Quinquagesima Sermon 2012
Rev. Ed Maanum
Before Luther died he traveled back home to Eisleben with the hopes of settling a dispute with the church and local government officials. Long story short, taxes were raised in the small territory in which Luther’s extended family lived. He wrote letters to little or no effect. So in January of 1546 Dr. Luther left Wittenberg to mediate the dispute in person. By the middle of February both sides settled their differences.
In the evening of the day after the papers were signed, Feb 18, 1546, Luther’s heart began to beat rapidly. He was given some medication and his heart settled. Luther then went to bed and slept. Around 1am he awoke and began shouting: “Oh, dear Lord God! My pain is so great! Oh, dear Dr. Jonas (a close friend), I am certain that I will remain here is Eisleben where I was born and baptized.”
Upon hearing these loud words of Luther everyone present ran into his room to the man repeating over and over again: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.” His dear friend Dr. Justus Jonas knew what was happening and asked Luther, “Do you want to die standing firm on Christ and the doctrine you have taught?” Luther responded with “Yes.” At around 3 am Luther died of a heart attack.
But the old professor had one more lesson to teach. In his pocket, Luther had a small piece of paper with a few sentences scribbled on them. The last sentence written was, “This is true. We are all beggars before God.”
Beggars are all that we can be before God. Our sinful condition doesn’t allow us to do anything else. Every day we are the man who sat outside of Jericho crying out for help of any kind. So we pray with that same beggar, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Those words of the beggar are nothing new to us. The first prayer that we pray in the Divine Service is the Kyrie, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.”
“Have mercy on me.” Words that only a beggar can say. Words that only a beggar can mean. “Have mercy on me.” Words that lead us into the Season of Lent as we travel with our Lord to His Passion, His death. “Have mercy on me.” Words that ring in our ears today, just as loud as they rang in the ears of Jesus.
Jesus promises to hear our words and to intercede for us (Rom 8). He also sends the Holy Spirit who hears our words, cries, groans and pleas for mercy that fill our hearts and minds on a daily basis. For St. Paul says in Romans 8 that, “we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” “Son of David have mercy on me.”
We groan, plea and beg for mercy because of the extent of the misery that we are in, because of the sin that we are in and do. Our misery is so great that we cannot be helped in any other way than through the suffering and death of Jesus, because great is the amount of our sins. Great is the mercy shown to us beggars.
We commit sins daily, many without second thought or a moment’s hesitation until they have been committed. We stand in our own ways when hearing the free, full pardon of God in Jesus Christ because our sinful self doesn’t want to hear this Gospel or have anything to do with it.
The Old Adam inside of us is content with the way things are. With how little we focus on others in love. This decrease in love keeps us focused on ourselves so we can’t cry out ‘have mercy on me’ because we don’t recognize that are blind, that we need a Savior.
A Savior is exactly what we need. We need a Savior, someone to have mercy upon us and to save us from our sins that we cannot save ourselves from. Jesus, in the first section of this morning’s Gospel shows us exactly that He is the Savior when He says, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”
Lent is all about Jesus’ journey to the cross for you. Lent shows us Jesus death that gives life. This journey begins next week with Jesus’ Temptation in the wilderness and goes all the way through Palm Sunday to His own death on Good Friday. All of this journeying, mocking, temptation and shame Jesus endures, He endures for you.
When this journey to Jerusalem ends several things are going to take place. First, Jesus is going to be betrayed by one of His own disciples Judas for 30 pieces of silver. Just like Psalm 41:9 says, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”
In the Old Testament we also see someone else that is sold for silver. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers because of their jealousy of Jacob’s love for Joseph. We know the rest of the story, how Joseph was eventually freed from prison and rose to be Pharaoh’s second in command, which led to saving of thousands of lives, lives that included Joseph’s family, from a terrible famine that lasted 7 years.
Yet, despite the amount of good, and the amount of lives that Joseph helped to save, he still was not the Savior. No the Savior is Jesus, whose betrayal and capture eventually led to Jesus making His own payment, a payment, not of silver, but of His life for the sins of the world.
Second, Jesus was mocked and spat upon by those who tortured Him. They held nothing back. All of Jesus’ persecutors vileness was pointed at Him. This fulfills Isaiah 50:6 which says, “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard, I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.”
Third, Jesus was falsely accused and yet remained silent. His prosecutors brought up false charges that Jesus could have easily defended Himself from, but He didn’t. Jesus knew that the only way to make satisfaction for sin was with blood, death and sacrifice, His sacrifice. So Jesus remained silent. As Isaiah 53:7 says, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
Fourth, Jesus was covered with stripes and blood. Jesus for us beggars who cry out ‘Lord have mercy’ Himself received none. Jesus was beaten to the fullest extent that one could be under the Law. Jesus was wounded to heal you and to provide for you the mercy that you beg the Father for (Is 53:5).
Fifth, we see Jesus hung upon a cross, the most vile, painful and inhumane of punishments in the Roman Empire, and probably ever. Just like the bronze snake lifted up in the wilderness, Jesus lifted up on the tree provides healing and life. Jesus turns that cursed tree of death into a new tree of life for you. From that new tree of life you eat and drink its fruit of Jesus’ body and blood that give you forgiveness of sins. It is in this meal that God hears your begging pleas for mercy and answers them.
Lastly, three days after Jesus death His disciples came to the tomb and found it empty, save for an angel who asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
And as Christ rose from the dead you too shall rise. St. Paul wrote, “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.” (Rom 6:4)
So during this season of Lent do not shut off your brains because you have already heard the salvation story of this Jesus. Instead meditate on what Jesus death and resurrection have earned for you… life, salvation and an answer to your begging pleas of mercy.
Consider your sins, and consider the penalties that have taken place, from the flood that destroyed the whole world, except for 8 souls in all, to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Let this considering move you to change your life. Meditate on how much it cost God to give you mercy, the anguish of the cross.
If the devil brings up old sins and plagues you with them saying, “You won’t be forgiven. That sin is just too big and too heinous,” remember Christ’s sufferings of betrayal to death for you.
If the law is filling you with terror and causing you to doubt, remember Christ’s Passion and how He became the one cursed for you when He hung upon the cross. For when He hung upon that cross He took the curse of the Law upon Himself for you.
If fear and terror are chasing down your very soul and life to hell with their vengeance, look to the bloody, beaten and bruised body of Jesus. From Jesus’ body flowed water and blood that freed you from eternal death and damnation.
In Jesus body, God the Father has had mercy on you. Your sins have been taken away and will never be counted against you. God has heard your pleas for mercy and He has answered you already. Jesus has answered with His very life, death and resurrection. As Jesus lives you too shall live. Take up your cross and follow Him to Jerusalem this Lent and beyond. Amen.