Midweek Lent 3: Soon and Never

Lessons: Psalm 41, Deuteronomy 7:22-26, Revelation 19:11-16, John 12:20-30
Hymns: LSB 427, 420, 423

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.

      In Psalm 41:5, Jesus said, “My enemies say of Me in malice, ‘When will He die, and His name perish?’” That was certainly the case. In John 8 after Jesus explained that the Jews who didn’t believe in Him did not have Abraham as their father but the devil as their father and when Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” they picked up stones to throw at Jesus. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, many followed Him, which caused the chief priests and scribes to plot to kill not only Jesus but also Lazarus. Judas arranged to betray Jesus for 40 pieces of silver. And, as we heard in last week’s Passion reading, a detachment and officers of the chief priests went out to the Garden of Gethsemane with lanterns and torches and weapons to arrest Jesus and put Him on trial so that they could sentence Jesus to death.

      Clearly, they were malicious in their thoughts and ways, seeking to harm Jesus to the point of death. They wanted Him to die so that His Name would perish.

      When we think about generations who have gone before us, most of them are no longer remembered by those who are living. Yes, we have history books to tell of kings and noblemen who did amazing things. We have the Bible which records many names. We have genealogies which report on the generations before us. We have names engraved on stones in the cemeteries. But we don’t know all of the kings and noblemen who ever lived. We don’t know most of the soldiers who fought for their countries in centuries past. There are far more who were counted in the census statistics in Moses’ day than we have names listed in the Bible. All family genealogies end at some point because our records only go back so far. And the stones at cemeteries wear out, get destroyed, or sink under the soil. While we may bear their genes, it seems as if their names have perished.

      When the Israelites were ready to enter the Promised Land, God gave a command. The people of Israel were to gradually eliminate the pagans who lived there. God declared, “The LORD your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion, until they are destroyed. And he will give their kings into your hand, and you shall make their name perish from under heaven. No one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them. The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deut. 7:23-25). God said the names of these pagans must perish.

      In today’s Passion reading at the Palace of the High Priest, the church leaders were seeking evidence to make a case to sentence Jesus to death so that His name would also perish. They raised up witnesses who claimed that Jesus said He could raise the temple in three days, but their testimony did not agree. The lies of false witnesses were not enough. They tried to find fault with His own testimony, but Jesus only spoke the truth. When the high priest asked Jesus, are You the Christ, Jesus replied, “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.” They accused Jesus of blasphemy and deserving of death. They spit on Him, blindfolded Him, struck Him, and mocked Him.

      The words of Jesus as originally written by King David under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration were coming true: “My enemies say of Me in malice, ‘When will He die, and His name perish?’”

      When would He die? Soon. His hour was at hand. He would soon take away the sin of the world through His vicarious atonement. He would soon be lifted up on the cross to shed His innocent Blood as the ransom payment for the world’s sin. What they meant for evil, God would use for good. They sought to kill Him so that His name would perish.

      Tonight’s theme is “soon and never.” The enemies of Jesus asked a two-part question, which means there is a two-part answer.

      First Question: When will He die?

            Answer: Soon.

      Second Question: When will His Name perish?

            Answer: Never.

      Soon and never. Soon, He will die, but never will His Name perish. They may have killed the Lord of Life, but His existence did not stop, nor did His name die. Instead, Jesus rose victoriously from the grave. And now, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). This makes us sing out, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength” (Psalm 8:1-2). In our second reading from the Revelation of Jesus Christ to St. John, there is a vision of Christ when He returns in glory on the Last Day. He is named the Word of God. “On His robe and on His thigh, He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16).

      Jesus lives. His name will never perish.

      But what about you? When we abide in Christ, there will be enemies and foes who will seek to remove our faith from us. They will persecute us. They will ask the same questions, “When will he die, and his name perish?”

      God, of course, knows when we will breathe our last. He knows when He will call us to glory. He knows if He will come back before we should breathe our last. Just as we could not bring ourselves into the world, so also we leave it up to Him when He calls us away from here.

      But when will our name perish? I have good news for you, my friends. Because you are baptized into Christ and members of God’s family by grace through faith, your names are written in the Book of Life. You will not be forgotten. You may receive a gravestone that will eventually crumble away. Wars in future generations could destroy all records of your existence. No one living may remember you. But your names will not perish. You will go to be with the Lord. You will live with Him. And when Jesus returns, He will raise your bodies from the dead so that they will be immortal and incorruptible. You will live with God forever in the new creation. God will cleanse you and purify you. He will remember your sins no more.

      At the same time, He will never forget your names, nor will you Christians die eternally.

      As it was with Jesus, so it is with you. Soon He would die. But His name will never perish. Soon you will be called home to Heaven. But your names will never perish. For you belong to Christ who will bring you through this valley of the shadow of death to the green pastures and quiet waters of Paradise! Amen.     

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