Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lenten Vespers in the Week of Oculi


The Wound of Apathy and the Wound of Denial

Matthew 26:36-45, 69-75

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

Tonight we will consider two wounds which we inflict upon our Lord: Apathy and Denial. It was previously planned that these two wounds would be considered separately, but as it is, it is appropriate to consider them together, for they are related.

Apathy comes from the Greek apatheia which means “freedom from emotion” or “freedom from suffering”. Today we use the word apathetic to describe someone who doesn’t care or who is disinterested. In our readings from the Passion this evening we see that the disciples in the garden were somewhat apathetic to Jesus’ prayerful suffering and temptation. They were too overcome by confusion and sorrow to stay awake with Him and watch through the night. Each time Jesus returned to them He found them sleeping. While it may seem harsh to say that they didn’t care or that they were disinterested, the truth is that they did not connect emotionally with Jesus’ suffering; they did not share in His suffering or empathize with it. They were free from emotion, free from suffering; they were apathetic.

Apathy is a terrible wound, for it reflects a condition of the heart that is unable or unwilling to let down its defenses and make itself vulnerable – that is, apathy reflects a condition of the heart that is unable or unwilling to love. You wound your Lord when you are apathetic or indifferent to His suffering and death and the love He showed to you then and now. You also wound your Lord when you are apathetic and indifferent to sin and to the wage it earns, death. You look on sin lightly, considering it no big deal. You take your Lord’s suffering and death for granted as cheap grace believing, “Aw, what the heck. It’s paid for.” You consider lightly the reality of hell and eternal separation from God’s grace. You live your life as if God did not matter, as if you are what matters most.

Three times Jesus returned to His disciples to find them sleeping as He prayed in extreme anguish and terror of death and hell, looking into the depths of God’s wrath against man’s sin, knowing that His Father demanded that He drink it all, down to the bitterest dregs. His suffering was for them. His suffering was for you. The least you could do is stay awake and pray with Him, pray for yourselves, feel anything at all that your Lord and God had to suffer and die for your sins to release you from the bonds of eternal death and damnation. How could they not stay awake? How can you take your Lord’s suffering and death for granted and keep on sinning, thinking it no big deal?

Now do you see how the wound of apathy is related to the wound of denial? Does not your apathetic attitude towards sin and hell, towards prayer and meditation on God’s Word, toward participation in worship and sharing Christ’s love and forgiveness towards others, reflect your denial and unbelief, not only of Jesus, but of God’s Word, of even God Himself? Are you beginning to see that apathy, denial, and betrayal are, in a sense, all the same wound? The worst wound you inflict upon your Lord and God is unbelief. You believe, but your flesh is weak. Your emotions and perceptions are easily deceived. Your reason wants to decide for itself what is good and what is evil, what is true and what is false, what is faithfulness and what is not. The first sin is the same as every other sin ever committed, every sin you commit, to make yourself god, to place yourself above and before God, to place your fear, your love, and your trust in yourself or anything else before God. Your flesh wants to avoid suffering in every way, thus it is inclined to apathy. Your flesh fears suffering, harm, and death above all else, thus it is inclined to deny Jesus rather than risk the scorn, the mocking, and even violence from the hands and mouths of those who hate Him. Your flesh is always looking for a way to avoid suffering and harm and to promote itself, thus it is inclined to betray Jesus in order to secure wealth, health, reputation, and prosperity.

However, take heart and be comforted, for your Lord and Savior Jesus is not apathetic towards you, and He will never deny you. Those three times He returned to His disciples and found them sleeping, Jesus was seeking to rouse them to fervent prayer and watchfulness. And, those three times Peter denied Jesus, Jesus had foretold this to Peter that he might remain vigilant and watchful and avoid this temptation. But, knowing the weakness of your flesh and the smallness of your faith, Jesus willingly took the cup of suffering and death and drank it to the bitter dregs for His disciples, for you, and for all men. Jesus went to the cross to suffer and die for all your betrayals, for all your apathy, and for all your denials of Him, that you might, like Peter, repent and receive forgiveness and restoration and life in Him.

When you are tempted to be apathetic, indifferent, and disinterested in bearing the cross your Lord has chosen for you, remember His passion for you, His fervent desire for you, His boundless love for you. He willingly bore all temptations, suffered all violence, and died your death that you might have His life and live with Him in His Father’s kingdom forevermore. In watching Him in His suffering and death, in meditating upon His love poured out for you, you will find strength and courage to bear your cross and follow Him in the way that leads to eternal life.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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