Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Sermon for 3/2/16: Midweek Lent III (Hymns series)

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Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted

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

“He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Isaiah, writing centuries before Jesus was born, foresaw how the world would react to the fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah. We who have the eyewitness testimony of the Apostles know the truth of Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant. He was certainly rejected: cast off by the religious leaders of the day; denied by Peter who denied him when the chips were down; abandoned by the other disciples, who ran away when trouble came to call; shunned by the very people He came to save. And He was certainly wounded: beaten; scourged with a whip; crowned with thorns; nailed hands and feet to a cross.

It had to have been an ominous sight, that cross on the hill of Calvary with our Lord hanging on it. His breath was short because of the stretching of His diaphragm, His holy blood running from the wounds from the thorny crown on His head and the spikes driven through His hands and feet. And then consider the crowd around Him, many jeering at Him—even those who were crucified with Him were full of mockery. And then consider the sky as the sun itself grew dark at the sixth hour. “Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning, was there ever grief like His?” 

But Isaiah takes it to the next step: Why is this happening? “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him…and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” It seems so harmless sometimes, our casual attitude toward the Word of God. In teaching the Catechism, probably the most depressing aspect of the Ten Commandments is realizing how utterly impossible it is to keep them. If you understand the Commandments the way the Pharisees understood them, then maybe it’s not so bad: you haven’t broken the Fifth Commandment, for example, if you don’t actually end someone else’s life. But Jesus makes it plain that even thinking evil thoughts toward someone or calling them a name is the same as plunging a knife into your neighbor’s heart. Even the sins we consider to be the least offensive carry the stiffest of sentences. What is the price of your disobedience to the Word of God? What is the price of your thoughtless words about your neighbor? What is the price of those careless thoughts in your head? What is the price of wanting what your neighbor has? What is the price of your rejection of Christ?

Ye who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load;
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.

The price is blood. The price is suffering. The price is affliction.
The price is death. That price tag is on your hands and in your heart and mind. This is what you owe. You owe blood. You owe suffering. You owe death. But just as a gentleman takes the bill at a restaurant and will not let his wife pay, Jesus willing takes the debt we owe—the blood, the suffering, even the death—and He pays it Himself for the sake of His Bride, the Church. Though He was innocent of all sin, “He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many…” He bears your grief and sorrows and sin and iniquity. He is afflicted for your sins—the ones that still trouble you, as well as the ones that you committed without a thought as to the consequences. He bears your weaknesses to the cross. He is there not for Himself; He is there for you.
Do not run away from that ominous hill with the cross on it. Watch. Look on with wonder and awe as Your Savior bears your sins to death, paying the price your own flesh could not bear. He dies there for you. He dies so that you will live.

Here we have a firm foundation, here the refuge of the lost:
Christ, the Rock of our salvation, is the name of which we boast;
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded who on Him their hope have built.

“The chastisement for our peace was upon Him. And with His stripes we are healed.” 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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