian Apologetics.
Now when you finally do find the eggs what do you do? We gather them up and find the next. Yes, yes, not what I meant, what do you do to that particular egg? You open it up and take out the candy. Exactly! So the egg is now… what? Open? Yes, and? Empty. Exactly! At one point the egg had something in it and on Easter it was opened and became empty. What else was filled and on Easter was opened and empty? The Tomb! These eggs are like the tomb that Jesus was placed in for just like these eggs, on Easter day, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. And upon finding the tomb they saw that it was already opened and Jesus was not in it.
Now as a joke I almost decided to do likewise with the eggs, that is hide a lot of plastic eggs that are both cracked open and empty throughout the church. I thought better of it. I mean the message at least would not be lost, just like the three you searched and found an egg that is already opened and empty… don’t you hate it when that happens? You participate in an Easter egg hunt, you see the shiny red color of an egg in the grass, you go to it and upon lifting it up off the grass you find out it is already open and empty. I mean come on. So, out of displeasure, what do you do? You drop it on the ground… only to repeat the process with someone else. So I didn’t hide empty eggs.
Yet, here is the thing, whereas we would be disappointed at seeing an empty Easter egg, do you think the disciples were disappointed in finding out that the tomb was empty? Terrified, definitely, but not disappointed, for they were told that Jesus has Risen from the Grave. Why would the disciples be disappointed over that? Terrified? Possibly. Skeptical? Some were. Joyious? In the end, when they realized that Christ has Risen, most definitely. For this much is most certainly true: Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen!
Let us Pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you and your Son cannot be conquered by death for you are the source of all Life. You are the Way, the Truth, and Life. Instead you have conquered death and have given us a sign through the glorious resurrection of your Son. That nothing can separate us from your and from your love toward us. You are with us now and forever and just like your Son who was resurrection, we know with certainty that through faith in Him we too cannot be conquered by death, but resurrected too. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Maundy Thursday Service, by: Pastor Chris Boyd
Psalm 116:1; 10-19
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
“Take and eat; this is my body, given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me… This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
Today marks the night in which our Lord, Jesus Christ was to be betrayed, taken away from us, leading towards what could only be called a shame trial, suffered humiliation and death on a cross, and eventually sealed within a tomb. The Passion is about to begin, but before it does, and Jesus gave his disciples fair warning just before serving the meal about this betrayal, He wanted to leave them something. This Bread is my body. This Cup of Wine is my blood. Eat and drink this for the forgiveness of sin and in remembrance of Me. Though He died, He left for all of humanity the means of allowing Him to be with us at all times, for though we are in Him through our faith, He is in us through Communion, not just spiritually but also physically.
Now previously in the Bible, John 6 to be exact, Jesus mentioned to the Jews that He was the Bread of Life and all who consume Him will live eternally. Of course many of the Jews were horrified by Jesus’ rhetoric and were accusing Him of promoting cannibalism which is against the Law. Jesus then doubles down on the Word, for it says in scripture, “The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”’ (John 6:52-58). Even after this, the Jews still grumbled, taking offense at Jesus’ words, and many turned away from Him, but the twelve remained.
What is interesting is that history repeats itself, for just as many of the Jews balked at Jesus’ words, during the time of Martin Luther, among the Christian group known as Protestants, there too was balking at Jesus’ words. This can’t be His physical flesh and blood, is must mean a metaphor and we should consume the elements out of just mere remembrance of the Lord’s Supper. This was coming from the Leader of the Protestant movement, Zwingli, Luther’s arch nemesis. So in response to the Protestants, the Augustinian Catholics, led by Luther, professed this: Jesus said that this is His body and blood therefore the bread and wine is His body and blood. End of debate, no point in asking how it is so, Jesus never told us that, instead let us discuss why it is so, which Jesus did tell us.
