Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Lenten Vespers In the Week of Judica (Lent 5)

Matthew 27:27-61; Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Betrayed by His trusted friend, abandoned by His closest disciples, handed over to suffer and die by His God and Father, Jesus became like Joseph in Egypt, like Jacob fleeing Esau, like David hiding from Saul, and like Elijah in the midst of the prophets of Baal – utterly forsaken, alone, waiting to die. Once Pilate had ruled and washed his hands of Him, the entire battalion of the Governor’s soldiers gathered around Jesus. They stripped Him naked, put a scarlet robe upon Him, crowned Him with a crown of thorns and beat it into His skull with cudgels, and they put a reed in His hand as a standard as they mocked Him saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and spat upon Him and struck Him on the head.
I believe that C. S. Lewis captured this well in his allegorical fantasy The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when the Christ-figure Aslan permitted himself to be bound and sacrificed as a substitute for the young Edmund, who had betrayed him, that the boy’s life might be spared. The witch and her demonic hordes bound the great lion to the stone sacrificial altar, gagged him, shaved him of his glorious mane, and beat him mercilessly before she finally killed him by plunging a cruel stone blade into his great heart. It was not enough that she should kill him, but she wanted to mock, torment, and humiliate him as well. The sheer evil and wickedness of the witch and her demonic hordes was revealed in the sacrifice of Aslan, just as it was in the sacrificial death of Jesus.
While you and I were not the ones doing the mocking and the spitting. While you and I were not the ones tearing the flesh off of His back, arms, and legs with each lash of the whips, driving the thorns into His skull or the nails through His hands and feet, nevertheless, you and I were complicit with those demonic hordes and with the devil himself, and it was for your sins and rebellion, and for mine, that Jesus was mocked, humiliated, scourged, pierced, crucified, and died. We betrayed Him. We abandoned Him. We were ashamed of Him. We were scandalized by Him, just as much as those whose hands, mouths, and voices mocked, ridiculed, cursed, and murdered Him on the Friday we now can call Good.
Jesus is the LORD’s Servant, and though He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, though He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, we considered Him stricken, smitten and afflicted by God. He just isn’t what we had expected, what we had hoped for. He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, no beauty that we should desire Him. But, it was we who were wrong. Our sin, transgressions, and iniquity prevented us from seeing the wisdom and the glory of God. We were deceived in the beginning, taken in by a lie, and still we struggle to believe the Truth. We regularly call good evil, and evil good. We require new eyes and new ears, a new mind, new reason, a new heart. For this Jesus died. Behold, He is making all things new!
It was the will the LORD to crush Him that you might be saved. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. You are the fruit of Jesus’ Passion. You are His offspring. Jesus continues to serve His Father even as He continues to serve you, interceding for you and sending you His Spirit that you may be fruitful and glorify His Father. You glorify the LORD by bearing His fruit – for the fruit of a tree or a vine is not for the benefit of the tree or vine, but for the benefit of others. So also are you the fruit of the True Vine Jesus Christ, the LORD’s Suffering Servant, for the life of the world.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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