Swept Into the Story

Text: Luke 22:1—23:56
Date: Passion/Palm Sunday + 3/28/10
Lutheran Church of the Incarnate Word, Rochester Hills, MI

On this Sunday, the beginning of the Great and Holy Week of the Christian calendar, Holy Church proclaims the entire account of our Lord’s Passion and death from the Last Supper, the temptations of Jesus and the disciples, the four trials of Jesus and the final hours of cross and tomb. The long, extended Gospel reading commands the attention of both hearer and preacher. It is hoped that the inspired Word heard directly, on its own, without comment or commentary will move heart and mind ultimately to true repentance and saving faith. For this is the goal, the culmination and purpose of the coming of Jesus into this world, namely, His vicarious, sacrificial, atoning death—“vicarious” meaning He died the death that should be ours; “sacrificial” meaning only His perfect holiness qualified Him to be acceptable to God; “atoning” meaning His death alone is the only adequate payment for the sin of the world, your sin and mine. It is called the Passion of our Lord since this is what it means when the Bible says, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son” (Jn. 3:16). He gave His son to be incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He gave His son to preach and teach and heal all manner of sickness and malady. He gave His only son to suffer all, even death, in order to free all men from the curse and slavery of sin and death.

The Gospel is no minor cosmetic fix-up for life’s little frustrations, no extra enhancement of life given as optional equipment, and no mere religious fantasy that can safely be ignored. That Jesus came and died and rose again is the only answer to the question of all suffering, sin and death. Since all suffer, all sin and all die, therefore, the Gospel of Jesus is for all. To say that Jesus died for your sin is to say that it is your sin that nailed Him to the cross. All are personally involved in this story, personally liable, personally invited, personally loved.

That’s why we come here, not only to hear the story but to be told personally, “your sins are forgiven,” to receive forgiveness, life and salvation on the basis of God’s clear, objective word of promise—“upon this, your confession, I by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the word…forgive you all your sins.” We need this forgiveness every day of our lives as sin still tries to drag us down. But sin is already the defeated enemy by Christ’s mighty death and resurrection. Now all who belong to Him by baptism into His death, by faith in His Word, are raised to new life even as we bear in our bodies the marks of death. We live by faith in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

Therefore let us walk through these sacred days of this Great and Holy Week, through the Upper Room, the Mount of Olives, before Church and State to the final hours of the cross and tomb. Let us walk in true repentance and faith that we may also walk with lilting step of joy in the bright light of the resurrection and Easter joy.