Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 18, 2018
St. Jacob’s and Trinity Lutheran Churches
Rev. Kirk Shipley, Interim Pastor
This is the fourth week that we have a gospel lesson, I can hear some already and me with them, “Oh no, not another Gospel lesson of Jesus predicting his death,” featuring Jesus indicating he will die soon.
The second Sunday in Lent Jesus announced “the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, be rejected by the elders and be killed; and after three days rise again.” The third Sunday in Lent in more metaphorical language Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Last week Jesus spoke, “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent so must the Son of Man be lifted up,” indicating the upcoming death on a cross.
This week Jesus does the same. After Jesus enters Jerusalem a sorts of people want to meet Jesus. Some of those are some Greeks or probably Greek speaking Jews from the Eastern Roman Empire who pass on their desire to Philip. Philip tells Andrew and they both inform Jesus of those people’s wish. Jesus answers them by indicating now is the time for something else, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He figuratively tells them how, “Very truly I tell you unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth, and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bares much fruit.” The message is ‘I am going to die.’
A part of me says, ‘Okay I got it,’ and I think of the other things that are in today’s lessons that provide other aspects worth speaking about. Again, I went back to my very good friend Chris Lindstrom’s ordination. One of the speakers was the retired former American Lutheran Church bishop, Nelson Trout. Bishop Trout in one sentence stated why we cannot have enough reminders that Jesus Christ knowingly went to the cross. Bishop Trout told us Lent is a time to remember “Somebody has died for me.” As John will record later in 15:13 Jesus told his disciples, “No one had greater love than this, to lay one’s life down for one’s friends.”
It is true that human history is replete with people making split second decisions to sacrifice oneself for another: the soldier who throws himself on a grenade, the parent who pushes a child out of the way of an oncoming vehicle.
Human history is also replete with people who choose to be sacrifices after careful thought. Mahatma Gandhi was willing to starve himself to death to protest English rule in India and later to stop Muslim-Hindu rioting in India in 1946-7. Such actions probably contributed to his being assassinated, something else he was willing to open himself.
Jesus is the only one I know whose purpose in life was coming to die so that all people would have a chance for a cleanable slate life in relation with God. Each and every person can say, “I have been loved so much someone was willing to die for me, Jesus Christ.”
Jesus truth is the bottom line statement of hope for all of life’s frustrations and disappointments. It provides the bedrock statement of friendship with Jesus that provides the courage to live and grow through life’s frustrations, disappointments, and tragedies.
You are child and you have broken something you are not supposed to handle, and it is not from using an everyday glass glass, rather than a plastic or metal one, but something that is precious to your parents. You have a fair idea punishment may be just around the corner. You are student who is resenting being told ‘no good grades, no sports.’ You are a parent who yells at a child when you’re really mad at yourself for how you mismanaged something at work. You are torn by guilt because alcohol or other drugs rule your life and you know you have made just about everybody you know and care about lives difficult. You are an older adult and see yourself as less useful because you cannot physically or mentally function as well as you did in middle age. You are me leaving the military and discovering how naïve you were thinking ‘I no longer have to deal with so many system requirements. Yippee!” Whatever it is there is a flashing neon sign from God saying you matter to me for ‘Somebody Has Died for You.’
I still enjoy watching the first Star Wars movie. Part of it is I saw it as a college age adult with my grandmother and a few months later met my study partner’s wife for the first time when we went to take a break from preparing for a professional exam. A major part is in the film itself. It is not the nonsense about the light and dark sides of the force. Physically and spiritually light dispels darkness. Creator and Redeemer and God is much stronger than the Father of Lies Satan. I get a charge from the relation between Mark Hamil as Luke Skywalker and Harrison Ford as Han Solo. They take turns saving each other’s life and then say “That’s one you owe me.”
In this morning’s Gospel Jesus announces he will die. He shares that his soul is troubled. Mostly he shares how necessary it is for him to fulfill what he was sent to do. The result will be a single seed that grows and provides much more than he could living out a natural life span. Satan will be driven out and his sacrifice will draw people from all over the world to him and through him to God.
Most people can grasp, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo owing each other for preserving their earthly existence from immediate danger. We should be able to grasp the importance of following Jesus he saves us providing release from overwhelming guilt or ‘What’s the point’ irresponsibility by his sacrifice for our sins that provides everlasting forgiveness and life purpose living in response to such unbelievably broad love.
Jesus’ sacrificial love bears the most dramatic fruit. A movie I will watch before Easter is 2006’s End of the Spear. It is about the relation that grows gradually between a boy whose father was killed by men of a tribe who they were trying to share Jesus Christ in the mid 1950s, and the lead warrior who killed him. Jesus forgiveness came to dominate. The men came to enjoy, a great relationship marked by genuine affection and humor as he returns to Ecuador regularly and the man visits him in Florida. Jesus dying for each provided each man fresh lenses so forgiving and being forgiven could reign and provide a new starting point as believers in and followers of Christ. The tribe and its’ neighbors also changed from a way of life ruled by retribution to one grounded in reconciliation. That is what can occur when we remember and act on Bishop Trout’s Lent statement, “Someone has died for me, Jesus. Amen.