Jesus Reveals His Glory (Epiphany 2)


Jesus Reveals His Glory

Ihate the wait. When I was a kid, right about this time of the year the Superbowl would be finished. And they would interview the players on the winning team, “So, now that you won the Superbowl, where are you going to go?” And what would they say? “I’m going to Disneyland.'” Even as a child I knew that was not the answer I would have given. I didn’t want to go to Disneyland because I hated the wait. So you got to go to Space Mountain. But my older brother and sister told me the story of how long the wait was on a hot and sticky day just to get to the front of the line. And still to this day, I have no desire to be out on Black Friday. I hate the wait. But, as we look at these words this morning, I see that I’m not alone. In John 2, we read: 1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”” (John 2:1–3 NIV11-GKE)

It was the third day. But it was the third day from what? A few short days before this Jesus was baptized. And there in the river Jordan the Holy Spirit rested on him and gave him power—true power. And all those who were there knew what this meant. There were hundreds of prophecies and promises spoken of in the Old Testament. And one day God would anoint someone to fulfill those prophecies and promises with such great power. And there, in the Jordan river those prophecies pointed to and were fulfilled in Jesus. And so Jesus was anointed as our Prophet, Priest, and King. They saw it. And then what happened? Nothing. Hour after hour, day after day, nothing happened. That’s the context we need to understand as we begin to walk through these words. I hated waiting in lines. But Mary and Jesus’ disciples—they hated waiting for the signs and wonders to begin like having to watch too many previews before the movie starts.

So, in these words, there’s a wedding. Jesus and his disciples are invited. But Mary shows up. And when the wine runs out Mary lets her son know that they are out of wine. It’s hard to know what to do with her comment. Is it a good comment? Is she letting Jesus know of a problem and leaving the result in his hands? After all, one of the dilemmas we can face is to pray to our Lord to fix a real problem in our lives. And then, just as soon as we’ve told Jesus to fix the problem, we then step into his domain, telling Jesus when and how, if we were God, we would fix the problem. So this could be a good example. She tells him the problem, leaving the solution in his hands. On the other hand, it could be a bad example. It could be like when the husband and wife are sitting together on the couch and she says to him, “The garbage is full.” Every husband knows that those words make it appear as if that’s a simple statement of fact. But, in reality, it’s a command. The statement “the garbage is full” really means, “take the trash out.”

We don’t know which direction to take with her comment. But what we do know is that she too was waiting to see her Son’s glory. But he responds to her in a very unique way. We read: ““Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”” (John 2:4 NIV11-GKE)

The wording here is a little stronger than one would conclude by reading our english version here.1 Jesus is asking her what she and he had in common. Most of the time when we run into this phrase in the bible it’s harsh and confrontational. Here it is simply Jesus setting the record straight. He is her son—and a humble son at that. But he is also the son of God. And now is when, as a grown up, he begins his public ministry. This is the moment when their relationship changes. But how does Mary respond to this? 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”” (John 2:5–8 NIV11-GKE)

Mary receives correction from her Son and her Savior. And what does she do? She lets the servants know that if the right time does come, they should be ready. So the right time does arrive. They fill up the big water basins with about 200 gallons of water. They take the water to the master of the banquet. And then the master of the banquet responds: 8 They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”” (John 2:8–10 NIV11-GKE)

When there’s an open bar, nobody brings out the bottom shelf liquor first. First, you bring out the name brand, top shelf alcohol. Then, when the people begin to leave and the people have already had too much to drink and aren’t as picky—then you bring out the bottom shelf liquor. The master of the banquet commends the groom for saving the best till last. But mary knows, and the servants know, and the disciples know, and we too know what the truth it. This was a miracle. The glory they had been waiting for they finally saw. In the closing words we read: “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory;” (John 2:11 NIV11-GKE)

