Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sermon for 2/24/16: Midweek Lent II (Hymns series)

RIGHT CLICK HERE to save the audio recording.

Here's a YouTube video of a lovely harp arrangement of the tune of our sermon hymn, and the text of the hymn is in the notes on the video's page.


A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth

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

“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” When John the Baptist announced the presence of Jesus in this way, anyone who had been raised in a faithful Jewish home could not help but see images of the Passover. You see, Egypt had forgotten Joseph, the right-hand man of Pharaoh who had delivered Egypt from famine and ruin. Joseph’s brothers had come to Egypt, and Joseph had welcomed them and their children. But Egypt had forgotten—and they had not merely forgotten Joseph; they had forgotten Joseph’s God, the One who had given Joseph the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams and led Joseph to deliver the land from starvation. Egypt had forgotten, and so they had enslaved the children of Israel. God’s people cried out for deliverance, and His ultimate answer was a sacrifice. A spotless male lamb was chosen for the family. At the appointed time, the Lamb would be slaughtered. The blood would be applied to the doorposts and the beam over the door of each house where the children of Israel lived; and when the Angel of Death approached, He would pass over the houses of the children of Israel and put to death the firstborn sons of Egypt. In this way the Lord delivered His chosen people.

So when John called Jesus “the Lamb of God,” He was telling everyone within earshot that Jesus would be the one to deliver the children of God from their sin. Just as Egypt had forgotten Joseph and his God, the children of Israel had forgotten their God, the God who had led them out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land. He had promised to be their God, and they had promised to be His people. He had been faithful; they had not. They had done what was right in their own eyes, which was not right in the eyes of God. They were slaves, bound in chains of their own making. They needed a Savior, and God heard their cries. He sent His Son, the spotless Lamb of God, as the Sacrifice appointed to deliver His people from their bondage to sin.

How could Egypt forget? How could Israel forget? It seems preposterous that Egypt could forget that they would have been starved to death, their nation left for dead in the blistering sun for the buzzards, had it not been for Joseph’s God. It seems preposterous that Israel could forget the God who delivered them from Egypt. But they did forget—Israel forgot over and over and over again! But before you judge Israel too harshly, don’t overlook how easily you forget the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. If you remembered as you should, how could you justify the sins you commit? If you remembered as you should, how could you take for granted the forgiveness you receive in the Divine Service? How could you do anything but clamor for the body and blood of Jesus at every opportunity? They only had the promise of the Lamb of God; you have that promise fulfilled, and still you forget. Still you do what is right in your own eyes. Still you take that Sacrifice for granted.

There is a major difference between the original Passover lamb and the Lamb of God. The Passover lamb was chosen; it had no choice in shedding its blood for the benefit of God’s people. The Lamb of God was also chosen, but He had a choice. Though He was the Sacrifice appointed from before the foundation of the world, He had the power, the authority, to choose to forego the suffering set before Him. And yet, as our hymn tells us:
A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth, The guilt of sinners bearing
And, laden with the sins of earth, None else the burden sharing;
Goes patient on, grows weak and faint, To slaughter led without complaint,
That spotless life to offer,
He bears the stripes, the wounds, the lies, The mockery and yet replies,
“All this I gladly suffer.”
As He prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” “This Lamb is Christ, the soul’s great Friend, The Lamb of God, our Savior, Whom God the Father chose to send to gain for us His favor.” Jesus knows the role set before Him. And He submits. He goes willingly, meekly, silently to the slaughter.

His sacrifice is for you. The blood of that sacrificial Lamb of God covers all of your sin, all of your disobedience, all of your betrayal, all of your apathy. Just as the Angel of Death passed over the children of Israel, death sees the blood of the Lamb upon you in the whitened robe of Christ’s righteousness; death sees the blood of the Lamb within you in the Holy Supper. And seeing Christ upon you and within you, death passes over you.
Lord, when Your glory I shall see and taste Your kingdom's pleasure,
Your blood my royal robe shall be, my joy beyond all measure.
When I appear before Your throne, Your righteousness shall be my crown;
With these I need not hide me.
And there, in garments richly wrought, as Your own bride, shall we be brought
To stand in joy beside You.
It’s all about the Lamb of God, and the Lamb of God is for you. 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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