What Are You Looking For? (Midweek Lent 3)


What Are You Looking For?

He stood his ground. One of the joys of re-reading God’s word is walking through all the parts and details that you missed. Slowly, bit by bit, I’m reading through the Old Testament. And at the end of David’s life there is a list of King David’s “mighty men.” In those words we meet Eleazar, son of Dodo. And he’s in that list of mighty men because when there was a battle with the Philistines all the rest of the Israelites ran away. But he stood his ground. And he attacked so many Philistines that his hand seized up and was stuck to his sword handle. At the end of that paragraph, we hear how the Israelites came back, but only to plunder the dead…because there were no more Philistines left to fight.1 On that day Eleazar stayed. And that’s why he was their hero. This evening it’s not Eleazar who stays. Instead, it’s Jesus. And because he stays, he is our Savior. In Mark 14, we read: 32 Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he told his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 He said to them, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.” 35 He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will.”” (Mark 14:32–36 CSB17)

In these words we see what those forty days in the wilderness led to. All those forty days of temptation led to this one hour of temptation. And in these words we see why Jesus is our Savior and not a human hero. Satan is bringing all his pressure against Jesus. And he asks that the hour would go away.2 In minutes from that point in time he would be betrayed. But the calm before the storm can be the worst part. When you run in a race or play in a game, it’s not the game that’s the hard part. It’s the waiting before hand. It’s not the surgery that’s can be the hard part, instead, it’s the waiting. That’s when all the bad and fearful thoughts rise up. And here we see the same and so much more with Jesus. And so he asks that the hour would be taken away. But notice what follows right after this: He says those amazing words, “but not what I want, instead, what you want.” This is why Jesus is our Savior. He stays up to fulfill his Father’s will. But these words quickly shift and change focus to Jesus’ disciples: 37 Then he came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn’t you stay awake one hour? 38 Stay awake and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 Once again he went away and prayed, saying the same thing. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open. They did not know what to say to him. 41 Then he came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?” (Mark 14:37–41 CSB17)

Are you sleeping? That’s the question that Jesus asks them. Jesus is weighed down with sadness to the point of death. And their eyes are weighed down with weariness, so they sleep. And in these disciples we see our own sin too. Jesus could ask the same question of each of us too: “are you sleeping?” Our sinful nature is powerful. And it gets to us and at us when we are weakest. There is this unique set of temptations that come to us when we don’t get enough sleep. When we are sleepy—that’s when our patience runs out when others are speaking to us. When we are sleepy—that’s when we are tempted to pass off “C” work as if it were “A” work. When we are sleepy—that’s when we might have seen Satan’s temptations coming and take our stand. But our sinful natures get us at our weakest. That’s why we look at this bitter hour with such joy in our hearts. Satan poured out all the pain and sadness he could at the very moment when Jesus was most tired. He had eaten a passover feast. He had drunk wine. And he had stayed up so very far past his bed time. And that weighed his eyes down. But that was nothing compared to the pressure Satan was pouring out on him. And for all the times we sleep, Jesus proves that he is our Savior by staying up. He stays up to fulfill his Father’s will. And, as if that’s not enough of a reason to worship and praise Jesus, Mark gives us even more reasons to praise and worship him. We read: 41 Enough! The time has come. See, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up; let’s go. See, my betrayer is near.” 43 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, suddenly arrived. With him was a mob, with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44 His betrayer had given them a signal. “The one I kiss,” he said, “he’s the one; arrest him and take him away under guard.” 45 So when he came, immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 They took hold of him and arrested him. 47 One of those who stood by drew his sword, struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. 48 Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs, as if I were a criminal, to capture me? 49 Every day I was among you, teaching in the temple, and you didn’t arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then they all deserted him and ran away. 51 Now a certain young man, wearing nothing but a linen cloth, was following him. They caught hold of him, 52 but he left the linen cloth behind and ran away naked.” (Mark 14:41–52 CSB17)

Jesus stays to fulfill his Father’s will. But notice here the other reason why Jesus stays. Jesus stays to fulfill his Father’s word. Jesus says, “the scriptures must be fulfilled.” So long ago Our Father in Heaven promised that there would be a betrayer. And this betrayer would be the one who would hand Jesus over to be tortured and murdered. The Father’s prophecy and plan was to save us by surrendering his Son. And how amazing this is that Jesus doesn’t only allow this, but he helps them betray him.