Fast forward to today’s Gospel, Jesus is now blessing the elements of what will be His final meal with them before His death. So He leaves them the reminder that He is the Bread of Life, and gives them a command, a mandate, on this Maundy, this Mandate Thursday. Eat. Drink. And according to Mark, this meal that Jesus blessed was on the first day of Unleavened Bread, that is Passover, which means that this meal was the first Seder, which is Jewish for order. It is commanded that on this Seder, alongside the Passover lamb, the Jews are to ceremonially eat unleavened bread and drink wine. It is this bread and this wine, prepared for the first Seder that Jesus blessed and then provided for us His mandate.
And just like the Jews, today we too eat the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we may abide in Him and He, the source of all life, in us, but there is so much more to this Sacrament than just mere physical consumption so that He may abide in us. For is not the Holy Spirit attached to the elements of Communion? It is, for Communion is a Sacrament, and the Word is present in the Sacraments, therefore the Holy Spirit is present. Why is that important? What do we say about the Holy Spirit in the Small Catechism? “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.”
Bread is sustenance necessary for life, without our daily bread, without food, we will die. Likewise, we who are already truly dead, dead in sin, needs the daily Bread of Life in order to be brought back to life from our dead sinfulness and daily retain God within us who is the source of true life. And as we live in sin, our eyes are veiled from the truth, for we are born in original sin incapable of knowing nor loving God. It is through the Word that our eyes are opened to the truth and life is breathed into our lifeless bones and the veil of sin lifted. We cannot believe in God, we cannot have faith in Him, but through the external Word that enters into us through Baptism we are finally capable of belief, yet, how do we retain this belief?
Only Christ can truly wipe away all our sins and sanctify us, and because Christ is present in the Eucharist, the remission of sins does indeed come from the bread and the wine, and it is the nourishment of Christ that not only cleanses us and daily sanctifies us but also allows us to retain the knowledge and love of God. Again by our own devices we are incapable of knowing, let alone loving, God; yet through the Holy Spirit we have faith. Over time, because of the buildup of sin and the weight of the world we may get lost in our despair, guilt, and shame; losing our love in God, giving into worldly notions that deceive us about God, and eventually altogether forgetting God. We don’t just consume the body and blood of Christ because we remember Him; we consume His body and blood so that we will continue to remember Him, to live in Him truly as He truly lives in us.
And what is it we remember? According to Paul, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” Jesus is about to die, but we do not mourn His death, we proclaim it, for through His sacrifice He has provided for us unworthy servants the means of eternal forgiveness and everlasting life. When we celebrate communion, we also proclaim the Lord’s death, and should we not proclaim the Lord’s death as often as we can? Should we not consume this daily bread as often as we can in communion with one another all for the sake of receiving Christ’s forgiveness, His spiritual nourishment, and retention of our faith with remembrance and love toward the Triune God?
This is my body. This is my blood. As we consume Communion today let us remember this fact and never forget.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, through your son you have provided for us the means of daily forgiveness and retention of our faith toward you. Encourage us to forget not your promises and to latch on to every gift you provide for us, Word and Sacrament, all for the sake of, above all else, latching on to You. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
5th Sunday in Lent 2/24/21 Sermon by: Pastor Chris Boyd
For the season of Lent, these Wednesdays, we will be reading from Isaiah 52:13-53:12, but only three verses at a time. Today we read:
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief;when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall seeand be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
It was the will of the Lord to crush the Servant. It was the will of the Lord to put His Servant to grief. His Servant is to be an offering. His Servant is to be a Sacrifice. A Sacrifice for what, but our sins?
In the days of old, after Moses descended from the mountain and provided for God’s people the Law, it was ordered that the Israelites were to provide offerings for the forgiveness of their sins. These offerings were not meant to please the Lord, for the Lord does not delight in offerings. No, these offerings were sacrificial, to die in lieu of the just punishments the Israelites deserve for their sins. God does not delight in offerings because they are a sign that His people still act against Him. Offerings are a sign that we still sin and are disobedient. So if God doesn’t like offerings then does that mean we shouldn’t give them? Far from it for God detests sin and death above all else. He wants us to live, truly live, eternal lives void of sin, but God cannot have sin within Him and all sin does is destroy our connection with God. God detests sin, and if we do not ask for forgiveness then we would suffer the consequences of our sins. To provide offerings was not only a sign of repentance but also an act of allowing something else to die in your stead. God does not want us to die, he wants us to live, yet we sin, so he gave us the means of forgiveness.