Here in Cana, at this wedding, Jesus reveals his glory. But that brings us to the huge question we need to ask this morning: why. Why does Jesus perform this miracle? How does this reveal his glory? Here John tells us that this is the first of Jesus’ miracles.2 But why is it the first? This miracle gave his disciples a framework and a context for them to understand all the signs, wonders, and miracles to follow. Jesus did this first to let them know that he would be performing his miracles to show not his wrath and judgment, but instead, his mercy. Our prayer of the day, at the beginning of the service speaks about that. We prayed these words: O God, you reveal your mighty power chiefly in showing mercy and kindness. If Jesus did not perform this miracle, what was the worst that could happen? The worst that might happen is that they would suffer shame and embarrassment. There’s no disease here to heal. There’s no demon to drive out. There’s no one here to raise from the dead. Jesus performs these miracles not so that we would say, “wow, look at his power.” No, instead, he performs these miracles so that would say, “wow, look at his mercy.” But that’s the sort of Savior we have. He not only rescued this married couple from their sin by suffering all the shame and embarrassment that the world deserved by dying on the cross. But he did so much more. He rescued them from shame and embarrassment too.

And my dear friends, hasn’t he done the same with you? How many sins have you done when you were five that those around you when you were ten? How many sins have you committed when you were ten that people still remember when you were twenty. True, there might be some. But your Savior not only forgives those sins by suffering your shame in your place. But for so many of them, he makes them go away. And what’s amazing to think of is not how many sins you remember from your past, but instead, how many, many more have you forgotten—and everyone else too.

That’s why Jesus reveals his glory. Jesus reveals his glory chiefly in acts of mercy. But from that flows a wonderful result. We read: “and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11 NIV11-GKE) When his disciples saw that this was the sort of Shepherd and Savior they had, they gladly and zealously said in their hearts, “I will follow a Savior like that.” And we too say the same. We too follow Jesus just as they did. For he shows his mercy not just by forgiving our sins. But he also shows his mercy by so often erasing even the memory of that sin. What an amazing Savior to follow.

And so, Jesus reveals his glory. He reveals his glory in acts of mercy. He reveals his glory so that we would believe in him. Amen.

1 “ⲕⲁⲓⲗⲉⲅⲉⲓⲁⲩⲧⲏⲟⲓ̅ⲥ̅ⲧⲓⲉⲙⲟⲓⲕⲁⲓⲥⲟⲓⲅⲩⲛⲁⲓ” (John 2:4 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲁⲣⲭⲏⲛ” (John 2:11 GNT-ALEX)

Remember Your Humility (Epiphany 1)

Baptism of Jesus

Remember Your Humility

It’s hard to be humble. As Christians, we know there are these traits we are supposed to have and these actions we are supposed to take. But it’s hard, isn’t it? In our words from Paul’s letter to Titus. Paul tells Titus: 1 Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.” (Titus 3:1–2 CSB17)

Isn’t it fascinating that our situation as humans never changes. It’s hard to submit to the authorities. Our leaders in our nation sometimes make shortsighted laws that only seem to exist to get them elected two years down the road, not to make our nation better 2o years down the road. It’s hard to be humble. We try to get to church on time, but, especially at night, people wont’ let us turn left onto Minnewashta, or they cut us off. It’s hard to not be angry. But notice what Paul tells us here. He reminds us to be humble. And then, after Paul does this. He follows with two important reasons why we are to remember our humility: “For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.” (Titus 3:3 CSB17)

Paul starts out by reminding us to be humble. And he gives us a real reason to remember this by remembering what we were. It is so easy to say, “look at them—how wrong they are.” But Paul does not direct our focus outward. Instead, he focuses our focus inward. In the congregation that Titus served most of the People could remember a time when they were not Christians. For many of us here this morning, we cannot remember that because we were brought into God’s family at a very early age. But for those who can, this would have been piercing, paralyzing words. For life outside of Christ is a terrifying existence. But even for us who cannot remember our life before, we do know what it is like right now to be a Christian and at the same time have a sinful nature. And in that context we need to say the same as Paul, “We—also we used to be them.”1 And all throughout our lives we see reminders of this. Last week Priscilla’s school went on a school trip to go downhill skiing. And I got to be a chaperone. And at the bottom of the ski lift there was a boy who took a short cut. There was a line that was for the ski patrol. But the kid shuffled his way through that empty line to the front. A bunch of his friends told him he was in the wrong line. And he ignored them. When I saw all this I got really angry. Finally, when the boy realized he couldn’t ignore his friends, he looked up. And one of his friends say, “you cannot use that line.” And with such arrogance and pride, he said, “Looks like I just did.” And you would think that that statement would make me angry. But instead it filled me with sadness and fear. Why? I remembered times, when I was his age, that I cut in line. And when I did, those are the exact words that I said. And I felt so sorry for something I did 30+ years ago.

