Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sermon for 3/24/16: Maundy Thursday (Hymns series)

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Go to Dark Gethsemane

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

Jesus was on His knees. Emmanuel, God in the flesh, the very Word of God Himself, knelt in prayer to His Father, His sweat falling like drops of blood, so intense was His petition. “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” He repeated the prayer twice more: a desperate cry for mercy from the one Man who should have needed no mercy. But Jesus knew what was before Him: a miscarriage of justice in a farce of a trial; the brutal torture of beatings; a crown of thorns forced onto His head; nails and spear piercing His guiltless body at hands and feet and side—all for the sake of sinners who could care less that He goes to the cross for them, who themselves cry out for Him to shed His blood.

It’s a test of wills. When Jesus says He will do something, you can count on it. He said He would drink the cup according to His Father’s will. He said He would be arrested. He said the disciples will stumble and flee. He said Peter would deny Him. He said He would suffer at the hands of sinners. He said He would die. And sure enough, He was arrested. His disciples fled in terror for their lives. Peter denied Him three times. Jesus suffered at the hands of sinners. He died. He swallowed every last bitter drop of the cup of suffering set before Him. But while Jesus prayed, the chosen disciples slumbered. Jesus urged them to “watch and pray.” Certainly these most trusted and beloved of disciples would not fail their Lord in something as simple as prayer. “We will watch and pray, Lord. We will not abandon you—and even if everyone else does, certainly the beloved Peter will stand by Your side.” And as Jesus predicted, despite their vehement protests, the disciples abandoned Jesus. Peter denied Him. They hid in fear. The willing spirit was overcome by the weak flesh of the disciples. They could not even watch with him for one bitter hour. They had yet to “learn from Him to bear the cross.”
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Do you doubt it? Listen to the words you spoke this evening: “O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.” I do not doubt the sincerity of your confession. We all mean to change our lives. We all mean to stop sinning. We want to think holy thoughts. We want to speak holy words. We want to lead holy lives. The baptized child of God wants the Old Adam to be permanently drowned, as indeed he will be eternally dead at the resurrection of all flesh. But when the rubber meets the road, when it comes down to brass tacks, when it truly matters, we fall back into what we find most comfortable. We fall back into our sinful ways. We run to our Old Adam. If we would truly do what Jesus would do, we must “learn from Jesus Christ to die”—to die to sin, to continually drown that Old Adam in the baptismal flood.
But if Jesus had the will to suffer all, including death on the cross, He also had the will to rise from the dead. And because He willingly went to the cross and His own death for us, He also willingly raised us up with Him when He rose. He died to rob death of its power. He rose so that we would rise. He lives so that we will live with Him for all eternity. Our salvation does not depend on our own weak flesh.

Mark that miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete.

He has taught us how to die—indeed, He has drowned us Himself in the waters of Holy Baptism. And in His own resurrection, He has answered our prayer: “Savior, teach us so to rise.” It doesn’t matter any longer how weak the flesh is; it has been washed, cleansed, made holy and spotless in that water—a condition which will be made permanent when we rise incorruptible from our graves at the Last Day.

In His darkest hour, Christ cried out to His Father. And He would have you do the same, for His Father is Your Father. And just as His Father heard our Lord’s prayer and answered it as it was best for all people, He will hear your prayer and answer it according to His gracious good will. So…

Go to dark Gethsemane,
All who feel the tempter’s power;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see,
Watch with Him one bitter hour;
Turn not from His griefs away;
Learn from Jesus Christ to pray.

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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