Lent is quite a special time for us during the Church year. That’s a time when we spent more time in reflection of the passion of Christ and also reflecting on our lives in the light of the Word of God.
Today I would like to reflect on three things. First, Jesus sufferings. Second, the Easter. Third, our sufferings with Jesus. Let’s begin with Jesus sufferings.
We just heard how Matthew described the last hours of Jesus life. What are your thoughts when you hear and picture before your eyes what was done to Jesus, and when you are reminded what He had to suffer?
We may have different thoughts and emotions. We may be angry to the people who did this to Jesus. Such injustice! How could they? What kind of monsters they were! We may get quite passionate about it.
We are good at seeing how other people are wrong. We do it well reflecting on Jesus sufferings, and we do it well looking at others around us. I think it makes us to feel better about ourselves. We are not like them. We wouldn’t to that…
Some may try to sympathize with Jesus. How would He have felt? Forsaken. Humiliated. Some may like to imagine how Mary, the mother of Jesus might have felt during these hours. How her heart was being broken in pieces seeing what her son had to suffer.
And again, yes, we may be pretty good with sympathizing with others. And as we get emotional, we may feel that we really are nice people. So sympathetic to the sufferings of others. God really shout be grateful that He has us.
However, all of these reactions miss the point of Jesus sufferings. And it is, – Jesus had to suffer all of this because of you and because of me, and He did it for us. When we look at Jesus sufferings we need to be terrified…
In Jesus sufferings and death you can see how angry God is with sin, how great is God’s wrath against sinners. As consuming fire that destroys everything in its way.
And on the other hand, it shows how deep was Jesus’ commitment to you, that He voluntarily chose to undergo all of this… so that He could save you. So that you don’t have to experience God’s wrath.
It is like Jesus was saying to us: “Look at my sufferings and death and learn what you deserve and merit with your lives.” We need to be clear that these were our sins that killed Jesus. My sins and your sins.
As Peter the apostle spoke on the day of Pentecost: “This Jesus, whom you crucified.” And his listeners were terrified, and we should be terrified too. They got it. It is our sin that did it to the innocent Son of God, and this is why they all cried out to Peter and other apostles: “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Martin Luther used the following example. Imagine “a criminal is sentenced to death for the murder of the child of a prince or a king. In the meantime you go your carefree way, living your live, until you are cruelly arrested and convicted of having inspired the murderer.” You are horrified. The whole world closes in upon you, and even your conscience accuses you.
If we realize what we deserve, then Christ’s sufferings have achieved their goal. They have changed you, they have changed your character. We are not anymore focused on ourselves. On how nice people we are.
Or on what we want for ourselves, or on our earthly pleasures, or on our imaginary security. But instead – on how serious our sin is, and what we truly deserve. That on our own we can’t escape from the angry God.
Then we are ready for the Easter. This is our second topic – the Good News. Looking at Christ’s sufferings we realized how sinful we are, now we need to put our sins back on Him. We can’t get rid of them in any other way.
But hear these words. “The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa 53:6) “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin.” (2Co 5:21) And: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1Pe 2:24)
Did you hear? You can picture that your sins are the wounds that Jesus carried, His pain and His sufferings. You have to do this, you have to put your sins on Jesus, so that they don’t remain with you. So that they are taken away and dealt with.
Jesus went to the cross. He carried our sins on the Cross. He died because of our sins. But then He rouse again. In His new, resurrected body. And all the pain and sins were gone. Resurrection and new life had swallowed them. There remains nothing, not a shade, not a memory of your sins. They are gone.
This is the message that Jesus sent His apostles to deliver. It is impossible to comprehend and trust these wonderful news unless the Holy Spirit convinces you.
Pray that He would come to you and would assure you that all your sins have been nailed to the Cross and forgiven. All of them. Now you can say: “I am forgiven. My Father in Heaven loves me. Nothing will separate me from Him.”
You may be at peace. You may have a good conscience before the Holy God. You don’t need to look back at Christ’s sufferings to be terrified anymore. They have done their work, they have led you to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and now you can rejoice in His forgiveness and love.
Now, as Dr. Luther said, “you need to look at Jesus’ friendly heart and how this heart beats with such love for you. Then your heart will be filled with love for Him, and the confidence of your faith will be strengthened.”
And that is not all. “Now continue and rise beyond Christ’s heart to God’s heart and you will see that Christ would not have shown this love for you if God in His eternal love had not wanted this.
For Christ’s love for you is due to His obedience to God. Thus you will find the divine and kind fatherly heart, and, as Christ says, you will be drawn to the Father through Him.
Then you will understand the words of Christ, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, etc.” (John 3:16). We know God aright when we grasp Him not in His might or wisdom, but in His kindness and love. Then faith and confidence are able to exist, and you are truly born anew in God.”
Our last topic. Our sufferings with Jesus. As a beloved child of your Heavenly Father, from this time on you will be strengthened by Jesus’ suffering. They will guide you as you follow your Lord and Saviour. How, you may wonder?
Luther explains: “If pain or sickness afflicts you, consider how insignificant it is in comparison with the thorny crown and the nails of Christ. If you are obliged to do or to refrain from doing things against your wishes, remember how Christ was bound and captured and led to the Cross.
If your pride hinders you to bear weaknesses of others, see how your Lord was mocked and ridiculed along with criminals. If sexual desires and temptations overtake you, remember how ruthlessly Christ’s flesh was scourged, pierced, and beaten.
If hatred, envy, and vengeance wouldn’t leave your heart, recall that Christ, who indeed had more reason to avenge Himself, interceded with tears and cries for you and for all his enemies.
If sadness or any adversity, physical or spiritual, distresses you, strengthen your heart and say, “Well, why should I not be willing to bear a little grief, when agonies and fears caused my Lord to sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane?”
This is how we can draw strength and encouragement from Christ against every vice and failing. That is a proper way to think of Christ’s passion. As St. Paul says, “Those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with all its desires” (Gal. 5:24) And St. Peter, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, strengthen and arm yourselves by meditating on this” (1 Pet. 4:1).
May our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ bless your thoughts and strengthen your faith in this Lent season as you meditate on Jesus passion!
P.s. All credit for this sermon goes to beloved Dr Martin Luther. Read his meditations here.