Sermon for November 20, 2022 Reign of Christ “Let Jesus do it All”
There are times, maybe many times when I wish that Jesus would just do it all. That the prophecy of Isaiah would actually come true in our day. You know the one; ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’. It is good that Jesus accepted this as part of his mission, his personal mission. He lived that mission during his life and wouldn’t it be great if he could continue to personally do it now?
That is not how Jesus saw things. Yes, he did heal and feed and lift the esteem of many, and he also called and enabled others to do the same. And invites us to do the same.
The challenge comes in the living into that mission, did he mean all the poor, all the captives, all the blind or oppressed? Or just those that look, sound and think like us? At any time, it is heart wrenching to think of Jesus being nailed to a cross and then the cross lifted into place for all to see the wretchedness of suffering. And yet even in those moments Jesus is thinking of us, of others. It is interesting to me that this first word is not a word to us; it is a word to God. Jesus still has much to tell us, much to pass on to us even with his dying breaths. But he uses this first word to intercede for us yet again. “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”
It is not an easy word to hear – or to overhear, in this case. It is not easy because knowledge is so important to us. “Know thyself,” said one of humanity’s greatest philosophers. We strive after knowledge. We live in an information age. We grow to the age of understanding. We confer degrees of knowledge upon one another. We pride ourselves on our intelligence quotient.
Yet when push comes to shove, when life bumps up against death, when meaning stands before us, salvation is offered to us, love reaches to embrace us, we need to be forgiven because we don’t know what we are doing. Or do we? We would be happy if Jesus just did all the work; feed the hungry, heal the lame, redeem the criminals, welcome the immigrant. But Jesus left that work for us and we have the luxury of choosing who we help. So with the knowledge of our blind spots…Jesus asks God to forgive us.
In the story of the prodigal son, Jesus tells us that the wanton behavior of the prodigal, the loose living, the slap against parental authority, the self-centered, self-seeking sinfulness is not really who we are. It is a madness of sorts, an unknowing. The turnabout phrase in the midst of the story is, “When he came to himself.” If he had only known from the beginning who he really was; if he knew his own soul and his own mind, then his life would have been different. If only he knew.
“Father forgive them, they don’t know.” Jesus came, some argue, to show us God. And in showing us God, he showed us ourselves. In other words, Jesus came so that we would know what we were doing. And yet as he died, he prayed to God to forgive us because we didn’t get it. We didn’t know.
He could have washed his hands of us at that moment. In an odd way, that is what the scoffers were asking for. Walk away from us, Jesus; show us your power by taking care of your own skin. That selfishness we know; we understand that. Because we live it every day. It is this sacrifice that we don’t know. It is this dying that we don’t understand. Give up on us and then we would know that you were right, that you did have the power, that you were who you said you were. But then it would have been too late. And we would have been lost.
Jesus didn’t give up on us. He began his dying by trying to help us live. “Father, forgive them.” From the cross, Jesus was trying to get us back or keep us in right relationship with God. Forgive them. Heal them. Hold them. Gather them up. Stitch them back together.
That was the function of this word from the cross, to stitch us back into relationship with God. Even though our actions seemed to say that we didn’t want to be there. Even though our words implied that we wanted nothing to do with God or with salvation or with hope for living. The thing is, we didn’t know what we were doing.
But God knows the plan. If Jesus had listened to the first criminal, there would have been no resurrection. Mary and Mary and Joanna would have found Jesus in the tomb, and prepared his body for permanent burial. End of story.
God loves us so much that Jesus came to earth to show us the nature of God and love. Even death by Roman Imperial decree could not silence God. That is the enduring message…love. And Jesus gave it all so that in our forgiven state we can do it all. Remember that you are named, redeemed and chosen and strategically and delightfully placed for your witness to the love of God.