Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Sermon for 3/16/16: Midweek Lent V (Hymns series)

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O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken

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

It had to be the worst trade, the worst exchange in all of human history. The crowd had Jesus in its hands—Jesus, the Lord of life, the King of kings, the Messiah promised to their ultimate parents—and it traded Him for Barabbas, an insurrectionist and a murderer. That would be like trading Yadier Molina for…well, for me. No one in their right minds would make such a trade, and yet the crowd, egged on by the faithless chief priests and rulers, cried out for Barabbas and demanded that Jesus be crucified. Pilate knew the truth; so did Herod. Pilate said, “Indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him.” And the chief priests, the rulers, and the crowd itself knew the truth. Caiaphas had been cunning and coldly rational when he explained that “it was expedient that one man should die for the people.” The religious leaders dissembled before Pilate: “If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.” The crowd was insistent: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” The truth didn’t matter. Jesus had to die. The mob demanded it, and Pilate gave in.

O dearest Jesus, what law hast thou broken
That such sharp sentence should on Thee be spoken?
Of what great crime hast Thou to make confession,
What dark transgression?

There was no transgression, no crime—just the bitter, jealous rage of those who should have known better.   

Some people claim that this was the same crowd that had, just days earlier, acclaimed Jesus as the Son of David as they waved palm branches and laid their cloaks on the road before Him. Others say that this was a different crowd, a veritable lynch mob assembled by the religious leaders of the Jews for the very purpose of destroying Jesus. Perhaps they had given in to threats from the priests or to peer pressure from their neighbors. In the end, it doesn’t matter who was included in the assembled crowd. In the end, they screamed for the death of Jesus.

They crown Thy head with thorns, they smite, they scourge Thee;
With cruel mockings to the cross they urge Thee.

But once again, we must be careful about passing judgment on them. Every time we put our trust in our own strength; every time we love the treasures of this world more than the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation which God bestows in His Sacraments; every time we run to the pleasures of our flesh rather than the goodness of God, we ourselves scream out with the crowd, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! His blood be on us and on our children!” The Old Adam within us is out for blood, and—God help us!—Jesus gives us exactly what we want. “The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander.” His blood is on our stained hands as surely as if we had beaten Him, mocked Him, and nailed Him to the cross ourselves.

Oh, the wonderful and mysterious justice of God! Only by the gracious and merciful power of God could such a dreadful prayer for blood be heard by our heavenly Father and answered as a mighty blessing to His children. The children of Israel wanted the blood of Jesus to spill? The Father allowed that innocent blood to be spilled. The thorn-encircled brow of Jesus spilled innocent blood. The hands and feet of Jesus spilled innocent blood. And innocent blood and blameless water flowed forth from the pierced side of Jesus. And just as the Father promised it would be, the life of all flesh is blood, for the blood of Jesus is the life of the Church. The blood and water flowing forth from the side of Jesus are the sign of the Sacraments: water with the Word of God washing us clean in Holy Baptism, and blood with the body of Christ feeding us in the Holy Supper. His blood is, indeed, upon us and upon our children. And His blood is our life.

The sinless Son of God must die in sadness;
The sinful child of man may live in gladness;
Man forfeited his life and is acquitted,
God is committed.

There is no sin so damning, no guilt so overwhelming, that it is not overcome by the innocent, bitter suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is committed: committed to your salvation; committed to sacrificing His innocent Son for all people; committed to accepting His Son’s blood as the price of our forgiveness. He has broken no law, committed no crime, done no wrong. That makes Him the perfect sacrifice for wayward sheep.

And when, dear Lord, before Thy throne in heaven
To me the crown of joy at last is given,
Where sweetest hymns Thy saints forever raise Thee,
I, too, shall praise Thee.

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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