Monday, March 23, 2015

Lent 5 Sermon: "Greatness and Glory in the Cross"

+ Lent 5 – March 22nd, 2015 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:32-45
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lent is a journey.
For the disciples it’s a journey that begins in fear, but ends in joy and boldness. For now, all they can think about is the destination - Jerusalem. “Why go there, Jesus? Everyone wants you dead. Jerusalem is nothing but trouble.” They’re so concerned about glory, greatness, and God’s kingdom that they misunderstand that God’s glory, greatness, and kingdom are found in the death of His Son.
Lent is a journey for each of us too. And many of us, like the disciples, are
afraid. Fear of the world we live in. Demonic hordes brutally murdering
Christians. Disease and disasters which strike without rhyme or reason.
And if fear of the sinful world around you doesn’t cause you to pray, “Lord, have mercy,” then the fear of your own sin should. On this Lenten journey we also carry the burden of despair over our sin. Guilt over wrong we’ve done. Sorrow over death – of loved ones or our own inevitable
Lent is a journey. Not an aimless wandering. Not an evening walk down the beach. The road goes ever on to Good Friday. Jesus sets his face. There’s no delay. No time for site-seeing or recreation. Jesus must go.
Jesus journeyed in life to serve you.
Jesus journeyed to death to serve you.
Lent is Jesus’ journey for you.
They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, St. Mark records Jesus’ death and resurrection predictions like signposts along the highway. Three times in Mark’s Gospel –before Jesus’ transfiguration, after his transfiguration, and here in Mark 10, before entering Jerusalem – Jesus predicts his death and resurrection. And each time Jesus reveals more about his brutal crucifixion which awaits him.
Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him.
And the third day He will rise again.
Lent is a journey. But the disciples weren’t alone on the road. Jesus was walking ahead of them.
Jesus was with his disciples – amazed and afraid though they were. He knew in short
time his dying and rising would change them. Jesus went before them, as he goes
before us, to carry our burdens of fear, guilt, and death to the cross.
You are not alone either. Not in Lent. And not in your fear, sorrow, or death.
Jesus has gone ahead of you on the road. Jesus has gone there and back again,
through the grave – yours and mine – to life. Jesus is with you, afraid and
sinful though you are. His dying and rising changes you too.
And like any journey, conversation breaks out along the way. James and John came up
to Jesus.
Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.
You have to appreciate just how awkward this conversation is. One moment Jesus describes his death in chilling detail, and the next James and John are after glory and greatness. Clueless. Blind. They don’t get it. They think it’s a march to greatness, like the road
to the Final Four. They think Jesus’ glory will finally be unleashed and God’s
kingdom will be established in Jerusalem.

Of course, it’s easy to read the Gospels, knowing the end of the journey, and wag
our fingers at James and John. “What’s with these guys? How thick can they be?
Come, on James and John; yeah, come on; get with the program.”

But notice who else is wagging their fingers in this story. It’s not Jesus. Sure,
he corrects them, but patiently. No, the accusatory fingers come from the other
10 disciples. They were indignant. Probably because James and John asked Jesus
what they wanted to first.

James and John, however, had no idea what they were asking Jesus. And that’s where
we’re in the same boat. Clueless in sin. Blind to our own blindness. We don’t
know what to pray for as we ought. And even when we do, we don’t do it very
well. Our problem – like James and John – goes deeper.

We want greatness. Glory. God’s kingdom. But we want it all on our own terms, not God’s. My will be done. My kingdom come. Our self-serving sinful nature wants nothing to do with the cross but everything to do with glory and looking out for number one. “What I get out of this,” we ask – at work, at home, even at church. “What’s in it for me?” Such is the self-centeredness of our sin.

You do not know what you are asking.

“Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized,” Jesus asks them. “We are,”. They still have no idea what they were saying or what Jesus was talking about. Jesus’ cup and baptism are his death. Jesus drinks the cup of God’s wrath and the poison of our sin, down to the last drop. Jesus’ cross is a baptism of judgment. Jesus is drowned in the flood of God’s wrath. Jesus is immersed in our sin and death.

The disciples will share in the cup and baptism of Jesus’ suffering and death. All but one will be martyred for the faith. Indeed, all who are called Christians share in the cup and baptism of Jesus’ suffering and death. For some, it comes in the form of persecution and death.

And yet for all in Christ, Jesus shares his suffering and death with us. Jesus drank the cup of
wrath so that we may drink His cup of forgiveness. Jesus drank the curse down to the dregs so that you might drink the cup of blessing. Jesus hides his crucified and risen flesh in the greatness and glory of bread and wine. God’s kingdom comes to you in Jesus’ body and blood. So it is in your baptism. Jesus is baptized into our death so in Baptism you are united with Jesus’ death and resurrection.

We have no idea who will sit at Jesus’ right and left in the heavenly kingdom. That’s not for us to know. But we do know who was granted to sit on Jesus’ right and left when He came into His glory on earth. Not James and John. Not us. But two nameless thieves. One mocked Him to His death. But the other spoke truthfully. This man has done nothing wrong.

What a picture of the kingdom! God’s greatness and glory is shown by his suffering and death for you. And that Kingdom – God’s kingdom in the Crucified King -  comes in
the cup and baptism for you.

Greatness in the kingdom of God isn’t about power or achievement but forgiveness and mercy. It’s not measured in numbers, growth charts, or visions of men, but in Jesus’ cup
and baptism given to you in the Supper and the Font. It’s not about getting a good word in with Jesus, but hearing God’s good Word to us in Jesus. It’s not about prestige and who gets the honored seat, but about trust in the One took the lowest seat of the grave to seat you in the heavenly places.

For whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

The highest form of greatness, then, isn’t found in man’s glory or greatness, but in being a servant, in sacrificial love. That’s how the kingdom of God looks in this world. That’s how your life in Christ looks. Humble, self-giving servants of the Servant of all, who endured the baptism of His cross and drank the cup of God’s wrath in order to save you, me and the world.

Jesus came as a suffering Servant to serve. And you, His baptized believers, share His cup and serve. Take up our cross. Lay down our lives. That’s greatness in His kingdom. Not power, but sacrifice.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as
a ransom for many.

Jesus lives to serve you. Jesus dies to serve you. Jesus erased our curse by becoming the curse for us. Jesus triumphed over death by dying in our place. Jesus  became the last one to make us the first in line. Jesus gave his life, to give you life.

This is where Jesus leads us during our Lenten journey, just as he did the disciples. To Jerusalem for you. To the cross for you. Jesus journeyed in life to serve you. Jesus journeyed to death to serve you.

Lent is Jesus’ journey for you.

Lent leads us to Palm Sunday and shouts of Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest.

Lent leads us to Holy Thursday: This cup that is poured out for you is the new testament in my blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.

Lent leads us to Jesus’ hour of glory - Good Friday. It is finished. Fulfilled. Accomplished. For you.

Lent leads us to Easter: to unrestrained rejoicing. Christ is risen for you.

That’s the destination. But first the journey.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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