One of the challenges about being a Christian is that, the longer we are Christians, and the more we study God’s word, the more we see our sin. And the more it hurts. And so, one of the ways we are moved to remember our humility is to remember that we—even we sin. And in many ways, we have less of an excuse than unbelievers have because we have read God’s word and we should know better. And so, Paul reminds us of our humility by reminding us what we were before. But from there he goes in a different direction: 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, 5 he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4–7 CSB17)

Paul tells us to remember what we were. But then Paul reminds us to remember what we are now in our baptisms. The kindness of our Savior and God appeared. And what follows then is a what, why, how pattern. What did Jesus do? He saved us from our sins. By having and using the humility we did not have as we came into this world he covers us our lack of humility. By dying on the cross he pay for our lack of humility. What did Jesus do about our sin? He saved us by paying for it. What follows then is the why question. Jesus saved us “in line with his mercy.” There have been countless times we should have been kind, but we were selfish, or showed self-control, and instead lived for our passions and pleasures. And so, God saved us not because he saw anything good in us. Instead, he saved us “in line with his mercy.” And finally there’s the how question. Jesus dies there on the cross. But that’s where his salvation stays unless it is delivered to us. So God reaches out with his word and delivers that forgiveness to us. And in these words what Paul specifically emphasizes is the washing of Baptism. In Baptism we are given renewal and rebirth. In baptism the forgiveness won there travels to here—in my heart, mind, and soul. In baptism I become an heir of eternal life. In baptism I am renewed, revitalized, and reborn to lead a godly life.

And so it is good and right for us to remember and speak about baptism as this great gift that delivers salvation to us. For that’s what these words say. But it is also good for us to remember the other promise here. In baptism we are reborn and revitalized to lead a godly life. The humility we didn’t have before, we now have in baptism. The result of this is that, alongside this old-self inside of us that lives for passions and pleasures, self-seeking and self-worshipping—alongside that old self is a new self born of this washing in baptism. And this new self is humble. All of this is a gift of baptism.

Paul reminds us to remember to be humble. This happens first of all when we remember what we were—and in our old sinful self, still are. But this also happens when we remember what we are. In our God and Savior Jesus Christ we are given a baptism of water and word. And in that baptism salvation isn’t just won. It is also given to us. And in that baptism we are given a new birth to lead a godly life.

So then, with all of this in mind, remember your humility. Those living in darkness do not have your light. Those living selfish lives need your humility. The ones that hate you need to see your humility. And even more, they need to see the reason for your humility, both your reminders of what you were and also what you are now in your baptisms. Remember your humility. In Christ and in those waters of baptism you have this humility. Now use it.

1 “ⲏⲙⲉⲛⲅⲁⲣⲡⲟⲧⲉ Ⲕⲁⲓⲏⲙⲉⲓⲥ·” (Titus 3:3 GNT-ALEX)

The Confirmation of RayAnne Annala


Trust in the Lord with all your heart

Iwant 110%. Years ago, RayAnne, when I was your age, I was on a football team. And that’s what the coach told us. He wanted us to give 110% of our effort and energy on the field. And I remember thinking to myself, first of all, that’s just plain bad math. The most I could give is 100\%. But second, could I even really give 100% of my energy? This morning God’s word says the same to you, RayAnne. In the book of Proverbs, God’s words says to you, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding;” (Proverbs 3:5 CSB17)

So I want you to think for a moment, RayAnne and ponder this thought: How can you not just trust in the Lord, but also trust in him with all your heart? What follows in the rest of these words are answers to that question. If we ask, “how can I trust in the Lord with all my heart,” Your Lord says to you, “in all your ways know him,” (Proverbs 3:6 CSB17)

There’s a very simple but important point that God’s word makes here. How can you trust in the Lord, if you don’t know him? Think, for example, what we learned in the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve rebelled against God. And the result of this is that they did not trust him anymore. And they did not trust him because they did not know him.

