GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM JESUS, THE NAME OF WONDROUS LOVE!
TEXT: Luke 22: 39-46
Dearly Beloved By Jesus:
For 26 years from 1953 to 1979, Oscar Naumann served as president of our sister synod, the Wisconsin Synod. I’m told by someone who knew that when once asked what his favorite hymn was he replied: “Jesus Loves Me This I Know.” Pres. Naumann was a humble Christian. In our hymnbook there are almost 40 hymns that begin with that little word: Jesus. But exactly what does “Jesus” mean? Do you know? It means: “God Saves! Or, God Delivers.” It means: “helper.” And help us He does with His eternal love and compassion for lost souls. This Lenten season we’ll examine various Biblical names for our Lord. Tonight’s
NAME OF WONDROUS LOVE IS: JESUS
Jesus is the name used for our Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane. What brought Him there? What was He doing? Let’s journey into the shadowy olive trees and take a look. Most of the disciples are at the gate of that garden. Further inside Peter, James and John are sleeping, exhausted from the long day. But just over there, a stone’s throw away, is Jesus. He’s kneeling, then He falls into the dirt. As we draw closer we see that great drops of sweat, bloody sweat, are dripping from His face. He moves His lips and we hear those words: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” He repeats that prayer a second and a third time as we watch with astonishment and inner dread.
What’s going on? What is crushing our Savior and causing Him to beg? Isn’t this the exact same Jesus Who faced countless enemies without flinching? Isn’t this the Man who chased the money-changers from the temple, stilled the storm, and walked on the raging waters? What’s the cup that He dreads to drink? Well, you know what it is. You’ve heard the story every Lenten season of your life. The cup is the entire force of hell’s punishment for sin. The sins of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, David and Absalom, Judas and Peter, Jews and Gentiles, the sins of you and me—all these were being distilled like some awful poison into that cup. And Jesus’ job, the reason for His coming to earth, was to drink that cup fully. All this He knows. All this awaits Him in a few short hours. No wonder He prays: “Take this cup from me.”
After being reminded of this, do you still take your own sins lightly? Do you really think your own bouts of jealousy, your nasty temper, your attempts at plotting to “even the score” with another—do you think those don’t matter to God? Do you think being envious of another for their apparent blessings and your own seemingly lack of similar blessings, do you think God doesn’t care about your attitude? My friends, every sin is just as serious to God and bitter to Jesus as another. God doesn’t rank evil. Only evil human play those kind of games. And it was sin, your sin and mine, that caused Jesus to suffer and die.
That’s what Jesus is doing in the Garden. He’s preparing to suffer and die. He’s preparing to take our punishment for our sins upon Himself. But why? Why would He willingly shoulder such a crushing load? Let me ask you a question: Why do stay up all night with a sick child? Why do you go off to work each day and labor in a job that is less than thrilling? Bottom line: it’s love isn’t it? Love moves you. Well, the exact same thing is occurring here. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so! Thus, His name fits, doesn’t it? God saves, God delivers His people from the eternal ravages of evil in and through Jesus, the Name of Wondrous Love!
Let’s go back into the shadows and observe again. Now we see another kind of love that becomes apparent. Three times Jesus asks His Father to remove His load of suffering, to find another way. Three times He looks His Father in the eye and asks: “May I pass?” But the responding answer is: “No. There is no other way for humans to be saved.” Does Jesus get angry over this answer? Does He complain: “It’s not fair!”? Is He dissatisfied with His heavenly Father in any way? Never. Instead, He lovingly submits to the Holy Father adding to His prayer: “Yet, not My will, but Yours be done!”
If let to our own natures, we rarely do the same in life. Babies seek to impose their will on their parents almost from the moment they draw breath. Children seek to manipulate their parents and bend their will throughout life. The check book doesn’t balance, the car breaks down, “friends” backstab with gossip, we feel crushed by our own foul temper. Do we resort at those times to shaking our fist at God? Do we blame Him and question whether He loves us at all? Or do we simply respond: “Lord, not my will, but yours be done.”? True prayer doesn’t seek to manipulate or vent, instead it lays concerns before God and then trusts His ultimate goodness to formulate the best answer possible.
Think about a carpenter, a woodworker. He has to use a sander to bring out the beauty of the grain and the rich color of the rough wood. As that power sander cuts into the wood, would the board say: “Ouch!” or “Thank you”? Sometimes God’s sanding of our lives proves painful. So, we rebel against it. We accuse Him of not caring and doubt His wisdom. But Jesus doesn’t do that in Gethsemane, does He? His Wondrous love for us and His Father moves Him to accept the cross He must bear to save us. Those drops of blood dripping from His brow give evidence as to just how serious and painful our salvation would be for Him. But, drink that cup He does! All this because of love—for you and me! Jesus, Name of Wondrous Love, indeed! Amen