Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Homily for Lenten Vespers In the Week of Judica (The Fifth Sunday In Lent / The First Sunday In Passiontide)
Luke 23:26-56; Daniel 6:10-23
God’s vindication of the innocent sufferer: The Innocent Blood of Daniel
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
They were jealous, filled with hatred, and murderous thoughts because Daniel was clearly blessed by his God and had inexplicably found favor with the king as well. First and foremost, you should take away from this the fact that God’s Law is truly good, the only good. Though we find that it is often rejected and brings those who strive to keep it woe, nevertheless, nonetheless, for those who value integrity and honesty, even if they are unbelievers, God’s people are valued and are esteemed. Such was the cases with Joseph, Moses, and Daniel, and many other figures of faith in the Holy Scriptures. However, that was not the case with the king’s satraps. They were jealous of Daniel and they hated him, so they plotted against him to destroy him. Daniel wasn’t guilty of breaking any of the laws of the kingdom, so they had to create a new law of their own and trump up charges against him in order to get him. In the course of their plotting, consequently, their hatred for their own king became apparent as well, for their little trap involved catching up their king in a catch 22 that he could not get out of himself.
The Persians and the Medes had a law stating that an ordinance of the king could not be revoked, thus they devised a trap for both Daniel and their king that would demand Daniel’s life. Without mentioning Daniel, whom the king respected and valued, the satraps convinced the king to sign an ordinance prohibiting any petition to god or man other than to the king within the next thirty days. Of course, they knew that Daniel faithfully prayed to God three times a day, corresponding to the hours of prayer at the temple in Jerusalem. Thus, after the ordinance was signed, they knew where and when to catch Daniel in the act, now breaking the king’s ordinance and law. They got him, and they ratted him out to the king. Then they reminded the king of the binding nature of his ordinance according to the law of the Persians and the Medes, and they got the king too. Ironically, your LORD God loves it when you “get Him,” when you hold Him to His Word, Promises, and Law. But, the satraps were not those kind of men.
Thus, it was off to the lion’s den for poor Daniel at the command of the king, who was himself thrown into the lion’s den of bad conscience and remorse. His parting words to Daniel as he sealed the den were, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” Was this a prayer? Was there a hint of hope in his words? Did he even really and truly believe that Daniel’s God would deliver him? There is good reason to believe so. For, the king fasted and suffered a fitful, sleepless night. And, arising early in the morning he went in haste to the lion’s den and cried out, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel answered, “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before Him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in His God.”
We remember what Joseph confessed before his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” Well, the same can be said concerning Daniel. And, the same can be said concerning Jesus. Likewise, the same can be said concerning you. Because you belong to the LORD, you can expect the scorn and persecution of the world, of demons, and of evil men. However, you can also expect that there will be some, even unbelievers, who know you are Christ’s disciples because of your love for your brothers and sisters and neighbors, and who respect you and honor you for it. For, your Lord Jesus has repeatedly taught you that to be His disciple you must bear your own God-appointed cross, that the world will hate you and persecute you, and that, nevertheless, you will be light and leaven and salt, transforming the world in mostly unseen ways. More than that, your Lord Jesus gave you this promise: I will be with you always, and nothing can separate you from my love.
And so, we see in the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den how the faithful are persecuted by the world and evil men because of their confession of faith. However, we also see how God’s faithfulness and providence provides for His people and sees them through suffering and persecution, and even death, all the while shining through them as a bright light of hope and forgiveness to others. And so, even when we suffer, our suffering is sanctified in Jesus’ suffering, so that is not in vain and we are provided strength to bear, to persevere, and to endure. Sometimes Christians seem to simply get caught up in the world’s furor against the object of our faith, Jesus. Like Simon of Cyrene, we are just going about our lives, minding our own business, and suddenly we are torn from the crowd and Jesus’ cross is placed upon us. We don’t get to choose our own crosses to bear, but the Holy Spirit knows what we need to strengthen our faith and trust in the LORD and in His Word that we might be a witness to others of the hope that is in us.
St. Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Romans, “For [Jesus’] sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” In all of the great figures that we have considered this Lenten season – Abel, Joseph, Isaac, Jeremiah, and Daniel – we have seen, if from an Old Testament perspective, how the faithful must suffer at the hands of the world and evil men. And yet, we have also seen how the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, suffered for all of them, and for us too, thereby sanctifying our suffering and vindicating our blood, making us to be martyrs, that is witnesses, to the faithfulness of the LORD in His Word. Thus, St. Paul continued saying, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In Holy Baptism, the image of Jesus has been imprinted upon us. We have died with Christ and we have been raised with Him. Therefore, the life we live, we live to the Lord. In all we say and do, in all we witness to others in our lives, words, and deeds, in our humility, suffering, persecution, and even in our death, “Let the clear inscription be: Jesus, crucified for me, is my life, my hope’s foundation, and my glory and salvation!”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.