Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Forgive Them - November 24, 2013 - Twenty-seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 29) - Text: Luke 23:27-43
Today is the last Sunday of our present church year calendar. Last week our lessons focused our attention on the last days, the end of the world, the day of judgment and you might remember that I said that our texts for this week would focus our attention on the last days as well. Now, after hearing our lessons, you might be asking yourself, what does Pastor mean, our Gospel reading is the reading of Jesus dying on the cross. Now, I want you to remember just a little harder. Do you remember what I also told you? That Jesus birth ushered in the last days and the fact is that we are living in the last days of this world. Our text focuses our attention on what is most important in these last days, our own immortality. As I said last week, and many times before and I will say many times again, our lives on this earth are short and painful. We will meet our Lord, either at our own passing, or at His return and both those days will be sooner than we know or sooner than we might imagine. It is as we approach the end of this church year that we are reminded of our endings and the importance of being ready, being spiritually ready to meet our Lord.
Getting into our text, we are following along as Jesus is on the way to Golgatha to be crucified. As He is being paraded through the streets of Jerusalem as a warning to others to not commit the same crimes as He has committed, we are told that a great multitude of people and women were mourning and lamenting over Him. We are not told if these were disciples or followers of Jesus or if they were simply people who had heard about Jesus and were upset with what was truly an injustice, crucifying an innocent man. We are simply told that they were following and were in mourning.
At one point Jesus stops and He instructs them with words of warning. Jesus words are a warning and prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (v. 28b-31). Ordinarily it was considered a curse from God to be barren, yet Jesus suggests this shame would be better than the coming suffering. The suffering would be so bad that one would cry out for a quick death, that the mountains would fall on them. And Jesus final warning is that if the Romans are so quick to pronounce an innocent man as guilty what will they do with a whole city of rebellious people? In other words, the whole Jewish nation. As we think about the world in which we live, as Christians are being persecuted more and more for recognizing and calling sin what it is, we know that we are indeed living in the last days and we too should keep watch and pray.
Luke continues, moving from this scene to Golgatha where Jesus is crucified with two criminals. One criminal is crucified on Jesus’ left and the other on Jesus’ right. These two criminals were justly convicted and are being justly punished for their crimes. Interestingly enough Luke tells us that Jesus’ next words are words which reflect the very reason He was born into this world. Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (v. 34). Jesus is asking for forgiveness for these soldiers who are nailing Him to the cross. Jesus is asking for the forgiveness He is earning to be given to them.
Next Luke explains that the soldiers were casting lots for Jesus’ clothes, an indication of what we cannot bear to see, that is that Jesus was hung on the cross in all His naked shame. All that He had, the clothes on His back was being divided by those who nailed Him to the cross. As all this is going on Luke says that the people and rulers scoffed at Him and mocked Him. The irony of their words is that if Jesus had come down and saved Himself they would have believed in Him, but He would no longer be their Savior in stead He would have simply saved Himself. Whereas because He did not come down, but died on the cross, He is Savior of all people, but for those who rejected Him, they also reject His salvation.
Luke continues telling of the events while Jesus hung on the cross. One of the criminals also mocked Jesus with the crowd. His words show that he might have been a little hopeful as he says, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Notice his words of “save us!” even though he really did not believe. Yet, even in his words there is no confession of faith and no belief that Jesus is the Christ.
The other criminal however did recognize Jesus and His innocence and he repented. He knew that he was being justly punished, but not Jesus. He expressed his faith in Jesus in his repentance and cry to be forgiven. And Jesus gives forgiveness and the assurance of paradise.
So, now we ask, “What does this mean?” and especially as we are at the last Sunday of this present church year, what does this mean? All of history points to the one event of Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection. God created a perfect world. Adam and Eve’s sin brought the curse into this world and now we live in a cursed world. God would not allow His creation to remain separate from Himself and so He set in motion to reconcile His creation to Himself. Thus, God promised to send a Redeemer, a Reconciler, a Savior. Indeed, God promised to intervene in human history by taking on the nature of His creation in order to accomplish what His creation could not. All the prophecies and promises, even all the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament pointed to this one event of human history, the event of our text, the event of Jesus ushering in the end times.
Jesus was born, truly God taking on human flesh, truly human for this one purpose, to live, to suffer and to die, to pay the price for the sins of all people, of all places, of all times. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden, even before Adam and Eve sinned the price was set. The day they disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil God said that dying they would die. They died a spiritual death and eventually they died a physical death. Jesus came to pay the price for their spiritual death so that they might have spiritual life.
Jesus came and fulfilled all God’s laws and prophecies completely and perfectly. All the prophecies, all the ceremonial laws and sacrifices pointed to Jesus and His once for all sacrifice of Himself on the cross. God’s command, even in Eden was to be perfect, to perfectly obey God. Because Adam and Eve could not be perfect, because they sinned, because their sin is born in us, because we cannot be perfect, Jesus was born to be perfect for us, in our place and He was. He never sinned.
After living a perfect life. After obeying all God’s laws and commands perfectly. After fulfilling all the ceremonial laws perfectly, Jesus took all our sins and all the sins of all people upon Himself. There is no sin that has been or ever will be committed for which Jesus did not suffer and pay the price. Forgiveness for all sins has been paid for by Jesus’ suffering on the cross. Indeed forgiveness was won on the cross of Calvary, but that is not where forgiveness is distributed. Jesus won forgiveness on Calvary but it is distributed, it is given out through the means of grace, where the Gospel is preached in all its fulness, where the sacraments are distributed in accord with His Word, where there is confession and absolution. Forgiveness was won on Calvary and is given out especially in Divine Service and in His Holy Supper.
Jesus paid the complete price for sin, death, His own physical death and eternal spiritual death as He suffered the pangs of hell on the cross. Jesus suffered and died, but as we know the rest of the story, He did not stay dead, but He rose from the dead, thus defeating death as well as sin and the devil. Jesus earned, paid for, and won forgiveness and now He freely gives the forgiveness He earned.
Indeed, as we said, all of human history points to this one event, Jesus’ birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection for us. All history pointed to Jesus and those who lived before Jesus’ birth were saved by God’s grace through faith in the coming Messiah. And now, those of us who live after Jesus resurrection, those of us living in these last days, we are also saved by God’s grace, through faith in this Jesus who is the Messiah, the Savior of the world. As we said, Jesus’ suffering and death earned forgiveness for us. Forgiveness is there and ready to be distributed. Truly, all we can do is refuse and reject the gifts Jesus has to give and we do that, we refuse and reject when we absent ourselves from the very place that His gifts are given out, Divine Service and the means of grace. Jesus gives us all things, faith, forgiveness and life. His desire is that we desire to be given the gifts He has to give and to desire to be where those gifts are given.
Many people have a habit or custom of making New Year’s resolutions as pertains to the end of the calendar year. Perhaps we might also be inclined to make a New Year’s resolution as we end this current church year and as next Sunday is the first Sunday in the New Church Year Calendar. Perhaps we might resolve that with the help of the Holy Spirit we might be moved to desire to be where the gifts of God are distributed and desire to be given those gifts every Sunday! God loves you so much and He has so much He wants to give to you. He has given you your life at you conception. He has given you faith through His Word and Holy Baptism. Every week He desires to give you forgiveness of sins through your confession and His words of absolution as well as through His body and His blood which He gives to us in His Holy Supper. His are the best and greatest gifts! And they are for you! As we end this present church year we look forward to our Lord’s return, which gets closer each and every day, and we say as John says in his revelation, “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.” To God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.