In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.
Your god, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.” The king speaks these comforting words to Daniel, and makes a confession of the divine protection that is given everyone, especially Christians. The only Person to whom this promise does not extend is Jesus. Jesus serves God continually and perfectly, and yet He will not be delivered from the roaring lion of the Law’s demands and God’s righteous wrath over sin. He will be handed over as the vilest offender ever to live and will endure the punishment we deserve. The Father will not spare His only-begotten Son from death, but He will allow Him to die so that we might live.
This is the great exchange. We deserve death. We should be thrown to the lions and have not just our body meet a gruesome end, but our soul should also spend eternity in the pits of hell. This is what we have merited by our sins. But Jesus goes in our place. He is nailed to the cross, endures mockery and anguish, and sins against Himself and His Father even up to the moment of death. He does it because He does not care about Himself, but about you. He wants to prevent you from being devoured by the Law’s sharp teeth and hungry stomach. So He fulfills its demands by sacrificing Himself in your place. He knows death so that you never will.
But here we must take the advice of Jesus to the women of Jerusalem: “Do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” In other words, as we prepare to enter Holy Week, to walk with Our Lord from Palm Sunday to the Upper Room to trials and to the cross, we don’t do it to feel sorry for Him. He isn’t doing this to get pity, but to earn our salvation. We mustn’t feel sorry for Jesus as if He is some kind of victim of the Passion, that He had pushed the wrong people too far with His teaching. Jesus is the Lamb who bears willingly; He is always fully aware of what He is doing and how things will end. This is His chosen path, the one He walks gladly to win you back.
So we weep for ourselves, for our children, for our friends and family, and for the world. We lament the sin of Adam and Eve that set the world on this course to death. We lament our own sins that we daily add to the weight Jesus bore. We weep for friends and family and for people throughout the world who do not know Jesus, or, worse, refuse to know Him. We pray that the Holy Spirit will work through the Word in the hearts of all people to bring about repentance, a returning to the Lord, not an angry God eager to punish, but to a God who is full of love and compassion, eager to forgive for the sake of the sacrifice of His Son.
And that is exactly what St. Luke alone captures for us. Luke reveals to us the God of love. From the cross, one criminal makes confession of his sins and implores mercy. He has faith, worked by the Holy Spirit, and begs that his sin not be counted against him. Jesus replies in Words we all know and love: “Assuredly I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise. That criminal is a picture of you. Dying in your sin, deserving of punishment, but making confession of your sin you are forgiven and welcomed into heaven by your Savior. Though you may commit sins that carry earthly consequences, you are still forgiven, still made a child of paradise by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When you die you leave all sadness to inherit what He shed His Blood to win for you.
“Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.” This is the promise of Lent, of Holy Week, of your whole life as a Christian. The God whom you love is first and last, the end and the beginning. He will deliver you because you are Baptized into Jesus Christ, into His death and resurrection. All things that He has done He has done for you, for your forgiveness, and for your eternal life. In Christ, paradise is yours today, and you will be with Him always.
The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Sermons from Mount Olive
Mount Olive follows the historic one-year lectionary (series of readings).