Whereas God is quick to forgiving, He detests the very fact He has to forgive. Out of His kindness, he does forgive, he wants us to be connected to Him. He detests the very fact He has to forgive because that is proof we are sinners. God wishes us to live sinless lives. He doesn’t want to see us suffer the consequences of sin. He doesn’t want to put in a situation where He must continually forgive us. Yet we are failures, fallen humans, filled will sin, who decide by our own powers to keep on sinning. We are not righteous.
So God sent this Servant to be the Offering of all Offerings, the Sacrifice of all Sacrifices. He was to die for all sin. He was to be offered up as a sacrifice to bore our sins and our transgressions so we want have to. This Sacrifice, which was void of sin, became a curse, so that we who are cursed may become void of sin. This Servant, who was righteous, became the greatest of sinners, so that we who are sinners may be made righteous.
Someone had to suffer for our sins. So this Righteous Servant of God suffered for our sake. And out of His suffering, out of His anguish, this servant who would not sin against, was able to see that through His actions, we who did sin against Him, called Him to be crucified, were, through faith, being transformed, and He was satisfied.
His mission was complete. He finally fulfilled all of Scripture through this single act. Even though He suffered, He was glad. Satisfied for He was able to do that which He intended to do. His intent ultimately was not to give Himself up, this Righteous Servant. Again, God does not delight in offerings. But he had to give Himself up as it was the only way to accomplish His true intent, to wash us of our sins and make us righteous so that through death and faith in Him we too may live in righteousness, and thus eternally. This was His goal. And as our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered to the point of death on that Cross, seeing His goal finally accomplished, He let out a sigh, “It is finished.”
Let us pray
Dear Heavenly Father, your Son is indeed Righteous, and without Him we would be lost, rejected, suffering because of our own sin, and dead. He didn’t have to suffer, but for our sake, in order to save us, He gave Himself up. Help us never to forget our sins, but instead live with gratitude in our hearts for Christ’s amazing sacrifice. In your most Holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Palm Sunday Sermon, "Palms to Passion" by: Pastor Chris Boyd
Psalm 31:1-5, 9-16
“Palms to Passion”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Each year we gather one week before Easter to wave around palm branches, celebrating the coming Lord as He entered Jerusalem on a donkey. He came in a humble manner, yet the people who believed in Him wanted to give their laud and praise to this Rabbi, this Prophet, this King. They lined the street to the gate cheering and giving hoorays as they waved their palm branches around, kind of like how we might wave around foam number one hands at a game or various lights at a concert. This was no king, he was a celebrity. He has healed the sick, turned water into wine, raised the dead, and feed thousands upon thousands. His words are full of wisdom and authority, and He is approachable. This King is like no other king. So they treated him differently than Herod or Pilate or the Pharisees, they treated him the same way we today treat the celebrities we fantasize over.
Today, if we found out people such as actors, singers, sportsmen were to show up we would get all in a tizzy just to get one glimpse, let alone a handshake or signature. Oh, they’re hosting a concert at the nearby theater? Let us figure out what route they might use to get to the concert so we can get a photoshoot. Let us order the tickets as soon as we possibly can so we can throw half our wage to get that front seat. Let us wear ridiculous amounts of fan gear to catch their attention and notice just how much of a die heart we are. And if they are walking down a fenced path let us get as close to the path as early as possible so that when the time comes we could reach over the bars and just get a touch of the singer’s clothes.
