March 9, 2022: 2nd Wednesday in Lent

Let us pray: as we walk along with You to the cross, teach us how serious this journey was for You and is for us.  Yes, just as it focused all Your attention, may it focus all our attention.  For our eternal souls were and are at stake!  And finally, let all of us find comfort and solace in the fact that although filled with sighs, You lovingly carried our cross for us!  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF HIDDEN GLORY!

TEXT:  Luke 22: 39-46

Fellow Redeemed Sinners: 

          Today in America Lent is an anachronism.  Did you notice on the newscasts how it got short shrift while the party-hardy Mardi Gras celebrations received splashy attention?  No one takes the journey to the cross seriously, except Christ and His faithful flock.  Our lesson outlines a part of that sad journey:

          “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.  On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’  He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’  An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.  And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.  When he arose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them.  ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’”

I

          Lent is special.  It is filled with glory, glory hidden in the cross.  Those who don’t take it seriously will never see this glory, benefit from it, or receive it.  And tonight we see that this glory is: Hidden in the Savior’s sighs.  Folks that’s not a trivial expression, either.  For the sighs emanating from the cross are the heart, the core of what God has to say about himself and about us.

          He takes His disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray.  He prepares Himself and them for the great struggle with evil that awaits.  He throws Himself on the ground.  With loud sighs and groanings He wrestles with His future, with suffering and death.  He prays for the disciples, yes even Judas, and for us.  He prays for strength from His holy Father as He awaits capture, beatings, mockings and death.  He knows that every bit of God’s righteous rage against human sin will be laid upon Him and here He prays for the strength to carry that awful burden.  And so the sighs come.

          Yes, Jesus took Lent seriously.  He loved His Father.  He loved us.  And here He is and was in the middle.  He willingly placed Himself into the middle thereby becoming our Mediator, yes, as the Bible says: “There is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all.”  The sighs come from His very soul.  The intensity of His inner pain, our collective pain, is so great that He sweats great drops of blood as the capillaries in His head burst under the strain.  He feels abandoned by all.  Even the disciples have fallen asleep on Him.  But He isn’t abandoned, is He?  The holy Father hears His prayer and sends an angel to comfort and strengthen Him.  The verdict from heaven is: “My Son will die.  His suffering will not be lessened one bit. It has to be so to save  humans.”  And so the sighs come.

          What love!  What love for us!  Christ doesn’t shy away from what awaits.  He wrestles with it and then willingly goes forth to embrace it.  And how unlike the disciples Christ is!  Luke tells us that they fall “asleep exhausted from sorrow.”  But not Christ!  Think of a child before Christmas Eve.  They cannot sleep because of the excitement that awaits.  But the night before the excitement of their eternal salvation all these recipients of God’s grace can do is sleep.  And yet Christ doesn’t give up on them, or us.  He doesn’t say: “They just don’t get it, they’re not worth it!”  No, here His sighing is not merely born of coming grief but of love for our ignorant souls.  The seriousness of the cross is all-encompassing.

II

          Your presence here tonight shows that you take the cross seriously.  For you have come to watch and pray for this one hour.  You have chosen to come and have the Holy Spirit uplift and strengthen you with the hidden glory of the cross so as to escape Satan’s snares.  You know the devil hates you, just as he hated Christ.  And so he sends countless temptations to us and we sigh and groan under them, as well.  Can we handle them alone?  Can we drink Christ’s cup of suffering alone—as Peter ignorantly alluded to?  Of course not.  We need someone to lead us, to guide us, to protect us from this minefield of sin that we find ourselves caught in.  And Christ provides the footprints for us to follow to safety.  He didn’t fail to save our souls.  And when we embrace Him in love and faith, His victory will become our victory!

          We talk a lot in the Church about “bearing crosses.”  By that we mean bitter, painful experiences that come our way on account of our faith in Jesus.  We sigh and groan over our inner hypocrisy, our sins of omission, and family and friends who look at us cross-eyed when any discussion turns religious.  We sigh and groan when we hear of James Cameron’s new “documentary” about supposedly finding Christ’s body buried with Mary Magdalene and a son in some ossuary, or bone box, thus mocking the resurrection.  (This just happened this week.)  We hear such things and sighs and groans come from within as for an instant a whisper of doubt crosses our mind as to the truthfulness of God’s love for us.

          What should you do in such circumstances?  Follow Christ.  Watch and pray.  Turn to the cross and embrace it as He did.  For in it you will find hidden glory.  You will find forgiveness.  You will find strength to bear up.  You will find the meaning of life—all glory to God for saving us!

          Take Lent seriously.  Christ did.  And the result of such soul crushing seriousness was what?—Peace with God, forgiveness for all sins, and eternal life!  It was vindication.  It was mercy.  It was a clean conscience.  It was resurrection and heaven.  Yes, behold all this hidden glory in His cross!  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD….

Pastor Fox

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