Sermon Recording for Lent 5 – March 21, 2021

+ Lent 5 – March 21, 2021 +

Series B: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:32-45

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 

“Opposite Day”

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Occasionally children play a little game that, no doubt, many of us, our own kids or grand kids have played as well – opposite day. You know how it goes. Up is down. Jump is sit. Go to bed means stay up late. And so on.

 

If you think about it, there’s a grain of truth in the opposite game that children play. When we turn to Scripture, we find that God’s kingdom, work, and ways are often hidden in their opposites. Quite often God hides himself in the opposite of what we would do or expect. Think about it. The almighty God is born to an unwed teenage mother in a feeding trough in a country town called Bethlehem. The Lord of heaven and earth, who by his word spoke creation into existence out of nothing, becomes man and hides himself in the frailty of human flesh. The Lord of all becomes the servant of all.

 

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.  And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

 

If we were to imagine or create a god for ourselves, this is not at all what we’d expect. This is not what the disciples expected either.

 

This is the third time in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus predicts his death. Each time he’s given more detail. And each of Jesus’ predictions are met with confusion or denial from his disciples. Whenever Jesus talks about his suffering, crucifixion, and death, the disciples want to talk about the opposite – glory, self-exaltation, honor. Given the choice, they choose their selfish ambitions every time. Jesus, on the other hand, does the opposite. He chooses the cross.

 

In Mark 8 Jesus predicts his crucifixion and Peter takes him aside to rebuke him. Jesus responds by saying that to be a disciple is to take up the cross and follow him. Jesus is hidden in the opposite – not in saving himself, but in his cross to save you.

 

In Mark 9 Jesus predicts his passion again and the disciples squabble over who is the greatest. Jesus respond by placing a child in their midst. Jesus is hidden in the opposite – not in greatness, but in smallness. Not in being first, but in being last in our place.

 

Here in Mark 10 this pattern plays out yet again. Jesus predicts his suffering and death while James and John ask for a divinely appointed promotion to the right and left hand seat of power. Jesus responds by teaching them that greatness and glory isn’t found in being a ruler, but a servant. Once again, Jesus is hidden in the opposite of what we, and the disciples expect – a suffering, dying, humble, servant.

 

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”  And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

 

James and John want the power positions in the kingdom, to the right and to the left of the King. That’s where his most trusted advisors sat. James and John are thinking kingdom of God is an earthly kingdom, and see themselves with key positions in the new administration when Jesus takes up residence in Jerusalem and sets up the throne of David again. Chief of staff and Vice-president. And why not? They were among the first of the disciples, after all. They’d left their father’s fishing business and faithfully followed Jesus for three years. They deserved this. They earned it. Who could argue, except perhaps Peter and Andrew, but hey, they got to Jesus first.

 

What infected James and John was what Luther called a “theology of glory.” Wanting it all now. By-passing the cross and going straight for the glory of the kingdom. But the glory of the kingdom of God always looks weak and defeated to this world – hidden in opposites. It looks like Jesus dying on a cross.

 

Truth be told, we’re not all that different from James and John. We suffer from the same sinful, selfish infection. Given the choice, between suffering and glory, between the crucifixion and exaltation, between the cross and honor, crucifixion, like the disciples, we’d choose the glory, exaltation, and honor every time.

 

Good thing for James and John, for the other disciples, and for you and me, that Jesus does the opposite of what we do. Where we would avoid suffering, he goes to Jerusalem knowing exactly what suffering awaits him. Where we would seek a glory apart from the cross, Jesus reveals his greatest glory on the cross by dying for you. Where we would seek self-exaltation and honor for ourselves, Jesus humbles himself to the point of death on the cross in order to exalt you.

 

When Jesus responds to James and John he points them once again to the cross, “To sit at my right and my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” It is for the Father to grant, and for the Son to do His Father’s will. We have no idea who is to sit at Jesus’ right and left in the heavenly kingdom. But we do know who was on His right and left when He came into His glory on earth. Not James and John. Not Peter and Andrew. But two nameless thieves. One who turned to Him in faith. And one who mocked Him to His death. That’s who was at His right and left when Jesus came into His glory.

 

That makes Good Friday the ultimate opposite day. The day where God hides himself in the opposite of what we expect as a reminder that all of life is given and lived by his grace.

 

In Jesus’ suffering is your glory. In Jesus’ weakness is your strength. In Jesus’ defeat is your victory. In Jesus becoming the last you are made first. In Jesus’ lowliness you are exalted. In Jesus the cup of God’s wrath over sin is drained to the last drop and this is his glory. In Jesus’ cross is your redemption.

 

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

 

For you.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

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