Oh, a scene for an upcoming movie is being filmed at a nearby city? Isn’t, I don’t know, Brad Pitt or Tom Hanks or Morgan Freeman, in the movie? Let us get a closer view, maybe even sign up as an extra background pedestrian in the movie so we can say to our great-grandkids, “When I was your age, I was an actor. In fact I was filmed with this once famous actor… Here let me show you… Ah! Here is the scene. Behind Tom Hanks, in that giant crowd of people, you see that hand waving in the air near the back? That’s me.”
We go to great lengths for the ones we turn into celebrities, and for Jesus, as He entered into Jerusalem, the people there went to great lengths to figure out which gate Jesus was to enter into, to have palms prepared, to get off work; even centurions came, though probably most didn’t come for Jesus particularly. There was much excitement and joy and mirth and shouts of hosannas. So much so that the Pharisees, aghast, asked Jesus to discipline these disciples who were making an unsightly spectacle of themselves.
This day seemingly marked a day of extreme happiness for the King has finally arrived at His Kingdom. But such quickly turned sour, for in a matter of days, Jesus was to be crucified. Just days… the saying is most certainly true here, “Well that escalated quickly!” For it was a Sunday that Jesus entered Jerusalem surrounded by adoring disciples and citizens. The next day, Jesus cleared the Temple and it went downhill from there. We welcomed you with open arms and you come in like a bull in a china shop, quiet literally. He upended everything: in Matthew 21 it says He drove out sellers and customers, He destroyed property of those abusing His home, He accused them of being a den of robbers, He allowed the sick to enter the sanctuary, and He even allowed obnoxiously loud children into the temples. He most certainly upended everything, and the Pharisees who ran the place and many others such as those merchants were not happy. The plot to kill this usurper, to kick Him out of their Home which they have made comfortable, regardless of their unscriptural shenanigans, was underway. And today’s Gospel, was the result of their conspiring.
Less than one week! Less than one week! It’s not like they were already conspiring to kill Him. Yet, all it took was one week for the Pharisees to whip up Jerusalem into a frenzy against this Usurper. We were hoodwinked into believing this man was the King of the Jews, He is no King! He upended our way of life and criticized our practices within the Church and without our consent included various practices that we detest, such as letting the sick and kids in the church. One week, and they killed this bull who dared destroy their precious heretical china shop.
So they in the end delivered this man to Pilate to start the process of leading Him to His death. Now this was not your usual trial, for this was a shame trial, controlled by the court of public opinion, controlled by the real puppet masters, the Pharisees, who acted as the trusted source of news for the common people. Though Jerusalem was under Roman control, with Pilate as governor, it was the frenzied mob and their intimidating chief priests and elders and scribes who were really in control. Pilate was a good Soldier boy, and he wanted Jerusalem to be at peace. Therefore He wasn’t the one truly in control, but the angry mob who threatened civility.
So when the priests handed Jesus over to Pilate, the very man who was hailed as King of the Jews just days ago, what do you think He said; “Are you the King of the Jews?” If Jesus said yes then He would have been tried a heretic; if He said no then He would have been tried for admitting He was a heretic. So, impressing Pilate, Jesus said, “You have said so,” and gave no further reply. Pilate did not want to see Jesus dead, but he was a Soldier who prized good order, and for the sake of good order, allowed the mob to control the trial rather than give Jesus a fairer one. Pilate went so far as to allow the Jews to choose between Jesus and a mass murderer who caused an insurrection, Barabbas. In their illogical and irrational rage, blinded by hatred, they said it was better to let this mass murderer go than to let The Son of Man, whom they themselves called King of the Jews, go.
“Why? What evil has he done?” said Pilate, bewildered, by the extreme revulsion oozing out of this horde. And what was their response? Crucify Him! They need no reason. Why, when blinded by hatred, by feelings, facts or evidence means squat. Who needs reason when all you need is an angry mob to get things done? And it worked; Pilate caved, and gave up on saving Jesus. Pilate was the last safeguard to prevent Jesus’ death, and he failed. He chose satisfying the mob over satisfying true good order. He chose the easy route over the right route. He was not a bad man, but he was definitely weak, for when it mattered most, when the ugly monster of irrational hatred reared its face, He croaked. Now no one could save Jesus. His fate was sealed, not like it already was.
