Quinquagesima Sermon, 2021

Jesus predicts His death and resurrection three times.

In Luke chapter nine, Saint Peter confesses that Jesus is “the Christ of God” (Luke 9:20).

Then—“[Jesus] strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day’” (Luke 9:21-22).

This is followed, immediately, by Jesus saying to them all, “Take up your cross daily and follow me” (cf. Luke 9:23).

But they don’t hear Him—they don’t understand.

Later in chapter nine, Jesus “rebuked [an] unclean spirit, healed [a] child, and gave him back to his father” (Luke 9:42).

“And they were all amazed at the majesty of God. But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples, ‘Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.’ But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying” (Luke 9:43-45).

Again, they fail to hear Jesus—to understand Him.

We’re told, in fact, that “it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it” (Luke 9:45).

They’re afraid to ask Him about what He’s said, and then, of all things—they argue about who among them is greatest.

And today, in Luke chapter eighteen, Jesus predicts His death and resurrection again, saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again” (Luke 18:31-33).

“But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken” (Luke 18:34).

This is where we come in.

The thought and concept of death is, for many, either foolish or offensive.

To die well…to die a good death…or to sleep expecting to wake up, as the New Testament frames it, these should be how we speak—but they’re not.

Rather—it’s foolish, some say, to waste time talking about death because—what good can come of it?

And—it’s offensive, some say, to assert that death will occur at all, especially when someone you love is dealing with a bad diagnosis.

On the one hand, why waste your time?

And on the other, why make it worse?

Perhaps you think it better to be ignorant of a thing with unrealistic expectations than knowledgeable and have to deal with reality.

It won’t get us—if we don’t talk about it.

It’s not real—if we don’t say it out loud.

I recently read the account of a woman who is no longer Christian. When her husband died she was told by members of her religion that he must have lacked faith or he wouldn’t have died.

He must have committed some terrible sin or he wouldn’t have suffered as he did.

There are people who claim Christianity who believe that, and it is not true.

I recently watched an interview with an atheist who thought he was really smart. He said that if God is all-powerful but does nothing about evil in the world, then He is either not loving or not all-powerful and would therefore be unworthy of worship.

That sounds so smart, but he fell victim to one of the classic blunders—never go in against God when death is on the line—or think that death and suffering is without point or purpose.

Death is, to many, either foolish or offensive.

“Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, [a scandalous offense,] and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God” (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24).

In and to a world obsessed with death and dying but oblivious to what kills and makes alive, we preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

We, Christians, know better than any other that through the suffering and death of One there is salvation for all.

We, Christians, know better than any other that through the daily taking up of our cross, following Jesus, we “partake of Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:13).

That’s how St. Peter writes it.

And—“If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14).

This is a hard saying, and we’re not alone in our befuddlement.

When Jesus predicts His death and resurrection, “[the disciples] understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken” (Luke 18:34).

This is where we come in.

Death concerns us, because we know it’s coming.

Death frightens us, because we know we can’t beat it.

Death humbles all men, because it can find any man at any time.

It’s foolish and offensive to talk about it.

But we preach Christ crucified.

Jesus said, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. [But] on the third day He will rise again” (Luke 18:31-33).

For the disciples and for us, as proof of the power and love of God, He restored the sight of the blind man.

“Hearing the multitude passing by, he asked what it meant. So they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he cried out, saying, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (Luke 18:36-39).

And here we see the good that can come of suffering, the good that can come of blindness even. That man had faith greater than all twelve of the disciples.

He persisted in his prayer and was unfazed by the masses.

Jesus commanded him to be brought to Him and said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you” (Luke 18:42).

Jesus foretold His death and resurrection three times, which was a fine thing to do but hidden from them all.

But then He speaks blind eyes open.

“And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God” (Luke 18:43), because He just proved He can do all the things He promises.

And so, for the disciples and for us, as proof of the power and love of God, He died in the place of sinners, forgiving the sin, and was raised on the third day.

All of what God promises is true.

You can die a good death and die well.

That is, you can live to the Lord, fearing neither what is or is to come.

Well and faithfully, you can suffer for doing good and bear the cross God gives you.

You can thank God that He counts you worthy to partake of Christ’s sufferings. Blessed are you.

“If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:16).

To my shame, I heard recently the story of some Lutherans in Africa—a place, to be sure, we would all at first look down on.

These Lutherans happen to be a four hour drive away from militant Muslims who seek to kill Christians and steal their children.

What we see on the nightly news—or really, what we don’t see—is, for them, real life and an every day affair.

Nevertheless, knowing that there are those close by who desire their death and the death of all Christians, they not only go to church every Sunday—they bring their kids to Sunday School for two hours before the service begins.

Too much breakfast or fifteen minutes less sleep than normal might be enough of a temptation for us to skip Sunday School and even church all together.

To our shame we should hear that there are Lutherans who live under such a daily burden and yet glorify God with exceeding joy, giving Him praise.

Jesus foretells His death and resurrection—He restores sight to the blind—so that you can suffer all, even death, in faith that trusts that God has suffered all, even death, that you would be saved, body and soul, from sin and satan, death and hell, and be raised to life eternal.

And all the people when they saw it—when they heard it—gave praise to God.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Quinquagesima, 2021
Luke 18:31-43
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

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