Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lent Midweek 2

Lent Midweek 2[1]

March 11, 2009

Text: Matt. 26:36-45 (ESV): 36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

When one of us is suffering, our friends and family members surround us with their love and concern. They care for us. When a loved one dies, the neighbors bring food to the survivors, shovel their walk, or mow their lawn. When one is in the hospital, friends and family members visit and bring “Get Well” cards and flowers. This kind of caring is so important because it reminds us in the midst of our suffering that we are not alone, that the people who love us are rooting for us, praying for us, that they are there to meet our physical needs and speak words of encouragement.

Apathy is the opposite of caring. You would be apathetic if you found out your son was in critical condition after a horrendous car wreck, and instead of going to the hospital to be with him in his suffering, you went to bed. Apathy is the “absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement.”[2] When we fail to be compassionate toward the suffering, we are showing ourselves to be apathetic. When we sit through the evening news, cocktail in hand, shrugging our shoulders at genocide, hunger, poverty throughout the world, we are showing ourselves to be apathetic. St. James describes the apathy of many Christians this way: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16). To have that attitude toward a brother or sister in need is to be apathetic.

Jesus was greatly troubled in spirit when He arrived with His disciples at the Mount of Olives. He didn’t want to be alone. Going aside to pray, He took with Him His three closest friends, Peter, James, and John. He confided in them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me” (Matt. 26:38). By “watch,” Jesus meant, “Stay alert with me, pray for me, pray for yourselves, pray that God will strengthen us in this hour of suffering.” Thus leaving His three dear friends with this simple request, Jesus went about a stone’s throw away and fell down on His face. So great was His suffering, His dread of the hell He was about to pass through for us and for our salvation, that His sweat became as great drops of blood. Earnestly He prayed to His Father, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (v. 39). He then returned to His friends for their encouragement, to be strengthened by their company, perhaps that they might pray together. And what did He find? They were asleep! They were not watching! Peter, James, and John, Jesus’ closest friends, had apathetically abandoned Him in His suffering.

You know the story. Three times Jesus goes to pray and three times He returns and finds His disciples, His friends, asleep. “[C]ould you not watch with me one hour?” (v. 40). So it is that Jesus sustains the wound of apathy for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus has resolutely set His face to go to the cross, to be crucified for the sins of the world, for the sins of His disciples, for the sins of Peter, James, and John, and His disciples are uncaring, apathetic; they have abandoned Him in His hour of need.

It’s easy to be hard on the disciples. “How could they forsake Jesus in this way? If I were there, I would have stayed awake!” we might boast. But what is true of the disciples is also true of us, dear brothers and sisters. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. We must watch and pray, that we not fall into temptation. For in spiritual matters, we, too, are apathetic. “Do we really have to go to church every week? During Lent, do we really have to go twice a week? Do we really need to spend so much time and energy in Bible class on the 16 chapters of Romans? Do we really have to go to Bible class at all?” Apathy, brothers and sisters! This is apathy! “Could you not watch with me one hour?” asks Jesus. The question is directed at you and me. Could we not spare five minutes to do our daily devotions? Could we not stop what we are doing for even thirty seconds to say a prayer for a friend in need? Is it really all that burdensome to lose an hour of sleep so that we get to church on Sunday morning? What is that hour in comparison with the eternity of salvation God wants to give us here in His house as He distributes His gifts? Repent, beloved. You, too, are apathetic. And so am I. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is ever so weak.

Jesus bears the wound of apathy for the forgiveness of your apathy. Your apathy nailed Him to the cross. The blood that pours from His pierced body covers you and cleanses you of your apathy. It cleanses you of your lack of love and concern for your neighbor. It cleanses you of your lack of desire for communion with God, your lack of desire for His saving gifts in Word and Sacrament. Indeed, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses you of all sin. It restores you to communion with your heavenly Father, who did not take the cup of suffering from His Son, but out of love for you sent Jesus to drink it to the bitter dregs on the cross for your salvation. Jesus drinks the cup of God’s wrath for you, that you might drink the cup of His grace, His very blood shed for your forgiveness, and eat His very body given for your forgiveness, right here at this altar.

Thus His blood strengthens you to watch and pray that you not fall into temptation. It strengthens you so that you do not despise preaching and God’s Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it. It strengthens you so that you exclaim along with the Psalmist, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!” (Psalm 122:1). And so also it strengthens you to show love, care, and concern for your neighbor in need. The sin of apathy is a spiritual enemy and a weapon of the devil. Thanks be to God, our Lord Jesus Christ was and is never apathetic. He has always loved you and cared for you. His love for you took Him all the way to the cross. Behold in His wounds the extent of His passion for you. Jesus Christ is risen, and He still loves you and cares for you. He never leaves you alone in your hour of need. In fact He is here with you now with His good gifts and Spirit, bespeaking you righteous in His Word. And He is here once again to touch your lips with His cleansing blood. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Let us Pray:
O Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth or You had created the heavens and the earth, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. You turn man to destruction and say, “Return, you children of men.” For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past and as a watch in the night. The days of our life are but seventy years, and if by reason of strength they be eighty years, yet their strength is full of labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Enter not into judgment with us, O God, and deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.

O most merciful Savior, forgive our innumerable sins and shortcomings. So impress us with the constant thought of the vanity of the world, the certainty of death, and the judgment to come that we may mortify more and more the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and be prepared at all times for the coming of the Son of Man. Keep us mindful that we are strangers and pilgrims on earth, and give us grace to look for the city above, following those who have overcome the world and inherited the promises through faith and trust in You. Help us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, that we may die in the peace of Christ, who shall change our vile bodies and fashion them like His own glorious body.

O Lord God, lover of mankind, we most earnestly beseech You to bless all Your people, the flocks of Your fold. Shed abroad the peace of heaven into our hearts, and grant us also the peace of this life. Enliven us with Your loving-kindness, that we may keep and hold fast the testimony of Your mouth and not continue in sin. Deliver all who are in trouble, for You alone are God. In mercy pardon those who have erred, and bring them back from their wanderings.

Impart the consolation of Your heavenly grace to all the sons and daughters of affliction and sorrow. Enable us to finish our course in faith and so make us worthy partakers of the inheritance of all Your saints in light; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

[1] This year’s Lenten series is based on the book, Sacred Head, Now Wounded (St. Louis: Concordia, 2009). The sermon is my own, but the theme and many of the ideas in this sermon come from the book. Cf. the companion volume, William Cwirla, Sacred Head, Now Wounded: Daily Devotions (St. Louis: Concordia, 2009) p. 20, for more of the ideas used in this sermon.
[2] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary (New York: Random House, 1991) p. 64.


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