Now, you, RayAnne, know the Lord. You were introduced to him as a tiny baby when you were baptized and God placed faith in your heart. You grew in that knowledge of him in your years of Sunday School, and when your parents brought you here to church to hear God’s word, and now, finally you know God even more after two years of confirmation class. But notice what God’s word says here. It does not say, “Know the Lord until you are 14 years old.” It says, “Continue to know him.”1(Proverbs 3:6 BHS-T)}} The only way we know about God is to continue learning about him in his word. And this is a lifelong task and joy for us.

And this becomes even more important when we see how deeply sin affects us in our every day life. When we were in catechism class and we got to Genesis 3 and Adam and Eve heard the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day, what did they do? They hid. You cannot hide from God. And yet they tried. Sin makes us stupid. It was true then. And it’s true now. That’s why we are in God’s word, reading it at home, hearing it here in worship, and studying it in bible class. And so, let me give you an example from my life to show what this looks like. After my first year in college I sold stuff as a summer job—stuff that nobody needed, and nobody wanted. But I thought everything would work out fine for me. Why? Because God’s word says, “ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9 CSB17) I didn’t go home with any money that summer. Why? Just as sin made Adam and Eve stupid, so also, it made me stupid. That “ask, seek, knock” part of the bible had nothing to do physical blessings. Instead, it had to do with spiritual blessings. But I did not know the Lord because I did not study his word.

RayAnne, learn from my mistakes. Know the Lord. And the only way you can know the Lord is to be in God’s word, reading it at home, hearing it here in worship, and studying it in bible class. Then, when that is in place, what will happen? God’s word tells us: “and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:6 CSB17)

When we know the Lord, then we are able to trust in the Lord—yes, even with our whole heart. For the Lord makes all these promises in his word. And he keeps them all. And we make all these blundering mistakes, and yet, he still forgives us because of Jesus and watches over us.

So God’s word says to you, Trust in the \textsc{Lord with all your heart.} And that means knowing the Lord through his word. But there’s more: 7 Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. 8 This will be healing for your body and strengthening for your bones.” (Proverbs 3:7–8 CSB17)

Not only do we know the Lord, we also fear the Lord. Now, here is where we learn that we cannot trust the Lord with all our heart if we have the wrong relationship with the Lord. Again, to use a picture from your every day life. You have a different relationship with your Dad than with your friends at school. Your dad is not your BFF. Your dad will tell you when you’re on the right track. And when you’re on the wrong track—when you say or do something wrong, he will tell you. It’s like that but even more so with your God above. Our relationship with our God is based on fear. But notice that the way the bible uses that word is completely different than the way the world does. When the Lord gives us rules and laws, saying “Don’t do this’” we can trust him. Compare this with the rules at school. One of the problems I had with school when I was your age was that, for so much of the time, the rules didn’t seem to apply. They would put up a sign, “don’t walk on the grass.’” And then what happened? Everyone walked on the grass and nobody cared. It’s not like this with God. When he says something is wrong and dangerous to us, we can trust in him and rely on him.

And the same is true when it comes to forgiveness. When the Lord says to you, RayAnne, “you are forgiven,” you can trust in those words. Jesus obeyed all the ten commandments in your place so that you could rely on those words. Jesus died to pay for your sins so that you could rely on those words. Jesus rose from the grave and then rose into heaven so that you could rely on those words. And the result of all of this is fear. Yes, there’s real fear and terror because when God says that something is wrong, he means it. But there is also this joy, awe, and wonder, because when God says to you, RayAnne, “your sins are forgiven”, he means it and you can trust it. And you can trust it not just with a part of your heart. You can trust it with all your heart.

