Midweek Lent 2: The Passion of our Lord, Gethsemane

Lesson: The Passion of our Lord
Hymns: LSB 436, 434, 883

Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above).

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      It is Thursday night—Maundy Thursday. Our Lord Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper. He washes His disciples’ feet to teach true leadership—leadership through service. If you want to be great, serve others. Life isn’t about serving yourself or making your bellies full. It is about your neighbor.

      Jesus has ultimate concern for His neighbor. That is, Jesus loves the world. And so He serves as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

      In order for Jesus to take away the sin of the world, He must be handed over to His enemies, who will torment Him and kill Him.

      So, on that Thursday night, Jesus does what He always did with His disciples. He keeps the routine that evening. He crosses over the Brook Kidron and goes up the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane. He goes there to pray, as He did each night that week.

      This night, though, some things are different. It is the annual Passover, so He celebrated the Passover feast with His disciples. He gave them a long speech about things that are to come (John 13-17).

      Then He says something startling. He interprets a passage from Zechariah. He shows how these words are talking of them. He says, “You will all be offended because of Me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’” (Matt. 26:31).

      Ouch. Jesus tells His disciples that they will be offended because of Him. They will scatter. They will hide as cowards.

      Nothing has changed, has it? Many who profess to be Christian will not tell you that they are Christian—at least not publicly. They are embarrassed to tell their friends or family to pray with them at mealtime. Instead of saying, “I have church Sunday morning,” they skip church and go do whatever their family or friends are doing. They do not serve as Christ’s witnesses. They don’t even bother telling their closest family what is right and wrong, let alone the Gospel.

      People in the Church are offended because of Jesus!

      But on Maundy Thursday, what brought about the disciples’ offense? Why would they be offended? God declared in the Old Testament through the prophet Zechariah, “I will strike the Shepherd” (Zech. 13:7).

      But why would God do that? Jesus is the Shepherd. Why would our Father in Heaven strike His only-begotten Son?

      The answer is clear: so that Jesus can take away the sins of the world. He takes away your sin. He saves you from Hell and brings you into His kingdom.

      And so, Jesus is led like a Lamb to the slaughter (Is. 53:7). His Blood is shed to purify you from all unrighteousness. Jesus is “smitten by God (Is. 53:4). He is condemned to a sinners’ death, for the “Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:6).

      No wonder the disciples are offended. No wonder so many take offense at Christ and His cross today.

      People want to describe God as sovereign, almighty, awesome, and great. And while these are all true, the problem is that they want to emphasize these attributes of God and forget that Jesus becomes our sin, suffers at the hands of sinful men, and dies on the cross.

      God as a sinner (our sin)? A God who dies?

      This is too weak. We want mighty gods like Apollos or Zeus or Thor! We marvel in Avengers and Batman! Who wants a God that becomes a curse on the tree (Gal. 3:13)? Who wants a God who washes feet? Who wants a God who dies?

      But that is who Jesus is. He is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

      And so He goes to the Garden of Gethsemane. He prays.

      Oh does He pray! He is set to bear the divine judgment of the Last Day. In great anguish His sweat “falls to the ground like great drops of blood.”

      Look at what He must do to take away your sin. Look at how His blood serves as your ransom!

      This isn’t happy, clappy time. He didn’t go through this so Christians can gather in self-worship and feel-good theology. When Christianity is reduced to mere emotion, then we are left with an empty shell that ultimately does nothing.

      Instead, the Shepherd is struck, and the sheep are scattered. Satan tries to get people to run away from Jesus and never return. And so, Jesus teaches you, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

      How many do this today? It seems most who profess to be Christian go about smugly, thinking they can have one foot in the Church door but most of their body outside—in the wasteland—engaging in all sorts of vice with the world.

      The disciples fell asleep. They’re oblivious to the devil’s attacks—just like many people today.

      Then, suddenly, there’s a voice. “Hail, Master!” It’s Judas Iscariot. He gives our Lord a kiss—not one of gratitude or affection, but one of betrayal. A group of men arrive with lanterns and torches and weapons. You know it won’t be a good encounter when that happens!

      Peter wakes up to fight. He cuts the ear off of the High Priest’s servant (Malchus). He’s ready to fight this battle to the bitter end.

      But Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword. If he lives by the sword, he will die by the sword.

      What? Jesus won’t defend Himself? How weak must He be? If you think about, that’s rather scandalous to our “you need to look out for number one” sensibilities!

      Yes. Jesus must suffer. As a criminal. As The Sinner. He willingly receives the burden laid on Him. He alone will drink the cup of God’s judgment for sin. He fulfills the prophecy. “I will strike the Shepherd.”

      Peter loses His courage. He’s afraid to admit that he knows Jesus. He denies Jesus three times.

      The sheep are scattered. It is the Day of the Lord. God punishes Jesus for the world’s sin. It looks so horrible. An innocent Man is put to death.

      But He gives His disciples a promise. “After I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.” He promises that He will rise. He promises that He will meet up with them again.

      So, do not despair. He is the Christ. His wounds mean forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation for you! He gives you the victory over sin, death, and the devil.

      You are sheep—His sheep. He is the Good Shepherd. We join Thomas in confessing, “My Lord and my God!” For He is the Victor. He is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world! Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen