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Sixth Midweek of Lent

Romans 7:14–25; Luke 22:63–23:25

James T. Batchelor

Lent 5, series C
Saint Paul Lutheran Church  
Manito, IL

view DOC file

Wed, Mar 16, 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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The first reading that we just heard is an amazingly helpful reading.  It describes the struggle of the Christian life.  It teaches us that while the Christian remains in this sinful world, his life is a battlefield.  Each and every Christian has this struggle between the good of God and the evil of sin.  By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul teaches that we are at one and the same time both saints and sinners.

We are saints because of the work of Christ His perfect life, His sacrificial suffering and death, and His resurrection from the dead.  These things have earned forgiveness for us.  And with forgiveness comes life and salvation.  The Holy Spirit, in turn, then produces the miracle of faith in us faith that receives this gift that Jesus earned with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.

At the same time, the Apostle Paul tells us that our old, dead, sinful nature is still dangerous.

I remember baling hay on my grandpas farm during the summers of my high school years.  Every so often the baler would pick up a snake and pack that snake into a bale of hay.  When that bale came out of the baler, there would be the snake, cut very cleanly into two parts, but still wiggling.  That snake was dead, but, if that happened to be a poisonous snake, the fangs could still inject poison.  Even though that snake was dead, its wriggling corpse could still make you very sick or even kill you.

The Apostle Paul teaches us that sin is like that snake in the life of the Christian.  It can still do great damage.  I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  (Romans 7:15)

This teaching that we are at one and the same time both saints and sinners is helpful because it explains so much.  My doubts as a Christian this tension this uncertainty are things that I should expect as a Christian.  They are signs that the battle continues within me.  And, if that battle continues, then I am still a child of God.  Although I sin daily, I can look to Christ and His promise and be certain of eternal life.

The unbeliever does not have this battle.  The snake of original sin is still alive and at peace in the unbeliever.  It injects its poison.  It serves itself.  It worships itself.  It is fat, dumb, and happy.  It does not realize its danger until the end comes.  It is only then that the false peace of this world becomes the eternal torture of the next.

This evening, as we continue on our way through the Passion of the Christ according to St.  Luke, we encounter a gauntlet of trials.  The soldiers judge Jesus and beat Him up before the formal trials actually began.  The Sanhedrins verdict as well, was already decided before the trial even began.  Pontius Pilate was only concerned for his own survival.  Herod wanted entertainment.  None of the trials were interested in justice.  Each of these trials exposes the old sinful nature that resides in the human heart.

Now here is where the old, sinful nature inside of you gets dangerous.  Be honest.  Are you already preparing to distance yourself from the Sanhedrin, from Herod, from Pilate?  Are you already telling yourself, If I had been there, I would not have condemned an innocent man to death? As we hear the words of Luke, He asks you to confess the truth about yourself.  Luke knows that the trial is not about establishing Jesus innocence.  That is firmly established.  Pilate himself finds no reason to crucify this man.  The matter in question is Why is an innocent man condemned to die? And to this, Luke gives an answer in the last sentence of this section.  Pilate decided that their demand should be granted.  25He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.  (Luke 23:2425) Their will. That is the fact, the glimpse of the fallen world that Luke gives us.  It is the will of a fallen world that its God should die.  Luke invites us to look within the human heart this evening and confess the facts of a fallen world.  It affects Jesus then, and it affects Him now. 

Have you ever found yourself willing one thing in the church but doing another in the world?  Have you ever wanted to tell of Gods love to your neighbor but then talked about the weather instead?  Although Jesus has rescued us from the sin that lies in us by nature, there are times when we find ourselves acting like we are still part of the fallen world.  Jesus says, The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)

Lukes account of the trial this evening helps us to call sin what it is sin.  It shows us where such willfulness leads us, and it gently encourages us to confess our plight.  Its easy in church to will the peace of God for all people; its harder, however, to act on that when you have not been promoted because of the color of your skin.  Its easy in church to want to help the poor, but its hard to do that when you see an advertisement for that new flat-screen TV .  .  .  besides, you work hard for the money you earn.  And the more and more we go through this changing will, the easier it becomes to simply come into church and say one thing and then go out into the world and do another.  And that, my friends, is sin.

But this trial is not the end of the story.  The trial of Jesus is about more than the fickle will of human beings; it is also about the eternal will of God.  This evening, God enters a place filled with the battles of human wills and transforms it to be a place of His eternal will.  Remember the guards who beat Jesus at the beginning of this evenings reading?  They blindfolded and beat Him and cried out to Him Prophesy! They mocked Jesus as a false prophet, and yet what they were doing fulfilled the very prophecy of God.

Jesus had predicted His Passion.  He had even predicted this mocking.  The death of Jesus is part of Gods eternal will.  God so desires to save all people that He sends His Own Son to suffer in their place.  This is the will of God: a love stronger than death; a word more powerful than sin; the death of Jesus that brings forgiveness to all people.  Even here.  Tonight.  Every time we gather, Jesus comes and forgives us our sins and then sends us out, forgiven, into the world. 

Our world is indeed a world of trials.  The greatest trial, however, is the trial of our Savior.  It goes on all the time.  It happened there in Jerusalem and it happens today.  Week after week, people make judgments against God.  Sometimes, it receives national attention as courtroom dramas debate the rights of Christians to witness to their Savior.  Other times, it goes unnoticed.  In the office, around the lunch table, during the first year of college.  People repeatedly subject Jesus to a trial of consideration and deny Him to be their Lord.  A great teacher?  Perhaps.  A revolutionary.  A prophet.  A figment of the Churchs imagination.  These are their verdicts.  But God?  No.  For the world around us, Jesus is not God, and He certainly is not the only way of salvation. 

Luke, however, teaches us to confess Jesus.  To confess His death and resurrection as the only way of salvation for all people.  As Luke tells this story, we see the mission of God.  Wherever people with a changing will fight against God, God comes among them, fighting for their salvation.  Whether it be in the courts of Jerusalem long ago or among the nations today whether it be here in Mason County or even here inside the walls of St. Pauls Lutheran Church these are the people for whom God has offered His only begotten Son, our Savior.  They are lost in the grip of an ever-changing will.  Their actions might offend you.  Their conversation might be rude.  You may grow weary of trying.  Their words may spark your anger.  They hold Jesus up to trial and declare Him to be foolishness.  But God continues to seek them in His love.  Week after week, even tonight, in this place, He works the wonder of His love.  Even though each of us is the battlefield that is the life of the Christian, we can be certain of our Savior and certain of His salvation.  So it is in our weakness and His strength that we go now to a world that waits in need of its God.  Amen

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