God’s word here is not like my gradeschool football coach giving us an impossible command with bad math. No, your Lord invites you to trust him with all your heart. We are unable to do this on our own. But the Holy Spirit has given us faith in him so that we know who he is and trust in him. And we do this all throughout our entire lives by knowing the Lord through his word. We do this by fearing the Lord with the right relationship with him. Amen.

1 ”דָעֵ֑הוּ“

Who Do You Think You Are? (Lent 5)


Who Do You Think You Are?

How do you answer someone who disagrees with you? Actually, let’s make the question even more challenging: How do you answer someone when it’s as plain as day that the other person is wrong? In the Old Testament it says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.” (Proverbs 26:4 NIV) And what’s fascinating, is that in the very next verse, God’s word says, “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” (Proverbs 26:5 NIV) So which do you do? When someone is wrong, and you know it, do you correct that person, or not? Sometimes there is no way out. Sometimes God puts you in the situation where you have to correct that other person. And that’s the situation that we see Jesus in this morning. In John 8, we read: 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” 48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” 49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”” (John 8:46–51 NIV11-GKE)

In these words Jesus is at the very end of a long conversation with the Jewish Leaders in Jerusalem. And there’s no way around it. He, out of love for them, is going out of his way to correct them. But what is fascinating in these words is how he does this. At the end of the day, he wants them to know that he is their Savior from sin. So, first of all he needs to let them know that they are sinners. And so he tells them that whoever keeps his word will never see death. Now it’s very important for us to see where Jesus starts. Years ago I had a professor who said that when you are speaking to people about their sin and their Savior, what you should not do is tell them that they cannot get into heaven by themselves. No, instead, you should help them discover what it takes to get into heaven if they want to go alone. Let them know, he said, that if they want to get into heaven what they need to do is to never, ever say, think or take any selfish, sinful action towards anyone else. All you have to do is perfectly obey God…always…till your very last breath. For when you do this you let people know that if they want to jump over a bar to get into heaven, the bar is above the skies and way out of their reach. They cannot be perfect. That is what Jesus is doing here. He lets them know that if anyone of them is able to keep Jesus’ words perfectly and completely that person will never ever see death. These are words that are supposed to drive them to give up on their own ability to get to heaven by themselves. But these are also words that are supposed to show Christ’s great love for them.

All this is important for us to see. For when we see Jesus here we see someone who is so very often the opposite of who we are. Jesus reaches out and corrects these Jewish leaders who hated him when it would have been so much easier to simply ignore them. And by reflection and contrast it reminds us of the times we should have corrected those around us who were wrong—especially wrong about their conclusions about the bible. But instead of correcting them, we became embarrassed and ignored the problem. Or, on the opposite extreme, instead of ignoring the problem we corrected them like a hammar corrects a nail. Without love and without compassion we rejoiced at the opportunity to tell them when they were wrong. Well then, when Jesus reaches out to correct them, what is their response to him?: 52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” 54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word.” (John 8:52–55 NIV11-GKE)

The Jews in this part of God’s word ask the right question, don’t they? They say, “Who do you think you are?” Jesus is the only one. Jesus is the only one who can keep God’s word. He is the only one who is able to correct with perfect faithfulness and patience. And his faithfulness paves over our cowardice and arrogance all the way to the cross where he pays for these sins. Who do you think you are? Jesus is the only one who can keep God’s word. But as these words travel on we find a different answer to that question: 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” (John 8:56–59 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus is the only one. He is the only one who can keep God’s word.’ But notice here what Jesus says. Jesus is the only one who can carry God’s name.’ In these words we find two amazing and shocking statements. First, Abraham saw Jesus’ day. In a very wondrous way Jesus lets us know that he was there. He was there at the beginning and creation of the world. And he has been there every day up until he spoke these words. Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father. And the Jews pick up on how shocking this statement was. And they ask him in a disgusted and condescending way, “You saw Abraham?”1 From there then, Jesus says a second, even more shocking statement: “Before Abraham existed, I Am.” Now, there’s more going on in these words than we might pick up on at first glance. These words take us back to Exodus 3 where Moses asks God what his name is. And in a shocking and surprising turn of events, God tells him. He says, “I am that which I am.”2(Exodus 3:14 BHS-T)}} Then he tells Moses, “I Am has sent me.”3(Exodus 3:14 BHS-T)}} So when Jesus says, “Before Abraham existed, I Am”, the Jews perfectly understood what he was doing and what he was saying. He was saying that he was a human who could carry God’s true and divine name. And we know this is exactly how they understood this. For they picked up stones to stone him. That was a punishment for blasphemy.

