The Lent 2 midweek service was canceled due to inclement weather and horrible road conditions. This was the sermon meant to be preached that week. We're just moving all the sermons back a week, with the sermon that was supposed to be Lent 5 midweek preached on Maundy Thursday, since I originally had to import a stanza from TLH for O Sacred Head Now Wounded to fill Maundy Thursday.
The Wound of Apathy
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus didn’t want to be alone as He wrestled in prayer with His Father that night. How easily we forget that our blessed Lord was truly and fully human! He desired the comfort of companionship, the encouragement that comes from loved ones. And so, as Jesus leaves the larger group behind, He takes with Him His three closest friends: Peter, James, and John. He can no longer hold back the grief. “My soul,” He says, “is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with Me.” He stumbled a few steps further and landed on His face.
Before the eyes of His soul was the cup of suffering. To understand that cup, you must go back to the Old Testament. In Psalm 75, David said: “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and He pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.” Isaiah later foretold of a time to come when that cup would pass from the people, to another. “Thus says your Lord, the Lord your God, who pleads the cause of His people: ‘Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; the bowl of My wrath you shall drink no more.’”
And so, the cup that was set before Jesus for Him to drink, down to the bitter residue, was the cup that held the wrath of God: His wrath against all your rebellions, all your lovelessness, all your passing of judgment on others, all your selfish acts, all your indulging the flesh, all your spiritual apathy. That was set before Jesus, and He knew exactly where it would lead. Jesus quotes the prophet Zechariah: “(The Lord) will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” Make no mistake about: Jesus receives what is coming, knowing that it comes entirely from His Father.
None of us is nearly as frightened of hell as we should be. We have no clue about the terror of its emptiness and eternal loneliness. But Jesus knew. And before that reality, looking into that ultimate and eternal poison in the cup, He trembled. And why wouldn’t He? He trembled and begged His Father that, if possible, some other way may be found, some different approach, something other than what was in the cup before Him. He looked over the brim of that cup into its bottomless depths, and He shook in terror.
We sin so casually. “God will forgive,” we say. “He is loving and merciful and kind. Sin is really no big deal.” Go with your Lord this evening to Gethsemane, and see with your own eyes whether or not it’s a big deal. Look at Him as He shakes in terror before the sin we carelessly and foolishly choose for ourselves time and time again. And see Him as He lifts His eyes from the cup to the Father, and pleads for some other way. But then, see also how our Savior distinguishes Himself from all other sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. See Him lower His eyes to the cup again, and say, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done.”
It has exhausted Him and terrorized Him, looking into that cup. And so, He turns back to His friends for the comfort they can give. But here, another wound strikes Him. As He has struggled with the terrors of death and hell for them, they have fallen asleep. He cries out, “Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We wound our Lord with our weakness, our apathy. We wound Him with our careless sinning. We add to the terrors of the cup He must drink. Surely Jesus’ word of warning will keep His disciples awake, and in prayer. The most terrifying events of their discipleship are only moments away now. Surely they will realize that, and pray. But, no. They are like us after all, or we are like them.
Jesus turns back and, again, struggles in prayer. Then He again returns for comfort from His friends and again encounters only apathy. They are sound asleep. He is all alone in this. He turns back for a final prayer. The sweat falls from his brow in great drops of blood as He bows to the Father’s will. He will do it; He will go forward to drink this cup. He will do so, trusting that, having experienced in Himself the penalty of our disobedience, His Father will not abandon Him forever. Look into the face of your Lord as He rises from prayer, and you see peace.
That peace came from His trust in His Father. To submit to the One who has loved you with an everlasting love is not terror, but joy, no matter how dark the path. In that peace, Jesus turned back to His disciples for the last time. Their apathy can wound Him no more; He is going forth to bear that sin, together with all their sins and the sins of the whole world. While they had slept, He had won the battle; He had won it alone! Now He would go forth to meet His betrayer. And He woke up His disciples so that they too might meet the terrors to come.
Seeing Him go forth to meet these terrors in peace, we sing, in astonished awe:
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered
Was all for sinner’s gain.
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
‘Tis I deserve Thy place.
Look on me with Thy favor,
And grant to me Thy grace.
As He looked in pity on His disciples, so Jesus looks in pity on us. Through His struggle to drink the cup and empty it forever, He shows us that He will never be apathetic about us. He who drained the cup can be counted on to save us completely. To Him be glory, with His all-holy Father and His life-giving Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.