Sermon: What Did Jesus Think He Was Doing?

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Sermon: "What Did Jesus Think He Was Doing?"

Delivered April 6, 2012 (Good Friday) by Rev. Laura Crihfield.
Sermon Text: Luke 18:31-34

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Abstract: Jesus' life, death and resurrection, on the surface, doesn't make a great deal of sense. How could it? Yet, as we look at what the prophets spoke of the Messiah, it begins to make great sense. From the beginning Jesus saw himself as the one who would take our place in death, making a way for salvation! This homily gets at the heart of that reality.

Were you there? That's a sobering question. And as much as I'd like to say no, I wasn't there, the reality is, the truth is, I was because the weight of my sins was present. So were yours. Jesus bore the weight of all our sin on his shoulders. He died on our behalf. It's a nearly impossible reality for us to wrap our minds around, and we're in good company. Even the disciples who were with Jesus day in and day out for three years didn't understand.

Listen to Luke's account of Jesus' prediction of his own death. This is the third time he has predicted his death. It comes in Luke, chapter 18, beginning at verse 31.

"Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, and spit on him. They will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.'"

And here's the key. Verse 34:

"The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about."

Will you pray with me?

Lord, thank you for your Word. Thank you for the way that it speaks. Lord, through the power of your Holy Spirit, would you reveal to us your truth? Help us to understand, for we pray it in Jesus' name. Amen.

We know that in Luke, Jesus repeatedly talks with his disciples about his upcoming suffering and his death in Jerusalem. Again, this was the third time that he has predicted his own death. It's a conversation they had definitely had before, but it never sinks in. No matter how directly, no matter how clear Jesus is about it, it never sinks in. Even more, Jesus tells them multiple times that all that was going to happen, everything that they were about to experience and witness was to fulfill what is written by the prophets about the Son of Man.

And still the disciples, according to our text, did not understand this. They didn't know what he was talking about. And who could blame them? Who could judge them for not comprehending that the Man for whom they had given up everything was going to die? It could not have made any sense. In many ways, it still doesn't make much sense. What was he talking about? Exactly what was written about him in the prophets?

Just what did Jesus think that he was doing? What was he fulfilling? It's a very complex question. It has a very complex answer, and there is no way that we can fully unpack it tonight, but I want to point us to a few things that I think Jesus might have been talking about, what he saw himself doing. What he understood himself to be fulfilling probably included some of the following.

It's clear that Jesus saw himself as the Son of Man. God, who is also human, given all authority that God the Father, deserving worship from all people. This is a specific reference to the Son of Man in Daniel, chapter 7, verses 13 through 14, which say,

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."

Jesus was the Son of Man, but he also sees himself as the embodiment and the representative of all of God's people of Israel. They are idolaters, rebels, adulterers, wayward children. And according to the covenant that they made with God, that God made with them, they deserve God's curse and exile from his presence because of their sin. They deserve death.

But Christ, the Son of Man, comes to take on himself the curse that Israel deserves. Isaiah, chapter 53, talks of the suffering servant, another prophecy.

"Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;. the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed."

He would be ridiculed by Gentile nations. They would laugh at him and say, "Where is your God?" He would be beaten and pierced for Israel's transgressions. He would take on the punishment that would bring peace to Israel and to the world, to you, and to me. Jesus is the suffering servant.

Tonight we listened to the narrative about that reality, Christ being betrayed, tried unjustly, tortured, and killed. This is what Jesus knew he was doing. He was being Israel, being God's child, the one whom God loved who had run away. He lived the faithful and holy life that Israel should have lived, and he suffered the death that Israel should have died as a consequence for how she had lived. The God who is also a human, the glorious Son of Man, humbled himself and suffered death at the hands of Gentiles.

Friends, we are like Israel. We have wandered. We have lusted after the things of this world. We have given our hearts, given our worship, given ourselves to other gods, making idols out of good gifts and robbing the Giver of the praise that only He deserves. And like Israel, we deserve death. And in Christ, God comes to take our judgment and our death, yours and mine, upon himself.

But that is not the end of the story. Jesus tells his disciples over and over that on the third day he will rise again. This is where, as we've been in the book of Hosea for the whole of Lent... We're going to get back to the book of Hosea for a very brief little visit, very brief, to another prophecy that Jesus sees himself fulfilling. All through chapter 5 of Hosea, Israel's unfaithfulness and subsequent judgment is depicted.

Israel has a spirit of prostitution in her heart. She doesn't acknowledge the Lord. And so God says,

"I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off with no one to rescue them. Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face."

This is a clear picture of judgment. But despite the reality of God's judgment, there is hope that God will not leave Israel desolate, judged, and forever dead.

Chapter 6 opens with these words:

"Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us,that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth."

Hosea's words. Jesus was fulfilling those words. "On the third day he will restore us," is the way that Hosea puts it, just like it played out in Jesus' life. The restoration that Hosea eludes to is one that follows suffering and judgment. It is a restoration that comes when Israel finally returns, finally comes back. It is resurrection in response to obedience.

Finally, finally, with Christ as its representative, the law of Israel, the law of God that Israel could not ever hope to keep themselves (they had no shot at being able to fulfill it), it is lived out. Yahweh himself comes to earth to demonstrate what it looks like to embody God's peace, God's shalom. Jesus is punished, a stand-in for all of us who deserve death.

But he will not in the final analysis be given over to death. While Hosea was speaking of a national restoration on the third day, Jesus purposefully identifies himself as the true representative of Israel who will physically be raised to life on the third day for the good of Israel and the good of all nations, the good of all people.

Friends, Christ hangs on the cross to pay for our idolatry, for our sin. The punishment that brings us peace has been laid on his shoulders. The wounds that bring us healing have pierced his hands and his side. The fullness of God's judgment hangs on him. He is dead because of us and for us. But don't give up hope. Wait for the third day. Death will not have the final word. It will not!

God will rise. Jesus will rise on that third day. "As surely as the sun rises, he will appear," Hosea says. "He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." So don't lose hope. Look to that third day, and let us press on to know him, to know this God who suffers, who died, and who lives for us. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Before I pray, I want to just remind you that after we are done in here, there's going to be a dance and then an invitation. I just want to remind you again that there are the stations. There's also the station outside if you missed the announcement about that at the beginning. I encourage you to make your way to whichever station you feel led to first. There's no particular order. Allow your guidebook to be for you exactly that, to walk you through this. And also, just want to invite you to again worship with us at nine and 10:45 on Sunday morning, on that third day. Let's pray.

Lord God, thank you. Thank you that despite death, there is hope. That despite what you suffered in and through the person of Jesus Christ, there is hope for us because of that third day. Lord God, thank you. Thank you that you take on yourself, on the person of Jesus Christ, the weight of our sin. Thank you that because of his wounds we are healed. Thank you, Lord. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

© 2012, Rev. Laura Crihfield
Central Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD 21204 410/823-6145