When they asked him the question, “who do you think you are?”, out of love for them, he gave them two answers. Jesus is the only only one who can keep God’s word. And Jesus is the only one who can carry God’s name. And that is a fact that we ponder this morning. For there have been times where we have not corrected people in a patient and caring way. But out of love for us Jesus gives us the opportunity to correct people. And the way we can do that in this context, in these words, is to correct and clarify who Jesus is. When our co-worker stubs his or her toe and says, “Jesus Christ”, with patience and care you can say, “I know those words slipped out because you were in pain, but those are words worthy of divine dignity and worship.” And, even worse, when someone says, “Jesus Christ,” as a punchline to a joke or a curse, even more, with patience and love you can say, “Maybe you think that I will listen to you more when you use the name of God like that. But I am convinced that that is the name of the one true God. And on the last day he will send people to heaven and send others to hell. That is not a name you want to play games with.” And when the person says the same question the Jewish leaders speak here, “who do you think you are?”, you can respond by saying, “That’s not the real issue. The real issue is “who do you think Jesus is.”’” For Jesus is the only one. He is the only one who keeps God’s word. And he is the only one who carries God’s name. With this in mind, let us ever praise him for saving us from our sin. And let us ever worship him for who he is. Amen.

1 “ⲁⲃⲣⲁⲁⲙⲉⲱⲣⲁⲕⲁⲥ” (John 8:57 GNT-ALEX)

2 ”אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה“

3 ”אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה שְׁלָחַ֥נִי“

What Are You Looking For? (Midweek Lent 2)


What Are You Looking For?

How am i supposed to feel? When I was a child I used to sit in the pew as other people came up for communion. And as they went up there I wondered what it was like to receive the Lord’s Supper? And so I would study their faces. As I looked at most of their faces as they were coming back to their seats I concluded that the Lord’s Supper was a very serious event. And most likely, it was a very sad event too. But then one day, the organist walked down the aisle with this bright, blazing, smiling face. And that threw off all my data-collecting. So which is it? Should I be sad or joyful? Is the Lord’s Supper a funeral or a festival? That is the question to ponder as we begin these words in Mark 14. We read: 17 When evening came, he arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining and eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be distressed and to say to him one by one, “Surely not I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the Twelve—the one who is dipping bread in the bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man will go just as it is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for him if he had not been born.”” (Mark 14:17–21 CSB17)

Jesus and his disciples sit down to celebrate the Passover together. This was one of the three high festivals of the Jewish church year. It was one of the most cherished times of the year. And in the middle of that night Jesus says, “One of you will betray me.” When Jesus speaks those words, he forever changes the context of what happens on this Thursday night. That Thursday night will always be a night of betrayal. And as a result, the Lord’s Supper will always have an element of sadness because if we ask the question, “what was Judas looking for”, the answer is: a Savior to betray. And how this happens is so sad to think of. They are all there eating and feasting. And Jesus destroys the joy by saying one of you will betray me. Then each of them, one after another, says, “not me.” And Judas is there. He too says, “not me.” And Jesus makes the secret hypocrisy in his heart public. He dips his hand in the bowl along with Judas. And he ends this part of God’s word with the word, “woe.” It’s a word of immense sadness. It’s a word that makes us stop and ponder how horrible it is to betray the sinless Son of God. It’s the sort of word that if you were reading these words at home, instead of reading on, you’d stop here and ponder the fact of how horrible it is to betray the sinless Son of God all day long.

