Lent Sermon Series: SUBTEXTS (3/20/16) “God’s War, Our Weapons”
In today’s sermon, the last in our Lenten series Subtexts, we looked at the interplay between the themes of Palm Sunday and the the story of Jesus’ “last battle” in Gethsemane in keeping with the text leading us into Holy Week. This brought together the “dual plots” that we’ve followed through this series, namely, the plot of the people to take Jesus’ life and the plot of Jesus to give up his life. What a beautiful thing to discover that when our plots wither and our futures fade, we find ourselves falling into a hope and a future greater than any we could have conceived.
- Palm Sunday commemorates the day Israel received her King into the capital city only to discover he was anything but the King they expected him to be. Within a week, those who had been swinging branches were swinging hammers. This is a stark contradiction in the people in the Gospel narratives, but it speaks to a stark contradiction that often describes an inconsistency in our faith. Talk about what expectations you had in your earliest relationship with Jesus compared to now. How has he surprised you (by his faithfulness, challenges, tenderness, etc.)
- The doctrine of the Incarnation, that Jesus was fully God and fully Man, states that Jesus was one person but had two natures, divine and human, and therefore had two wills. When he prayed “Not my will…your will be done” to the Father, he was essentially wrestling the human will into submission to the divine will, offering on our behalf a faithfulness we were unable to offer on our own. That is at the heart of our salvation. How did you first come to discover you had departed from God’s will. How does God reveal his will to you now. [Note: the will of God in the New Testament has far more to do with who we are becoming than with what we are doing. It is a transformation of character into the image of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:28ff; 12:1ff).
- One of the implications of Christians embracing faith in Christ is that we embrace the claim that Christ take upon himself the punishment for all the sin of the world so that he could balance the retribution required in a just world. In other words, if I poke out Bill’s right eyeball, it would be an injustice for Jesus to forgive me on Bill’s behalf (that is why we don’t want our court systems operating according to a principle of grace, handing out pardons arbitrarily for civic offenses. Justice is the proper order of the state, cf. Rom. 13). Bill is still half blind. But this world is fallen, and Bill has his own list of offenses he needs forgiven. So God steps in the middle of it all to be the victim of all our offenses. He stands between our relationship with God and with one another. Whenever we get in sword fights with one another–in our marriage, with family members, people at work, etc.–Jesus stands between us and absorbs the blows. Offering us forgiveness from God, and making forgiveness possible between one another. So by accepting forgiveness from God, we are accepting the terms of the kingdom, namely this: Jesus has already forgiven all the people we have not forgiven. Jesus has forgiven the people who offend us, who hurt us, who slander and reject us, just as he has forgiven us. He calls us, then, to put away our sword and take up our cross. That means, we have to let go of our need to “get back” at one another. Jesus is the Victim in the kingdom, just as he is the Victor. Have you allowed yourself to play the victim in ways that denies the grace of God for all? How have you struggled to put down your sword (in anger, bitterness, self-pity, unforgiveness, etc.)? Pray with one another to be able to ‘put the sword away’.