Midweek Lent 3: The Passion of our Lord, the Palace of the High Priest

Lesson: The Passion of our Lord
Hymns: LSB 430, 439, 880

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.

      The book of Isaiah is sometimes called the “Old Testament Gospel,” for in a very detailed manner, it prophesies the life and works of Jesus. A portion of Isaiah 52 and 53 speaks of Jesus as our Suffering Servant. It is written of Jesus in Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”

      In tonight’s Passion History, we heard the fulfillment of this prophecy. There’s a plot to get Him, complete with false witnesses, false charges, malice, mockery, denial by one of His own, and an unjust death sentence. Surely, he was oppressed and afflicted. Yet He opened not His mouth.

      In our Passion reading, a group of people are ready to kill Jesus. Did you notice which group this is? It is a group of church authorities! Often people think the enemies of the Church come from the outside. It is easy to blame the Muslims or atheists. But look at what happens within the church! Look at how ready people are to blame God, reject His Word, come up with new doctrines, and mislead the masses—all in the guise of Christ—all thinking they are doing God a service!

      The Missouri Synod’s heritage and history has been firmly grounded on the Word of God. We have taken a strong stance against false teachings and false teachers. The reason is simple. It is easy for the Church to be destroyed from within—through false doctrine. Our Synod has been weakened, though, by growing indifference. When our Synod stopped being so clear on its doctrinal position, that’s when the declines began. So did infighting and politicking.

      “Oh how blessed it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:3)

      The church leaders on Maundy Thursday operated under the veil of darkness. Throughout the night, they tried to get Jesus to make a mistake or say something that could incriminate Him. So they rounded up some false witnesses. Unfortunately for them, these witnesses could not even agree with one another. Some claimed Jesus said, “I shall destroy this temple made with hands and after three days, I shall build another, not made with hands.” But even their evidence did not agree. Pretty typical for liars.

      The sinning against Jesus didn’t stop. They charged Him with blasphemy, but Jesus gave no answer. He opened not His mouth.

      So then the high priest said, “Look here, Jesus. They are charging You. How do You defend Yourself? You have to say something! So tell us. Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

      Finally, Jesus speaks. He tells the Truth. He makes the good confession. He speaks bluntly and directly, “I AM. You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God’s power and coming with the clouds of Heaven.” His words are clear. He’s not getting anything mixed up. And what He says is too much for them to handle. They feel they have the evidence they need. They figure He’s guilty of blasphemy. They spit on Him. They blindfold Him and strike them. They mock Him, saying, “Prophesy to us, O Christ! Who struck You?” The temple guards beat Him.

      Why the violent response? What did He say to illicit such rage?

      His words are words of Scripture, attributing to Himself the qualities of God. First, He says, “I AM” in the same manner as God did when He identified Himself to Moses at the burning bush. “God said to Moses, ‘I AM who I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Ex. 3:14). Also, Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man, which is what Daniel 7:13-14 says concerning the Christ: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Jesus is saying these words speak of Him and His kingdom! And finally, Psalm 110:1 states, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’” (Psalm 110:1). Now Jesus is saying He’s the Lord who will sit at the right hand of God the Father. In His short reply, Jesus references Scripture no less than three times!

      Now this Man, who is arrested and hated by the church authorities, stands before them, claiming He’s the Son of Man—the Lord– Christ—the Messiah—the Judge—the King—who will reign to all eternity! This certainly would be blasphemy—if it weren’t true. But Jesus spoke the Truth. He is God.

      Now since the church leaders “didn’t see it that way,” they go crazy over these words of our Lord. They justify their abuse by saying, “If you can really reign at the right hand of God, then protect Yourself and prophesy to us.”

      While all of this is happening, Peter, the “first” of His disciples utterly fails Him. Peter is given some marvelous opportunities to confess Jesus as the Christ that night. But he does not do so. In fact, he denies Jesus three times. Each time, he gets more violent. In his last denial, he calls down curses and swears he does not know Jesus.

      Such darkness! Such sin! There’s plenty of it. His disciples forsook Him and fled. Some who were praising Jesus are now at His throat. The church leaders are out to get Him. Peter is cursing and swearing that he does not know Jesus.

      How much worse can it get?

      Do we really think we now live in the darkest of days? Do we really think that the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket?

      All this iniquity. All this sin. Wars, division, hatred, immorality, strife.

      The Lamb of God carries all these burdens to the cross. He takes it all as His own. He doesn’t shy away from it. He doesn’t deny it or downplay it. Instead, He bears the sin of the world in His own body.

      He even bears your sin—no matter how bad.

      What is your sin? It’s pretty safe to say that your sin against Jesus is just as enormous and shocking as all the sin you heard in tonight’s Passion reading.

      In fact, you can add to the story. How many times have you failed to forgive, as Christ has forgiven you? How many times have you failed to confess Christ when you had the opportunity? How many times have you done sins in secret, thinking that they’re ok as long as no one catches you?

      On top of the sins you know, you also daily commit sins against Jesus that you’re not even aware of. That’s how deep and dark your sin truly is!

      Most people don’t want to be told of their sin. They would rather deny their own sinfulness than admit it. But I am here to tell you that the Lamb of God must carry your sins as His own or else you will have to carry them yourself. And if you carry your sin yourself and die, you would be damned in your sin.

      So which way do you want it to be? To admit your sin, receive your Savior and be saved? Or to deny your sin, not be forgiven, and be condemned?

      It should be obvious.

      Tonight’s Passion reading ends with Judas. He is sorry for his sin against Jesus. He goes back to the church leaders with whom he made the deal to betray Jesus. He wants to return the silver. He cries for help. He says, “I have sinned. I have betrayed innocent blood.”

      But the pastoral care he receives is horrendous. They tell him, “What is that to us? You betrayed him. We didn’t. It’s your sin. Go deal with it yourself.”

      They did not direct Judas to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. They did not point him to Jesus.

      So Judas dealt with it himself. He hanged himself. He died in despair, being denied the Gospel.

      This ought to show us how it important it is for us to guard pure doctrine and godly practice. Lives are literally at stake.

      Consider yourselves fortunate that God has seen you in your plight and has given to you a messenger of the Gospel. You don’t have to wonder how God will deal with you on the Last Day. For you have the Word proclaimed to you—the Word of Truth. The Law and Gospel are rightly divided and applied.

      Repentant, believing sinners are forgiven and are going to Heaven. The unrepentant and unbelievers remain soiled in their sin and are on the path leading to Hell.

      Because God has rescued you from the clutches of Satan and added you to His family through Holy Baptism, you are blessed. Jesus has taken sins away at the cross. He was numbered with the transgressors. Your sin is covered in the Blood of the Lamb. Your sin does not count against you. Jesus died for you. He presents you to our Father in Heaven as blameless. Amen.

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