What are you looking for in Jesus? Judas was looking for a Savior to betray. But what was Jesus looking for? We read: 22 As they were eating, he took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” 23 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I tell you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” 26 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:22–26 CSB17)

Judas was looking for a Savior to betray. What was Jesus looking for? He was looking for forgiveness that he could bring. What is it that you receive in the Lord’s Supper? Jesus says, “this is my body.” Jesus says, “this is my blood.” Now, notice, in these words we do not find a context in which we can conclude that when Jesus is saying “this is”, what he really means is “this is a picture of.” And we definitely don’t find any indication that what he means is that Jesus is giving them his body and blood so that they then can in turn re-sacrifice them to take away the sins of the living and the dead. This is the night on which our Savior was betrayed. It is a night of sincere sadness. It is the night in which he gives to us his very own real and true body and blood along with bread and wine.

But what does that bring to us? What Jesus’ body and blood bring to us is forgiveness. The first and most important gift that Jesus gives to us in this sacrament is forgiveness. For the body that was crushed to pay for our sins on Good Friday is given to us here in the Lord’s Supper. The blood of the sinless lamb of God that could pay for sin is given to us. And so, the first and most important gift that is given in the Lord’s Supper is forgiveness.

So Judas looks for a Savior to betray. Jesus looks for forgiveness that he can bring. What do Jesus’ disciples look for? 26 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will fall away, because it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered. 28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 29 Peter told him, “Even if everyone falls away, I will not.” 30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to him, “today, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he kept insisting, “If I have to die with you, I will never deny you.” And they all said the same thing.” (Mark 14:26–31 CSB17)

Right before Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper, he lets them know that one of them would betray him. Now he lets them know that all of them would betray him. Now, to be clear, the word that Jesus uses here is not the same word as before. There would be one of them who would “hand Jesus over.”1 But all would be shocked and ashamed of Jesus and then abandon him.2 All will betray him. Jesus says these words to his disciples in the upper room. And this evening he says these words to us tonight. We, like Judas, might not have plotted, planned and then progressed through a way to murder Jesus. But we have betrayed him. Every time you sing “holy, holy, holy” here in these halls and then go home and curse, you betray Jesus. Every time you say, “Your will be done” here, and then go home and in your heart say, “my way or the highway,” you betray Jesus. Every time you are emboldened to speak and sing about your Savior here and then go out there in the world and are embarrassed of him, you betray him. And if you ever wondered why Jesus would start out before the Lord’s Supper by saying, “woe to the person who betrays the Son of man,” and then after the Lord’s Supper tell them all that they would betray him, now you know. It’s easy to look at the Lord’s Supper as if it’s some sort of magical meal that simply and only strengthens our faith if you never see and find any betrayal in your heart. But if, like Peter and the rest, you find a sinful heart inside yourself that has cursed instead of praised, been stubborn instead of yielding, been embarrassed instead of emboldened, then the forgiveness that Jesus brings to you makes sense and gives you joy and hope.

So, my dear friends in Christ, how are you supposed to feel? When you come up here and receive the Lord’s Supper, how should you feel? There in the upper room was the place that Jesus spoke about betrayal. How could the Lord’s supper not be an occasion for sadness. But it’s also an occasion for joy. For the forgiveness that Jesus wins with his broken body and dripping blood on Good Friday, Jesus brings to you in the Lord’s Supper.

What are you looking for in Jesus? Judas looked for a Savior to betray. Jesus looked forgivness that he would bring. We look for forgiveness for our betrayals. And in Jesus’ body and blood along with that bread and wine we find it. Amen.

1 “ⲡⲁⲣⲁⲇⲱⲥⲉⲓⲙⲉ” (Mark 14:18 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲡⲁⲛⲧⲉⲥⲥⲕⲁⲛⲇⲁⲗⲓⲥⲑⲏⲥⲉⲥⲑⲁⲓ” (Mark 14:27 GNT-ALEX)