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||Wednesday, May 22, 2013
St John 11:45-57
'It Is Better for One to Die'
Judica, The Fifth Sunday in Lent | March 25th, 2007
Greetings from your brothers and sisters from Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, Colorado in the United States. My congregation is still sleep, they are eight hours behind us here. But in eight hours, if the Lord doesn't return, they will be gathered by the same Jesus who has gathered us, here, before His altar, that He might give us His gifts of life and salvation.
But the same Lord Jesus was having a bit of trouble in the Gospel text that we just heard: John, chapter 11. In the beginning of the chapter Jesus raised Lazarus of Bethel, His dear friend. And this is the tipping point. Jesus has been preforming all sorts of miracles, each a bit greater than the last, and along with this He is preaching, that He is the One sent from the Father, that He is the door and the Good Shepherd, and the Life, that He is Word, both God and Man who has come to set His people free and give them life; that He is the Messiah, the Promised One, the great Deliverer.
And the people are starting to believe Him and follow Him. But not everyone is excited about this. The Pharisees are very troubled with these developments. Why? First, Jesus is taking away their business. They were teachers, but the people are listening to Jesus instead. Second, they are worried that Jesus might incite a rebellion and bring down the wrath of the Romans.
I think that Serowe, Botswana is a little bit closer to Jerusalem that Aurora, Colorado is, but both are a bit far. And for all of us this story is a bit long ago. It's good to remember, then, that in Jesus' day Israel was occupied by the Roman army, governed by Roman rule. The Jewish people didn't like it at all, and there were all sorts of rebel groups. In fact, just 40 years after Jesus' death and resurrection there was a revolt which resulted in Jerusalem being destroyed and torn down without a stone left on top of another. The Pharisees are worried about this, as if Jesus is going to start a riot or revolt and invite the wrath and fury of the Romans.
This is why the Pharisees are plotting against Jesus, and this is what is behind the text. “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” [John 11:49-50] You see what Caiaphas is thinking, if we get rid of Jesus we can settle the people, restore peace, and get rid of any threat. One man could die, and all the people will be saved.
But look at the wickedness of the Pharisees, they begin plotting Jesus' death even though they've seen His miracles and heard His testimony, that they know that He is the Christ, and still they go to kill Him. In fact, knowingly they go to kill Him. But, and beloved, this is truly marvelous, the Lord uses the wicked and murdering mouth of Caiaphas to speak His truth, for, says St John, “He did not say this on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.” [John 11:51] In this way the Lord puts His wonderful Gospel before us this morning.
So we consider this proclamation of Caiaphas, and what it means for us. We are not troubled with Roman soldiers, at least not in Colorado, and I haven't seen any in our three days in Botswana. It's not the wrath of the Caesar that we are worried about, but another's wrath. For you know this, we are all born sinners, under the wrath of God. Hear how St Paul says it “Children of wrath.” “We were, by nature, children of wrath.” [Ephesians 2:3]
By our own corrupted nature, and more, by all the sin and wickedness that we have committed since, by all the unbelief and despair and doubt and lying and cheating and stealing and gossiping and coveting everything that belongs to our neighbor, by all this we have confirmed our death sentence, that we deserve to die, that we deserve God's temporal and eternal punishment. “The wages (that is, the paycheck, the earnings from the hard work, the thing that we have deserved), the wages of sin is death.” [Romans 6:23] Death is what God ought to give us and a death full of His wrath, His righteous anger against sin, and that is eternal death in hell.
This is our desperate situation. It's not the Roman's wrath, but worse: God's that threatens us. But listen to the prophecy of Caiaphas: “It is expedient that One man should die for the nation.” This One Man is your Jesus. In His death He takes upon Himself all of your sin and all of your wickedness and all of your suffering and all of your death and all of your hell. He suffers the wrath of God in your place, He takes it, and gives you instead His love and mercy and grace.
There was a time a few years ago when my son, Andrew, was not two years old, and he was in the shower. He was standing in the water and, not knowing what he was doing, he leaned over and turn the cold water off....
This is what the Lord Jesus has done, He leaned over us, took the pain of what we deserved, and set us free. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Why? We know, so that He would not forsake us or hand us over to what we deserve, but forgive us and give us His righteousness. He is forsaken that we might have His sure promise, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Hebrews 13:4]
May the Holy Spirit grant us this comfort in the promise of Caiaphas: “It is expedient that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” May this be your comfort and peace, even to life everlasting. Amen.
And the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Lutheran Church of Serowe | Serowe, Botswana