Sunday Of The Passion – Vicar Schleusener

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Pastor Martin was talking to me earlier this week about the inherently mysterious nature of the faith. That the revelation of God regarding His plan and desire for the salvation of mankind is the revelation that the mystery exists. It’s the revelation of the mystery that God desires to save us, and has provided a means by which He can do so. It’s not the removal of the mysteriousness through the revelation of all the details. The great redeeming work of God can’t be reduced to a defined set of facts that can be learned and understood and taught fully. To attempt to do so is to try and destroy the mystery, but God, who by nature is infinite and impossible for us to fully grasp, can’t be demystified.

This is why all attempts to eliminate the mysterious nature of what our Lord has done create problems. They’re attempts to make the infinite, finite. To make the Creator so small the creature can fully grasp Him. To reduce the Divine to the level of the mortal. And in the process, nearly everything is lost. Not only the mystery, but also the Divinity. And since our Gospel text for today does such a marvelous job revealing the Divine mystery, and the mysterious Divinity, let’s just dive in and enjoy the ride.

To begin with, we see that Jesus isn’t as interested in having people be interested in him as the mission industrial complex would like us to believe. When some God-fearing Greeks come looking for Him, rather than going to talk to them, Jesus simply starts talking to whoever happens to be around. “The hour has come in order that the Son of Man would be glorified.” As careful reading of John’s Gospel account will show, the hour that’s rapidly approaching, the hour that Jesus is speaking of here, is the hour of His crucifixion and death. And so this single sentence reveals the mystery that the Son of Man will be glorified through crucifixion, that most shameful of deaths. The Greeks will see Him soon enough. In His time. In His way. And that time is not yet.

The mysteries continue as the very Son of God says, “Now is my soul troubled.” And not just a little troubled either. Rather, He is so troubled that He would be praying, “Father, save me from this hour” if He didn’t know that the upcoming crucifixion was the very purpose for which He came to this hour. And so the words of Jesus reveal the mystery that the sin of man is so great that He who is God in the flesh is troubled by the idea of bearing it, but became incarnate so He could bear it anyway.

We continue, “[Jesus said] ‘Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’” Perhaps “higher criticism” started closer to 2,000 years ago rather than 200 years ago, but how is the Gospel to be spread when God Himself can audibly speak from the heavens and have not one person in a whole crowd of people understand that He spoke at all? It’s a mystery, that the voice of God thundering from heaven could ever create less faith than the voice of a mere man speaking from the pulpit, but that’s how God operates sometimes.

The mysteries continue as Jesus tells the people to “walk while [they] have the light” and to “believe in the light”—but then He, the Light of the world “departed and hid himself from them.” We hear as well that, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled.” In other words, the God who tells people to “walk while [they] have the light.” To “believe in the light.” He will hide that light from them. People who see bona fide miracles won’t believe in order to fulfill the prophetic word. How? How can all of this be true at the same time? It’s a mystery. God never tells us how all of this can be true at once, just that it is.

But lest we make the mistake of thinking that the God who “hides Himself” (Isaiah 45:15) does these things because He doesn’t actually want to save everyone, we also have these words. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will drag all people to myself.” Not draw, the way English translations so timidly phrase it. Drag. Force is being exerted because there’s a resistance that must be overcome.

The God who “hides Himself.” Who, when troubled by the prospect of carrying the sin of the world, goes to the cross to bear that sin anyway. Who, though immortal, glorifies Himself by dying a humiliating death on the cross. He it is who on that cross “drag[s] all people to [himself].” Gently, perhaps, for many. But with irresistible force. And so all people are dragged to the foot of the cross. Many, kicking and screaming, leaving furrowed and broken ground in their wake to the bitter end will at long last be given what they most want. An eternity as far removed from the God who dragged them to the foot of the cross as possible.

A few, however, will be mysteriously overcome, and will cease the struggle. You too will be dragged, not kicking and screaming any longer, but puzzled and confused, to the foot of the cross. Wondering, “why me?” And there at the foot of the cross you will see the arms of the crucified Savior spread wide to embrace you. The blood of the New Testament will be sprinkled on you as it drips from His hands and His feet. The body broken and the blood that flowed from His side will be given to you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of all of your sins.

And as you’re cleansed by the blood of the crucified and risen Lamb, the puzzled question of “why me?” will fade. Because you’ll know that His death was for you. You’ll know that your sins are laid on Him and not on you. The “why” of it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it’s true. And you will be enfolded into the eternal mystery of the God who loves and saves even sinners. And you will be His. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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