And these words are so poignant and important for us to hear this evening. For Jesus stays up. But there are times that we stay up. There are times when we have slept either physically or spiritually. And that failing keeps up at night unable to sleep. The times that through our own sleepiness our sinful nature got to us. We were not patient when we should have been. We were indulgent when we should not have been. Through our sleepiness our sinful nature gets to us and later on, when our consciences catch up to us we loose sleep.

With these words we read here, Jesus comes to us and says, “Rest and be at peace. I stayed up to fulfill my Father’s will for you. I stayed up to fulfill Our Father’s word for you. Rest and be at peace for those sins are forgiven.”” And if that isn’t enough, look at what he also does. He gives us a new nature to wage war alongside the old sinful nature. Jesus says, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And we need to focus in on how willingly weak our sinful nature is. For he is always ready to wait for those times we are weak and tempt us. But, my dear friends in Christ, don’t forget about the first part of that statement. The spirit is willing. This new person placed in us through water and word in baptism is ready, willing and able to see these traps and temptations and stand up against them. And so, just as Jesus stays up, so also, you too stay up. Be awake. Be aware. Pray to your Father who hears every prayer and is there for you. For Jesus stayed up to fulfill his Father’s will. And Jesus stayed up to fulfill his Father’s word. Amen.

1 2 Samuel 23:10

2 “ⲓ̈ⲛⲁⲡⲁⲣⲉⲗⲑⲏⲁⲡⲁⲩⲧⲟⲩⲏⲱⲣⲁ” (Mark 14:35 GNT-WAS)

There Is Only One Winner (Lent 3)


There Is Only One Winner

What do you watch in the Olympics? Some people like to see the competition between the one who will get first place and the one who will get second place. Sometimes that struggle is interesting to watch. But if you really want to see a struggle, see the struggle between third and fourth place. Because, with third place, you get to be up there, standing on that podium with a smile on your face and with a medal around your neck. With fourth place, you get to go home. And so, very often the mose intense struggles are for third place, not first. But at the end of the day, the Olympics are just games. The struggle between first and second, or third and fourth is nothing compared to the struggle that happens in war. And that’s what Jesus works so hard this morning to let us see. There is a war going on every day around us. It’s a war between Jesus and Satan. And there can be only one winner. In Luke 11, we read: 14 Now he was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon came out, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. 15 But some of them said, “He drives out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” 16 And others, as a test, were demanding of him a sign from heaven.” (Luke 11:14–16 CSB17)

In these words Jesus is working a miracle. None of the people gathered there could do what Jesus just did. Jesus had just driven out a demon from a man. And instead of standing there in awe and appreciation, they accused him of being on the side of Satan. In the words which follow notice how Jesus goes out of his way to show them what is going on. In war there is only one winner: 17 Knowing their thoughts, he told them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and a house divided against itself falls. 18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say I drive out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive them out? For this reason they will be your judges. 20 If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his estate, his possessions are secure. 22 But when one stronger than he attacks and overpowers him, he takes from him all his weapons he trusted in, and divides up his plunder.” (Luke 11:17–22 CSB17)

In war, the most stupid thing a person could do is help the enemy. What motivation or reason would Satan have for getting rid of one of his soldiers? It’s complete nonsense to conclude that this makes sense. Then Jesus illustrates his point with a story. There’s a strong man. And he has and enjoys what he has because he is strong and well-armed. But what happens? A stronger man comes along. He beats the strong man up, takes his weapons and armor. Then does he give anything to the strong man? No, the stronger man takes every item for himself and gives it to whomever he wants. What’s the point? There is warfare going on between Jesus and Satan. And there is no middle ground. Either Satan wins entirely and does entirely what he wants with people, or Jesus does. He then concludes with these words: “Anyone who is not with me is against me, and anyone who does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23 CSB17)

