Holy Monday (morning) 2020
This week is one of competing attitudes. We will see Jesus’ selflessness against the Pharisees’ envy and jealousy. We will see Jesus’ determination against His disciples’ cowardice. We will see Jesus’ love against Satan’s hatred. We will understand better Isaiah’s prophecy about Jesus’ Passion: “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with Me” (Is 63:3).
This morning’s Reading gives us a perfect look into the battle that plays out this week. Chronologically, it begins yesterday, as it has the preparation for the Triumphal Entry, and Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem. Mary anoints Jesus’ in preparation for His burial, a confession that Jesus was about to become the Passover Lamb. The Pharisees are actively plotting to kill Jesus and Lazarus out of envy, because people were increasingly believing in Jesus. Their anger is in full display when they hiss at one another: “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”
This is another one of those times that the bad actors in this drama say something incredibly profound. You have Caiaphas with his confession that it is expedient that one man should die for the people. You have the angry mob’s cry, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” And now, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing.” If only they realized what they confessed! These are things that cause us, as Christians, to rejoice! Yes, it is expedient that one Man should die for the people, because our death avails nothing. Yes, His Blood be upon me and upon my children, because that Blood is the price for sin! No, you are not accomplishing anything because God’s plan for salvation cannot be impeded.
And that’s where we find ourselves on Holy Monday. The Greeks come to Philip and wish to see Jesus. Jesus takes their request as the opportunity to explain what is about to take place. The hour that He has been speaking of for three years has finally come. Though His soul is troubled, He does not want to leave this hour, because it is the entire reason for which He came. He has come to draw all to Himself. He is not the Savior of the Jews, but of all the world. He dies so He can produce much grain.
Because He has come to accomplish everything, that is precisely why He cannot leave His mission. No matter how troubled His soul may be, even though He will say in just a few days that His soul is sorrowful even unto death, He does what none of us could ever do. He could have asked His Father to save Him. He could have stopped everything. He had at His disposal more than twelve legions of angels to rescue Him. But if He had done that, how could the Scriptures be fulfilled? For this reason He has come to this hour. He has not come to do His will, but His Father’s will, the will that the ancient curse be destroyed, that the enmity between God and man be removed, that the angel bar the way no more to blessed paradise.
In Jesus hour is the judgment of this world. Its ruler, its prince, the devil, will be cast out. He will be shown to be powerless. This week though, he won’t look powerless. He won’t think he’s powerless, either. He will enter into Judas to cause him to betray Jesus for a mere thirty pieces of silver. He will cause the Pharisees to convince the crowds that it’s better for them to have a murderer given to them instead of the Lord of Life. He will rejoice as he watches the beatings and illegal trials and the piercing of the One he couldn’t seem to hurt in the wilderness.
But Jesus knows what He is doing. He is patient. He knows that the sufferings He endures are nothing compared to the glory to be revealed in His crucifixion, His being lifted up from the earth. Then He will draw all to Himself. He will show the almighty power of God as He does not hold our sin against us but drowns it in the deepest sea of His own Blood.
The devil and the Pharisees can do their worst. The disciples can abandon Jesus. But it will not deter Him. Jesus has only your salvation in His sight. He is committed to your cause, even though you were not committed to Him, though you were committed to sin and death. Jesus has come to rob the spoiler of his prey, to take you to be with Himself. What He endures, He endures for you.
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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.