Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Lenten Vespers in the Week of Reminiscere (Lent 2)

Matthew 20:17-28; Esther 13:8-11, 15-17

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“O Lord, almighty king, all things are in your power, and the is none that can resist your will, if you determine to save Israel,” Mordechai confessed. And, he was right. If the Lord was determined to save Israel, no force in heaven, on earth, or under the earth, whether man, beast, or spirit could stop him. And that was exactly what Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem to do – to save Israel by being delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, condemned to death, delivered over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and to rise from death on the third day. This is how the Lord, the almighty king would save his people. This is how King Jesus would reign.
Shortly before this Jesus had taught his disciples saying, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Thus, perhaps it’s understandable that his disciples were confused. James and John must have told their mother this teaching prompting her to implore Jesus that her two sons should sit at his right and his left in his kingdom. But, that’s being charitable, for at the very least, the sons of Zebedee and their mother were thinking of themselves and not the others who were understandably a bit put out when they heard about it later. They had their hearts and minds set on human ideas of power and glory and not the ways of God and their servant Savior Jesus.
“You do not know what you are asking,” Jesus answered, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” The cup to which Jesus referred was the cup of God’s wrath against human sin. Jeremiah prophesied of this cup saying, “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.” “Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.’ And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: You must drink! For behold, I begin to work disaster at the city that is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, declares the Lord of hosts.’” Truly they deserved that cup. The cup was their cup, filled with God’s wrath against their sinful uncleanness. If they were to drink it, it would consume them and they would be no more. No, they could not drink it, but Jesus would drink the cup of the wine of God’s wrath to the bitter dregs, until there was no more, until it was finished. Jesus would be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes who would condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and on the third day he would be raised from death.
And yet, James and John, and all the apostles, and you too, will drink it. For, baptized into Jesus, you share in Jesus’ suffering just as you share in His resurrection and life and reign in His kingdom. St. Paul speaks of this truth in his Epistle to the Romans saying, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” And again St. Paul says in his Epistle to the Philippians saying, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Yet, though all these things, says Paul, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, but His kingdom and reign is not like the kingdoms of men. Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom of mercy, and His reign is a reign of mercy and forgiveness. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. James’ and John’s and their mother’s request was the very opposite of Jesus’ kingdom, and yet they would drink the cup of Jesus, share in His suffering and death, and witness to their faith by shedding their own blood in martyrdom. In Holy Baptism you were united with Jesus in His death and resurrection; you have died to your sins and former way of living and you have been raised to a new life of obedience and love for God and neighbor. No longer will you live and think and act like the Gentiles who lord their power and exercise authority over one another, but you reign with Jesus by loving one another and by serving one another.
Those who wish to be first in this world will be last. Those who love their life and worldly wealth and possessions will lose them, but those who show their love for both God and man by sharing their wealth and possessions and by giving them away will keep them for eternal life. Jesus teaches, “in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” In His humble life and ministry, by His loving and faithful obedience, and by His agonizing suffering and death, our King Jesus has saved His people. Now our King Jesus reigns through you, His body, His Church. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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