There are those times when we hear sermons and ask the question, “so what” or “now what?” This is Jesus answering that question. There is no middle ground. In the battle for your soul either Jesus wins or Satan wins. There is only one winner. There is only one winner in conversion. When we are speaking about conversion, what we mean is that instant and moment when you used to be an unbeliever and then in an instant you became a believer in Jesus. Jesus has converted your hearts and your souls to him. But with that fact comes the temptation to sin. The temptation to sin comes from forgetting what Jesus speaks of here. There is warfare for each person’s soul. And either Satan wins or Jesus does. And I can speak of how I have sinned against this fact. There have been people I have known—friends and family members who were not Christians. And I wanted them to be Christians. But I forgot these words and failed. Instead of bringing this warfare to them, I sold them salvation. I thought that if I were nice enough and showed them that my church was nice enough, then they would be Christians. I thought if I showed them with unshakable, unbreakable logic that God’s word was true, they would become Christians. But it never worked because I forget what Jesus preaches here: People either belong to Jesus, or to Satan. And if they belong to Satan they don’t care. They don’t care how nice your church is or how clear or true your logic is. They belong to Satan and they love to belong to him. What has to happen instead is warfare. Jesus has to enter in as the stronger man and defeat Satan so that they belong to him and not to Satan anymore.

There is only one winner in conversion. But the same is true when it comes to sanctification too. Sanctification is what happens after you are a Christian. It’s the daily struggling and wrestling against sin. And the point is the same: there is only one winner. Every day you wage war against your sinful nature and Satan. And not just every day, but many times within each day. And we need to wage this continual war because, day after day, there is this powerful sinful nature in us that loves sin instead of having a Savior. It’s that sinful influence and voice inside of us that loves being forgiven but yet also loves sin: the places on the internet we should not visit, the greed we should not gather, the gossip and slander we should not spread, and the list goes on. Do not think that there is some middle ground where you can love your sin and also love your Savior at the same time. There is only one winner when it comes to your soul: either Jesus or Satan. And in the words which follow Jesus lets us know that if we continue to love sin and our Savior at the same time, there are horrible consequences which follow: 24 “When an unclean spirit comes out of a person, it roams through waterless places looking for rest, and not finding rest, it then says, ‘I’ll go back to my house that I came from.’ 25 Returning, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that person’s last condition is worse than the first.”” (Luke 11:24–26 CSB17)

So Satan’s soldier, a demon, is driven out of a person. It goes away for a time. But then what happens? It sees that where it used to live is unguarded. So what does it do? It invites seven other demons. It says, “I will go back to my house.” And since the house is swept up and prettied-up, it can’t wait to trash the place again. What is the house in these words? You are the house. If we love our sin and pretend that we can also love our Savior, eventually all we will have is our sin. There is only one winner in your soul: either Satan or Jesus. Jesus is so focused and so determined. Then, out of nowhere, we hear these words: 27 As he was saying these things, a woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the one who nursed you!” 28 He said, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”” (Luke 11:27–28 CSB17)

A woman in the crowd raises her voice. And she blesses Jesus. And from her interruption and interjection, we see that she really doesn’t get the seriousness of what Jesus is saying. It was not the time or occasion to bless Jesus. So what does Jesus do? He puts her back on track. The ones who are blessed are those who hear the word of God and guard it!

There is only one winner. In your every day life, who will that be? Satan or Jesus. These are the sorts of questions which drive us to despair. For this is a battle we cannot win. We are powerless to stand up against Satan, aren’t we? How many times have we been tempted and failed? The victor on this battle field has to be someone else than us. And that victor is Jesus. When you came into this world you belonged to Satan. And you loved to belong to him. But what did Jesus do? He poured water on you and put his name on you in your baptism. From that point on you no longer belong to Satan, but instead, to Jesus. And there have been so many times even as Christians we have thought we can play both sides, loving sin and loving our Savior. So what does Jesus do? Through those waters of baptism he takes the forgiveness that he won on the cross and delivers it to you, individually and personally. And day by day we have to carry out this warfare against Satan and our sinful nature. So what does he do? In these waters of baptism he gives us the Holy Spirit to combat Satan. And in these waters of baptism he gives us a new nature to fight the old sinful nature.

There is only one winner. In conversion and in sanctification, there is only one winner. Give thanks and glory to God for in your souls that victor is Jesus. And out of pure thanks listen to his words and keep them. Amen.