As st. John opens his record of Our Lord’s last three days, he opens it with one of the most beautiful and profound statements the Holy Spirit inspired. “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” This statement summarizes everything that will follow—the foot washing, the institution of the Supper, the final time of instruction, His high priestly prayer for His disciples and all Christians, His patience and willing endurance through trials and mockery and beating, and finally His triumphant death to reconcile all to the Father. “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
As we ponder Our Lord’s Passion, we often talk about His emotions. The ones we think of the quickest are emotions like sorrow, anguish, heartbreak, depression, pity, sorrow, and the like. Our first thoughts are sadness. But as Isaiah talks about the Lord winning salvation for His people, he gives us a noticeably different list. Some of the emotions he ascribes to Our Lord are anger, fury, and a desire for vengeance. For whatever reason, that’s not the first place we go. But it does help present us with a fuller picture of Jesus’ heart and mind while He suffers and dies. As much as it might sound backwards, those hot emotions are a sign of His love for His creation.
Sin and the Word of God cannot peaceably coexist. Sin will stop at no length to silence those who preach the Word, desiring ultimately to exterminate it. The pages of Holy Scripture and the countless volumes on Church History show where men have sought to destroy the Word and Christ’s Church. From the third chapter of Genesis to this very day we can see Satan undermining the Word by stirring up doubt in our minds, inspiring critics of Scripture rather than students, and raising up leaders who endorse heresy and governments which label the clear Word of God as hate speech.
As we move towards Jesus’ crucifixion, we see the number of things that came together that resulted in the events of Good Friday. Tonight’s Gospel shows us that one of the greatest sins that brought about Jesus’ death is greed. We see it in Lazarus and the Pharisees and the Chief Priests. They are greedy, they covet what Jesus has. So, they do what they feel they need to do to get Him out of the picture, to put things back in place.
Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” This is how St. John describes Jesus’ last hours before His Crucifixion. Everything Jesus does, He does in love. He does it to show what love truly is, what it does, what it looks like.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.