There are a lot of Bible stories that are irrational. Take Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis chapter 22. We’ll hear that one, God willing, in a few weeks. God tested Abraham by telling him, Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you. Abraham does as he is told. Isaac wonders what’s going to happen. Abraham replies, God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.
The whole event is foolish and ridiculous to reason. The eye of faith opened by God, however, sees in it an example of what’s going to happen to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Our heavenly Father has not spared His beloved Son for our sake. What is more, Jesus is willing to be slaughtered on the altar of the cross for our sake. That’s what Jesus is getting at in today’s Gospel. See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.
How did His disciples react? They understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. Like Abraham’s servants then, the disciples didn’t have a clue what was going to happen. So it remains today. Jesus is a dark mystery for so many. He’s a man of charity and patience, yet He is willing to let Himself die at the hands of His own people. He loves all, yet at the same time speaks so harshly to some.
No wonder so many people want nothing to do with Jesus unless our Lord surrenders Himself to their terms. Those terms usually include reasonable, rational things like condemning those we don’t like while affirming those things we like. Those terms even include telling Jesus it’s not important that we visit His house, let alone rejoice in our baptism or receive His Supper. Just be there when I call on you in those bad times, Jesus. Otherwise cool out, have a drink by the pool, and I’ll fold my hands, bow my head, and close my eyes when I’m ready for You.
Let Jesus again today open your blind eyes so you are able to see what He does for you. Note that Jesus says we are going up to Jerusalem. He’s including you. The trip to Jerusalem does not mean that you’ll have a jasper throne and marble footstool to sit in alongside Him. Jesus going to Jerusalem does not include setting up a theocracy or showing the Roman Empire Who’s boss. Jesus is going to suffer and die for your sins. God’s own chosen people will hand Him over to the Gentiles to do their dirty work.
Yet the benefits of His death and resurrection will be for both the Jews and the Gentiles. Once Jesus opens the disciples’ eyes they see everything fall into place. Let Jesus open your eyes again today in order that you see everything fall into place. He knows what awaits Him there. He can see in His mind how everything will happen. He intended it to be that way for you and for them, too.
See how Jesus willingly suffers everything. He could have escaped it had He not set His face for Jerusalem. He could have heeded the words of those who stood there beneath His cross. He could have come down from the cross to show them He was Messiah. If He did so, then our redemption is forsaken. We remain forever in our sins with no hope for salvation. Jesus stays on the cross. Jesus gets flogged. Jesus wears a crown of thorns. Jesus carries His cross. Jesus remains silent before His accusers. Jesus does all these things for your sake.
What God had decided from eternity and predicted in the Old Testament through the prophets was completed in Jesus’ suffering. Jesus has authority to lay down His life, and has authority to take it up again. This charge He received from His Father. Peter, after having His eyes open by Jesus and being enlightened by the procession of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, says this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
Don’t get too upset as you see Jesus suffer for your sake. By nature you have the same fleshly minded heart that is hostile to God as those men who tortured Christ. It’s as if His Father allows everything including the kitchen sink to be thrown at His Son. All this He does for our transgressions, as Isaiah prophesied. Jesus was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.
You are bought at a price. Isaiah also prophesied, You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. Saint Paul confirms Isaiah’s words. God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Think of it. You are the righteousness of God because of Jesus Christ. That’s an eye-opening thing. Jesus becomes sin for you. You become Jesus’ righteousness in His becoming sin.
Lent begins again this Wednesday. Keep your eyes open as we walk through the Old Testament book of Job these Wednesdays in Lent. Hear again the familiar Scripture readings of Lent. Everything points toward the body on the cross, and the lack of a body in the tomb. Let Jesus open your eyes to see His great love for you that makes Him willing to do the Father’s will, to carry out the eternal counsel of the redemption of the sins of the world.