Lent #5 2004
Quentin Roosevelt left Harvard during his sophomore year to serve his country in World War I. In 1918 Quentin, the son of Teddy Roosevelt, was shot out of the sky in one of aerial combats early dog fights.
German propagandists took photos of his battered, broken body while it was still in the wreckage. Then, hoping to ruin American morale, they sent a photo of the picture to his mother Edith Roosevelt. Instead of letting herself be broken and intimidated by the picture, she insisted that it be displayed over the mantel, as a symbol of her family's pride in the sacrifice and service of her son for such a noble cause.
Mrs. Roosevelt pushed aside her grief and expressed her undying love for her son- by celebrating his bravery and refusing to abandon the cause for which he died.
The Apostle Paul expressed his feelings for Jesus in a similar way when he concluded his letter to the churches of Galatia with these words, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." What is it about a cruel method of executing felons that Christians find so compelling?
The Christian historian Luke introduces us to the hour immediately before the tortuous death of Jesus.
Read Luke 22:39-46.
Something is going on here that we can not see with our eyes. Invisible worlds are in conflict. If we could watch from a safe distance knowing what we know now- we would not mistake this scene for a cheap made for TV murder mystery. This is a passage recording an event that brings us to the edge of something cosmically significant and eternally important. There is a struggle, with the soul of the world in balance, and the battlefield is the heart of Jesus.
If you don't know it yet, know it now: you and I are key players in this drama. We will never be objective or disinterested watchers. It is because of you and me that Jesus has entered this battle to the death. At some phase in eternity you (from the day of your conception to the day of your death) you were on Jesus mind. And that experience of you in eternity in the mind of God is what has brought Jesus to this point in time. You are involved in this
Luke tells us Jesus was on His knees. The invisible burden was heavy. Normally, Jesus, like all his peers, prayed standing up with his head lifted, but I have -with you- for this moment, put Jesus on His Knees. I did that to Him! Sin is a heavy load to bear and the Psalmist says, "Everyone has turned away...there is no one who does good, not even one." And so now the one real exception to this rule is on His knees.
Luke tells us Jesus' involvement in this struggle was so intense His sweat and blood mingled and fell to the ground in great red splashes. I did that to Jesus. You did, too! The wise man asked a rhetorical question, "Who can say, 'I have kept my way pure: I am clean and without sin?'" (Proverbs 20:9).
Some folks don't think sin is that big a deal. They believe that if God cares about such a thing as moral failure then certainly He grades on a very liberal curve. This scene disputes that theory. The only reason Jesus is here sweating drops of blood is because of the horror of our sin.
Who would have dared to suggest that The Father God and His Son would ever enter into a tension of different wishes? Yet here is Jesus praying, "Father if you are willing, take this..." this is not my wish.
I did this to Jesus, and so did you! The prophet said, "We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way." This defines the essence of sin- choosing to do life my way instead of God's. It describes a whole rang of attitudes and behaviors. And this is what Jesus came to remedy. It is so universally horrifying and awful that the same prophet said, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags."
Erasing a stain that ugly is impossible unless God does it. And even for God it is a detestable project. It cost God nothing, so far as we can tell, to create the wonders of the universe out of nothing. He spoke the stars into existence, the planets, life without even taxing His reserves; He didn't even break a sweat! But to remedy the cancerous and deadly consequences of sin, it cost Him His own broken body and spilled blood. We can see Jesus was man enough to retch at the prospect!
I did that to Him, you did that to Him. The suffering of Jesus is described by two graphic words in this passage. The first is cup. Jesus prayed "take this cup from me." Whatever it means, it is something bitter and galling. Jeremiah spoke of "the cup filled with the wine of God's wrath." John in the last book of the Bible warns, "If anyone worships the beast...he too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of His wrath."
This is the cup that I caused Jesus to drain to the dregs. The Bible says, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." If this is true, you also caused Jesus to drink this bitter cup.
The second word describing Jesus' suffering is the word anguish. In verse 44 the passage reads, "and being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly." I guess I am prejudice, but I believe that Jesus was not only the wisest man who ever walked this earth, but also the bravest. When Paul came to the end of his life he wrote, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." These words don't reflect much anguish- Paul was brave, but not like Jesus. In fact, many people both Christians and non Christians have gone to their death with a brave face. But I caused Jesus great anguish, and you did too! The most courageous man who ever lived, was for a moment brought to His knees in anguish over the horror of my sin and yours. It was not the death on a cross that brought Jesus to the ground in weakness. It is what that death meant: carrying the weight of the whole world's sin. My sin did that to Jesus- yours did too.
But the reason you and I are here today is not because of what we have done- it is because of what Jesus has done.
This bitter cup and painful anguish, He did that for you and me. The Bible says, "Christ (voluntarily) died for sins, once for all, the righteous (one) for the unrighteous (many), to bring you to God" (I Peter 3:18). He did that for me...and for you!
As Jesus was praying and fighting His way through this battle field, He came out on the other side of the conflict saying, "Not my will but Yours be done." He surrendered to His Father's will and ended the tension by agreeing with the Father.
There is more than one way to surrender. You can surrender to inevitable defeat..."I have no hope and no fight left, you win," or you can surrender to love. Jesus surrendered to the will of His Father, but also to the wisdom and love of His Father.
And in doing that, He volunteered to bear our sin. The Bible says,"Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:2). He did that for you and for me. I thoughtlessly and selfishly did that to Him, but He full of love, and without regard for Himself, did that for you and me.
The suffering of Jesus shows us the shape and size of our moral corruption. That was God's flesh and blood dying for us! The suffering of Jesus shows us the required magnitude and majesty of our remedy. That was God's flesh and blood broken and spilled FOR US! No other remedy would work!
In order for this generous offer to be effective, you and I must accept it. That means we must agree with Jesus that our sins did that to Him and trust His love to come work in us to make us different people. That is what you and I must do: confess our sin is what put Jesus on the cross; turn away from sin; trust Jesus' broken body and poured out blood to be our healing remedy; and go from here boasting only in Jesus and His merit.
Our culture has never heard the awful noise of a world wide death rattle like we are hearing today. The arts, medicine, ethics and law, education, politics, and science all are gasping to death from a polluted, terminally corrupt atmosphere. If there is to be any help two things must happen. First, we must stop pretending that there is no such thing as sin and evil. We must stop the childish notion that there is only differences of opinion and values, but no real universal moral standards! The idea that evil is an outgrown concept, this notion is a demonic accomplishment that must be reversed if there is to be any hope for our world.
Second, the world must begin to see the life of Jesus in us. If His great sacrifice does little to change us, why should the world be attracted to the suffering, but life-giving work of Jesus? You and I must become more like Jesus everyday if the world will finally find Jesus appealing.