Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Homily for Lenten Vespers In the Week of Oculi (The Third Sunday In Lent)

Luke 22:47-71; Genesis 37:12-46

God’s vindication of the innocent sufferer: The Innocent Blood of Joseph
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Why did Cain rise up against his brother Abel? Why did the sons of Israel rise up against their brother Joseph? What had these men done that caused such wrath to rise up in the hearts of their kin, in those of their own blood? – Nothing. Abel and Joseph did nothing to incur such wrath, but, rather, their brothers hated them because of what someone else had done for them or to them: God had regard for Abel’s offering, and not for Cain’s. And, Israel loved his son Joseph more than his other sons because he was the son of his old age.
Abel and Joseph were murdered and sold into slavery respectively because of their fathers’ love and regard for them. They were both men after their fathers’ heart, just like David. Abel trusted in the LORD, thus he shared his Father’s concern for his brother and for others. Abel was his brother’s keeper. Likewise, Israel sent Joseph to seek out his brothers and to report back to him of their welfare. In all truth, Israel loved all of his sons. Thus, if Joseph held a special place in his heart, what slight was that to them?
Abel and Joseph were both types of Jesus. Abel trusted in the LORD and, because his conscience was clean in Spirit-wrought humility and repentance, the LORD had regard for his sacrifice – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” So the LORD also had regard for Jesus’ self-sacrifice offered up in holy faith and trust in His Father for the forgiveness of his brothers’ sins. Likewise, Joseph feared, loved, and trusted his father Israel and his father’s God, and he loved his brothers and innocently sought them out in love for them and for his father. So, Jesus loved His Father, and Jesus loves you His brothers and sisters, and He willingly and humbly laid down His life for you, a sacrifice pleasing to the LORD.
Of course, there is so much more going on in the story of Joseph and his brothers. There were Joseph’s dreams of his brothers bowing down before him and their jealousy and hatred of him. There was their immediate desire to murder him, until Judah stepped in and, for purely selfish reasons, suggested they merely sell him into slavery. All of this is to set forward types and examples of broken, sin-corrupted selflessness that would be fulfilled and superseded by the true innocent, holy, and selfless sacrifice of our brother and God’s beloved Son Jesus. No, Judah is not an example of what true, brotherly love looks like, but he is an example of how God works all things, even evil things, for the good of those who love Him.
In fact, the story of Joseph ends very well, doesn’t it? Through challenge after challenge, trial after tribulation, the LORD protects and provides for His servant Joseph. And, all the while, Joseph does not hate his brothers or his persecutors, be they family or Pharaoh, but he was obedient and helpful to Pharaoh and faithful, loving, and protecting of his family – Joseph was his brothers’ and his father’s keeper. He worked things so that his family was given refuge in the best land of Egypt and so that both his family and the Egyptians were not without grain throughout the seven years of famine. And, perhaps best of all, Joseph showed mercy to his brothers and forgave them, enabling them to return to the LORD their God in humility and repentance and to be restored to the heavenly family. In the end, though his brothers were terrified of his righteous judgment against the evil they had done him, Joseph confessed before them, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
In Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, we do not see the anger and jealousy of either Cain or the brothers of Joseph. Rather, instead, we see the betrayal of one who feigned to truly love Jesus, who followed Him as His master, rabbi, and Lord. And, yet, it seems that Judas became dismayed that things were not moving quickly enough, or not in the way that he believed that they should. Judas’ faith in Jesus and in God shaken and compromised. Moreover, his pride and self-righteousness were tempted and stoked, as was our First Parents’ in the Garden, to take matters into his own hands, to become his own god, to decide for what was good and what was evil by his own fallen reason and wisdom. Judas put a price on his Lord, thirty pieces of silver, and, like Joseph’s brothers, sold Him into slavery, and, like Cain, murdered Him, handing Him over to certain death. That Judas betrayed Jesus with the affectionate embrace of a kiss only serves to demonstrate the lying, deceitfulness of the enemy, Satan, the father of lies. Judas’ betrayal is not out of jealousy or anger, but it was intentionally, calculated, duplicitous, and purely evil – “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
And yet, Peter, another brother of our Lord who swore his fidelity and willingness to die rather than betray his Lord, also handed Him over. Three times did Peter deny Jesus, ardently insisting that he had no relationship with Him at all and did not know Him – “Everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” Likewise, the chief priests and the scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus’ brothers, the children of Israel, betrayed Him and handed Him over to be crucified – “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
And so, we are all Cain. We are all Joseph’s brothers. We are all Judas and the chief priests and the Pharisees. For, we have betrayed our brother and our Father, our Lord, our Messiah, and our God in jealously, resentment, anger, rebellion, and in idolatry, self-worship, and murder. And, yet, like a lamb to the slaughter, Jesus went willingly to suffer for you and for me, and for all men of all times and in all places, to die. Though you meant evil against Him, “God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
However, as much as you are Cain and Joseph’s brothers, the chief priests and the Pharisees, you are also Abel, and Joseph, even a son or daughter of God Himself. You have been baptized into Jesus’ blood and righteousness. These have become your glorious dress. When the Father looks at you He sees only His favorite Son and His righteousness. Because of this, you will face your Cains and murderous brothers, those who accuse you and hate you and betray you, sometimes deceiving you claiming that they love you – “‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
Your brother, your master, your Lord, and your Redeemer Jesus Christ has loved you to the end. He believed that His Father meant it for good, for your good, and for the good of all who will believe “that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Your suffering is sanctified in His suffering and death. Your victory over sin, death, and Satan are secured in His resurrection. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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