All of this was already foretold in Scripture. Jesus is indeed the King of the Jews, but what does that mean? It means He had to die to save every one. Jesus didn’t give up, nor did He give into the mob. He had a mission to fulfill. His fate was already sealed. He did not deserve to die, yet he did nothing to prevent His death. There is a reason why he waited to go to Jerusalem. It was not His time to die. He knew the moment He entered into Jerusalem the gears would start moving, and everything foretold about His death would be set in motion.
All it took was one week. In the beginning they praised Him as King of the Jews. In the end they mocked Him as King of the Jews. And it wasn’t until He died, too late, that they realized, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, we humans are weak and give into our emotions so easily, especially when the devil whispers sweat words into our ears against you. Shield us from His influence and help us to see your amazing love for us. In your name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sermon 3/21/21 "The Hour Comes" by Pastor Chris Boyd
“The Hour Comes”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Death comes to us all. We all know that we will die, but not when nor how nor in what manner. We may have an idea, we may have near certainty when and how our death will occur as our hour draws nearer and nearer, but one never truly knows. No one with sheer certainty, through their own devices determine exactly when and how we will expire from this life. We know it will happen, but that is the only certainty do we have. Oh we can get close to understanding the ways of the world and even closer to foretelling our coming end through the help of medicine, mathematics, and other such things, but one cannot know with sheer certainty.
We are not the authors of our lives. We are not God. We are free through Jesus, but this freedom is from sin and the sting of death and from true death. Yet this freedom does not give us the luxury to determine when our temporal deaths may occur.
One day we may have cancer and think that our eminent death comes near, only for a miracle to happen that rids our body of all signs of the life threatening condition. Gone is the certainty of death. One day we may be as fit as a fiddle with no concerns in the world and or life is snuffed out in the quickest of flashes, either by stroke or bullet or some freak accident. Gone is the certainty of temporal life.
We do not know our hour or when it will come, we dare not know, so we instead treat each day as if it is our last, while at the same time intending that a next day will follow. We cannot count the number of hairs are on our head, nor the stars in the sky, so neither can we determine the number of minutes in our lives. But there is one who knows all to include our coming hour, as well as His own coming hour. We do not know our hour; Jesus, on the other hand, did know.
Throughout all of Scripture, His death was foretold and in what manner. Scripture foretold also why he had to die. Now who is the author of Scripture? Ultimately, who is the source of these prophecies that foretell of the coming Messiah and His death? Well God. And is not Jesus also God? Therefore is not Jesus the author of the Old Testament? Is He not speaking to us through Scripture, telling us, providing for us prophecies, of the coming Messiah? Of course! Jesus is His own author, but God the Father is also the author of Jesus, who directs Jesus who perfectly obeys the Father. But in the end, Jesus, who is God, knew exactly when and in what manner He was to die, as to why He was to die. This is because He is the author, He is the Way, the Truth, and Life itself. He knew.
He gave us plenty of warning, not just in His life, such as in today’s Gospel when He said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself,” but also through the Old Testament. Jesus literally speaks to us through Scripture, such as through Isaiah, about His coming death. To those of you who attend our Wednesday Lenten Services, you know what I mean. For this season of Lent I have been giving short meditations on the section of Isaiah commonly referred to as the Suffering Servant, Isaiah 52:13-53:12. This section of Isaiah is only 15 verses long, so each Wednesday I have been preaching 3 verses at a time. The themes, broken down were, week one: the “Lifted Servant”, week two: the “Despised Servant”, three: the “Burdened Servant”, last week: the “Silent Servant”, and this coming Wednesday, to wrap it all up with Isaiah 53:10-12, the “Righteous Servant”. These 15 verses are just a few of the many verses throughout Scripture where Jesus literal tells us about His death, even before He is born. Therefore He, and only He and the Father, knew the when, the how, and the why.
