5th Sunday of Lent
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus who’s glory it was to suffer and die to pay for your sins, dear friends in Christ,
How do you feel when you hear this sound? (Play radio warning sound) Does this sound get your attention? Do you listen to what the “National Weather Center in Fargo, ND” says? We’re approaching spring when the weather can get rather unpredictable as warm weather fronts collide with cold weather fronts and storms – at times severe – can develop. When you hear that sound, does your heart jump? Your pulse rate increase? Your adrenaline go up? Your wonder: What is it? What’s going to happen? But then you hear those words: This was a test of the National Weather emergency broadcast system. Or something like that. What happens then? Your heart settles down and you calm down. Just a test, false alarm, etc. This last week something else happened. A couple of military jets, I assume, flew quite low over the airport over here while I was working in my study at the parsonage and it was loud, it rattled the windows in our house. I was able to catch a glimpse of it and thought it was pretty cool to watch them fly over. But then the thought occurred to me. I feel very safe and at peace in our nation. There are likely many people in the world who live in different countries that the sound of military jets flying overhead is quite a scary thing – what is it? What are they going to do? Are they going to drop some bombs on us? Am I going to die? We can become full of fear even at the anticipation when there is just a remote chance of something bad happening, right?
And isn’t that in part because our world is so full of uncertainties? We don’t really know what’s going to happen. We don’t really know what danger or catastrophe could lie ahead of us. We don’t really know what sickness or difficulty we may run into. We don’t really know what problem or trouble we will face. And perhaps we approach life by taking one day at a time and we’ll approach the difficulties when they come. But there’s something even better than that.
But first, think about Jesus. Remember that Jesus is both God and human in one. As a human and in “the days of Jesus’ life on earth” in other words, in the time when He set aside the full use of His power as God, Jesus was subject to human emotions- not only did he become tired, fatigued, hungry and thirsty, but He felt sadness, He felt sorrow, He felt apprehension, He felt pain, He could get hurt, He could suffer, He could cry. But also remember that He is still God. As God he fully knew what the future held. He knew long before it happened how He would be tortured, ridiculed, mocked, beaten, whipped, spit upon, nailed to a cross, but far worse than that, He knew how He was going to feel the full brunt of God the Father’s anger, wrath, judgement and punishment for the sins of all people on Himself! He knew it! He knew what He was getting into! He knew what was coming! He knew what the future held and what lay ahead of Him!
And so what did He do? “He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death.” We see it in the gospel for today, don’t we? Jesus said, “Now my heart is troubled and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?” We’ll see it again in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus told his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” and then He fell with His face to the ground and pleaded with God the Father, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” But each time he ended his prayer with, “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” “Not as I will, but as you will.” And we’re told that His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Wow!
Imagine that you knew for sure that some terrible catastrophe would strike you next week. Or imagine that you knew you were going to be stricken with a horrible, dreadful, awful disease in a couple of days. Or imagine that you knew you were going to be in a terrible, painful, crippling accident this week. What would the anticipation be like? The stress, apprehension, fear would likely be great enough to bring down the strongest of people! I was in the dentist the other day to get a filling and before he began he pulled out this gigantic needle to numb my mouth and he said, “Ok, just little prick.” And I’m think, “Yea right!” And even then I tense up a little bit! Jesus knew what He was going into, the pain and suffering, but worst of all, the punishment of God for the sins of the world and “he offered prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death.”
And perhaps we’re tempted to say, “But, come on, He knew how it was going to end, He knew that He would rise on the third day.” That’s true. But think about this: God never fakes it. You and I can fake love, you and I can fake anger, but God never fakes it. When God says something He means it. When God does something He does it to the fullest extent. When God punishes, He punishes to the fullest extent. When God punished Jesus on the cross for the sins of all people, He punished Him to the fullest extent, He didn’t fake it, He meant it.
And “He was heard because of his reverent submission.” Remember Jesus’ prayer? “Father, glorify YOUR name.” “If it is not possible to take this cup unless I drink, may YOUR will be done.” God wanted His will to be done and that meant for Jesus to suffer and die. And it was in this suffering that Jesus found His glory. We see that Jesus did not love His life, love His own interests, love what was best for Him, in fact, He hated the thought of living life for Himself and His own interests. He lived His life totally to give glory to God and do what God wanted Him to do: pay the price of salvation for a world full of sinners.
That’s humbling, isn’t it? What a complete contrast to how WE so often live our lives! Aren’t we so dominated by SELF-interest? I means, we make our decisions based on what will be best for us – not thinking about what God wants or what is best for the other people around us. It’s the husband who cares more about his job or his promotion than spending time with his wife or family. It’s the wife who loses her patience when things aren’t going right. It’s the child who is more interested in playing with all the toys than sharing. It’s the person who becomes upset, angry, frustrated when things don’t go his or her way. It’s the person who cares more about their own life than helping or caring for others. Honestly, it’s you and me, isn’t it? Jesus’ selflessness, His determination to God’s will and NOT His own, is humbling, isn’t it?
And why are we so concerned with ourselves? Is it not because we know we live in a world of uncertainty and we are afraid to put our trust in God? Is it because we know many things in life are out of our control and so we feel we need look out for ourselves first? Is it because we don’t have a reverent submission to God that says, “I don’t know what lies in the future, but I trust you Lord to bring me through whatever it may be, may your will be done, Lord, not mine.”
But that’s the beauty of what Jesus did for us. “Although he was THE Son” the Son of God, “he learned obedience from what he suffered.” Would you make your child suffer for the benefit of someone else? Hardly! But that’s the love of God. Jesus obeyed the Father so fully that He laid His life down for us. Why? So that “once made perfect” – a terrible translation, better “once he had finished his mission, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
And here’s the thought to take away from this: In a world of uncertainties, you can live with certainty for if you live or you die, if you remain healthy or get sick, whether you have this job or that job, you have a Savior who is and who remains the source of your eternal salvation. Jesus is your hope, your life, your certainty. Jesus obeyed his Father fully, Jesus completed his mission, Jesus demonstrated His all-surpassing love for you in this: He laid His life down for you. He knew fully what He was about to face: the torture, the beatings, the scorn, the whips, the spit, the crown of thorns, the nails in His hands and feet, the loss of blood, the hitting, the ridicule, but more than all of that combined the thought of feeling the unrelenting anger and wrath and judgment of God for the sins of the world, becoming the worst sinner ever, because the sins of all were placed upon Him and feeling the rejection of God Himself! And what should He say? “Father, save me from this hour?” No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” He obeyed His Father’s will to the smallest detail. And why? So that having accomplished His mission, He might become the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, for all who believe in him, trust in him. The source of YOUR eternal salvation. Believe it! Whether you eat or drink, remain healthy or sick, live or die, you can be secure because in Jesus you have, right now, eternal salvation! Amen.