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Ash Wednesday

Luke 22:1–13

James T. Batchelor

Ash Wednesday
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Wed, Feb 10, 2016 

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Based on the Sermon Series:

Places of the Passion: A Sermon series by David R. Schmitt

with contributions by

Timothy A. Appel, Kelly Klages, Mark Knickelbein, and Larry Peters

2016 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO.

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If there was one rule in the Roman Empire, it was that you kept the peace.  You could do pretty much anything as long as it didnt cause a ruckus.  The Roman Empire operated very much like many parents.  Dont make me come over there!  If I come over there, someone is going to get it! Of course, in the case of parents, that might mean a time out, grounding, or some other reasonable discipline.  In the case of the Roman Empire, people who caused a ruckus usually received the death penalty beheading or poison if you were a citizen crucifixion if you were not.

The other thing that happened is that the people who were supposed to be in charge would be replaced.  So, if you were a Roman governor and it seemed as though there was a lot of unrest in your province, Rome would eventually replace you with someone more effective.

Rome understood that the religious leaders in Jerusalem had a lot of authority with the people.  Therefore, they made sure that the religious leaders understood that they served at Romes pleasure just like the governor.  They didnt have to like Rome.  They just had to keep things reasonably peaceful.

The religious leaders were caught between a rock and a hard place.  This evenings reading begins: Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. (Luke 22:12) Thats a strange thing to say about these men.  After all, they were the ones who confidently took their places among people.  They loved the most important seats in the synagogue and the greetings in the marketplaces.  They were experts in the law, able to make a person break under its burden in a single word.  They wore the long tassels.  They gave a tenth of their possessions.  They fasted twice a week.  They could stand in the center of the synagogue and thank God that they were not like other people.  They had wisdom and power and the respect of the people until Jesus came.

Jesus caused problems.  His ministry attracted crowds.  His words touched hearts.  His hands opened eyes, and His words and hands were everywhere.  His very presence brought about a life that they had never known and a gratitude that they could only describe as divine.  Jesus looked like someone who could cause problems draw the attention of Rome.  If Jesus kept going, He would start a rebellion and attract the attention of Rome.  On the other hand, if they tried to deal with Jesus and prevent the rebellion, the people would revolt and attract the attention of Rome.  Either way, the chief priests and scribes were afraid that they would lose their place.  So they gather on this day and prepare for His death. While everyone around them is preparing for Passover, they are afraid; and in that fear, they prepare for Jesus death.

Ironically, God had given people the Passover so that they would have a place of security a place of comfort a place to belong.  This is supposed to be a time of rejoicing in Gods gracious provision for His people.  Instead, the topic is fear and death.

Not much has changed down through the centuries.  Many of you may also wonder about your place.  Relationships change.  Children grow up.  The economy rises and falls.  In the middle of all of this many get that sinking feeling, that fear in the pit of our stomach, wondering how will we survive, how will we manage.  As we begin another season of Lent, we learn that there is one thing that does not change.  God works to free and forgive.  God always has a place for you.

This Lent, we will gather for a season to reflect on the places of the Passion. We will read through the entire Passion account as told by Luke, a small portion each week.

For most of us the places of the Passion are very familiar.  There is the Upper Room, the Garden of Gethsemane, the halls of Pontius Pilate, the hill of Golgotha these are the places we remember when we meditate on our Lords Passion.  Yet when Jesus enters a place, He never leaves it as He finds it.  The most troubling places in our lives become the most amazing places of Gods grace when Jesus visits them.

Peter will still be Peter, denying Jesus in the courtyard.  Pilate will still be Pilate, struggling in his judgment hall.  And the crowds will still be the crowds calling for Jesus death outside the palace.  But dont be put off by these places of the Passion, for in the midst of this story, there is a wonderful, powerful love.  In the middle of all of this Jesus is still following His path to the cross.  As He makes His way to the cross, He is making His way to the place where He will earn a place for you in His kingdom.  Ultimately, His death on the cross will guarantee an eternal place for you in His kingdom.

This evening, we once again heard that the religious leaders were seeking how to put [Jesus] to death. (Luke 22:2) They were seeking because they could not come up with a plan.  Everything that they proposed had a problem.  Lukes account then informs us that there was another one who has lost his place one of Jesus own disciples, Judas.  Lukes account informs us that Satan entered Judas and worked through Judas to offer a plan that gave the religious leaders what they needed a traitor who would lead them to Jesus when there were no crowds.

Luke tells us that when Judas came to visit the religious leaders, he found them with the chief priests and officers (v. 4).  If you cant secure your place by your work among the people, you can at least protect your place by force.  Not only is there force, but Luke also points to finances.  Upon hearing of Judass offer of betrayal, they were glad, and agreed to give him money (v. 5). So we have fear, we have force, we have finances, and we have the foe.  A deadly combination.  It brings about death in the life of faith.  It did then, and it does now.

In the middle of all this intrigue and betrayal, Luke recorded an event that reminds us that God is still in control.  His work is really so simple that if you dont read closely, you may miss it altogether.  Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it. 9They said to him, Where will you have us prepare it? 10He said to them, Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11and tell the master of the house, The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples? 12And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there. 13And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. (Luke 22:813) Jesus gave a strange depiction of circumstancesa man carrying a water jar, a journey through the city, a furnished Upper Room.  His disciples went and found that it is exactly as Jesus said.  In the middle of all of this, God is still at work.  What is God doing?  He is preparing a place for His people. The place where God declares that He and He alone is at work to set His people free.

Did the enemy intend evil against Jesus?  Were the religious leaders searching for a way to kill Jesus?  Did Satan enter the heart of Judas?  Did Judas offer to betray Jesus?  It seems as though the plans of all these evil beings were coming together according to their desires.  Never the less, God would use even their evil plans to accomplish His great salvation.  He would work all things together for your greatest good.

As we make our way through this season of Lent, we remember the path to the cross the path to the place where Jesus earned our salvation.  Never the less, we who live at this time also know how this will turn out.  The cross will lead to the grave, but then the grave will be empty.  We will receive the promise of the resurrection.  We receive the promise of a place in Gods eternal home.

While we wait here, the Lord has given Himself to us in a special way that gives us forgiveness, life, and salvation.  So, tonight, we begin our Lenten observance with a celebration of the Lords Supper.  Tonight, God comes and brings with Him a feast that always has a place for you. His suffering, His death, His resurrection had a purpose.  There is no reason to fear, for your sins have been forgiven, your life is no longer your own, and tonight there is a place set at Gods table for you.  A simple meal, a simple story, and a simple remembrance, but what a wonderful work God has done and is doing for you and for all of His people.  Amen



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