Now before Jesus said in the Gospel, “The hour has come,” there were multiple times when Jesus said the hour had not come and escaped potential death. This includes earlier in the Gospel of John, the beginning of chapter 7 to be exact, when Jesus refused to go to Judea against the discretion of His disciples, but rather went to Galilee because the Jews in Judea were seeking to kill Him. Then, Jesus said, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.”
Jesus knew His time had not yet come then, for He knew when the appropriate hour was supposed to be, in order for Scripture to be fulfilled. In today’s Gospel, that hour has arrived. It is time for all the cogs to move towards Jesus’ death. It is time for the final act to begin. It is time for the final verse to be sung. It is time for the final lap in Jesus’ race. It is time to pull the net in, to reel in the line. It is the time for the great harvest. It is time for the final chapter in a book. The final hour has come, the hour of all hours, the climax of human history, when the Son of Man is to be glorified, lifted on a tree for all to see. Good Friday arrives.
Yet, because Jesus knows that His hour has indeed finally arrived, He finds that now His soul is troubled. What does He say? This is the culmination of all He has worked for. This is the hour of fulfillment. Yet Jesus, who is the God of the Living, is to fulfill Scripture through His death. So He is troubled. He does not want to die. He does not want to suffer. He does not want to go to Hell, which is the complete opposite of His entire divine nature. He proclaims, “What shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour’?” He cannot say that, for that would also be contrary to His divine nature, and His entire mission. He was born so that He might die. And because of his divine nature, He must fulfill this mission, for to not do such would be disobedience, and disobeying God is sin, and Jesus can’t disobey Himself or His Father, nor can God have any sin within Him, therefore Jesus must die. His hour has come and He cannot change it. He has the power to save Himself, but He won’t because that would jeopardize His entire mission.
So He is troubled, and asks His Father to glorify not His, Jesus’, name, but to glorify the Father’s name. “Father, glorify your name.” And God the Father responds, which I could imagine gives Jesus much hope and reassurance. Jesus needs this. He needs hope and reassurance to proceed. I mean, He is about to die, and He knows this with sheer certainty. He needs this, and only God can provide Him with this certainty and help Jesus’ troubled soul.
And what is the peace of mind Jesus needed; that there is purpose in His actions. The Father did not glorify Jesus, nor did He glorify Himself for Jesus’ sake. The Father glorified Himself for our sake. Jesus’ entire mission was for our sake, under the commands of the Father. Jesus needed peace, this is all for their sake, my mission is not meaningless, I can now fulfill it, I can now willingly give up my life. The hour comes, and Jesus is ready.
Now there is a most curious thing about this sacrifice. Just like how a seed though already dead, if buried into the earth, ceases to be a seed and thus dies as it sprouts truly alive and grows into a plant that bears fruit, so must Christ and we through Christ. For in order for Christ to be glorified, he needed to first die. And the same applies to us. For before Christ we are like seeds, already dead. Our sinful lives are dead and thus if we love this sinful life we will ultimately lose it. Yet if we hate our sinfulness and instead reach out to Christ and have faith in Him then we are not only buried with Him, putting to death our former selves through Christ’s burial, but we are also raised with Christ in newness of life which lasts for eternity and bears good fruit. Isn’t it curious? Curious indeed, for if we wish to live eternity we must, through Christ, put to rest the old Adam and, also through Christ, lift up the new Adam. For if we become attached to the old Adam we will not only die, but are already dead.
The Hour comes, it is here, for the Son of Man to be glorified, and through His death, we too glorified, sanctified, justified, made righteous, made holy, cleansed, forgiven, absolved of our sins, made Saints, made Children of God, made Heirs of His Kingdom. The hour comes.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, just like your son, who gave up his life, help us to let go of our sinful lives so that we too may be transformed and be brought to true eternal life, sanctified by Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with You, now and forever. In your most holy name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.