Thursday, April 02, 2015

Sermon for 4/2/15: Maundy Thursday (Wounds sermon series)



The Wound of Abandonment

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

How many are the wounds we inflicted upon our Savior in His Passion, suffering, and death! We have pondered together these past Lenten evenings the wounds of betrayal, apathy, denial, and mockery. We have seen our own lives reflected in Judas, in those three sleepy disciples, in Peter, and in the Roman soldiers. Yet of all the wounds our Lord received, none so struck and terrorized and weighed on Him as the one we ponder this evening. We did not inflict this wound, though we were the cause of it. It came from His Father: the wound of abandonment.

From out of the depth of His agony on the cross, our Lord cried out the words of Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” As all the sin of the world is laid upon the Lamb of God, as He takes all of it as His very own, He experiences in Himself what every one of those sins demands. He will taste the bitterest dregs of the cup that He will drain down for us in its entirety. He will taste it for us all. He will know for us the loneliness so profound that its pain is unimaginable. How can we even begin to understand what it was like for Him in that moment? He is the Eternal Son, who took on human flesh from His virgin mother without ever leaving the presence of His Father. He is the Word made flesh, who lived among us as all men were meant to live, conscious of His Father’s never-failing love and the presence of His providential hand. All of this is now withdrawn, and Jesus is all alone.

People joke about hell, saying, “Well, at least I will have a lot of company there.” Such willful ignorance! Think of the story of Lazarus and the rich man. In that story, the rich man is all alone. Lazarus has angels for company as well as Abraham, to whom he is so close that he lays his head on his bosom. The rich man hungers and thirsts for a human touch. “Send Lazarus to dip the end of His finger in water to cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.” He is alone—all alone—and he will be alone forever. Ponder that, and you will begin to understand the reality of hell. Ponder that, and you will see its true terror. Ponder that, and you will bow in love before the Savior whose love for you was so great that He chose to enter that loneliness Himself and to endure it in your place that you might be set free from it forever. Never alone, never again!

Because Jesus endured the wound of abandonment that our every sin demands of God, because He drained the cup down to this, its last and bitterest dregs, you can look to your Savior and pray with the confidence of being heard:
My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, O leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!
Do you see it now? You will never have to know what Jesus went through in those darkest hours. You will never have to face life or suffering or even death alone. He has made sure of that. He will be with you. He will walk with you every step of the way. For you hell itself is undone, sin forgiven, death destroyed. Your Savior, Your Shepherd, attends you through the valley of the shadow of death so that you fear no evil, for He is with you. His rod and His staff, they comfort you. He feeds you in green pastures with His own body and blood. He brings you out from the valley of darkness into the glorious light of the never-ending day in the kingdom of our Father. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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