In our text from Luke chapter 13, we have another young man, Jesus, tells His companions that certain death awaits Him in Jerusalem, and that His death will benefit everyone everywhere. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,” Jesus said, “and to give-up His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Jesus predicted (prophesied) His suffering and death many times. The Old Testament prophets spoke of His death, as well. From the first pages of Genesis to the last page of Revelation, the Scripture are all about Christ – His life, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and His return for judgment.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus identified Himself with the proclamation of the prophets and patriarchs. After His resurrection Jesus met-up with a couple of disciples on the road to Emmaus and, “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them the passages which referred to Himself in every part of the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27). The death of Jesus had been God’s plan all along. It was His death and resurrection that formed the very basis of God’s salvation.
And when Jesus spoke of His own death and resurrection, what do you imagine their reaction was? Surprise? Grief? Anger? Anguish? No, they actually had little or no response. It was almost as if they couldn’t get their minds around what Jesus was telling them.
The disciples still harbored false ideas about Christ and His Kingdom. They still believed that Jesus was there to drive-out the hated Romans and establish His own Kingdom, favorable to their earthly, material wants and needs. And since Jesus’ death did not fit into their scheme, they simply couldn’t understand what Jesus was talking about. Although this was at least the third time Jesus had spoken about His impending death with them, they simply refused to believe it.
Like the disciples, you and I harbor many preconceived ideas about Christ. And one day we will realize that rather than allowing God to remake and reform us, that we have actually made God in our image. We know God as we think He is, rather than how He actually is.
Years ago there was a popular television program ”Candid Camera.” One day the producers were on the streets trying to give-away various gifts to people who were just walking by. With few exceptions, they found it nearly impossible to give-away money, perfume, purses, billfolds, and flowers. They concluded that people are hesitant to accept gifts because we don’t want to feel obligated or indebted to anyone. And we bring those same feelings into church with us. It is extremely difficult for us to accept that God’s salvation and heaven are gifts. And that Jesus has already paid the price and covered the cost for you to have salvation and heaven. Jesus has made it possible for you and to enjoy these gifts of salvation and everlasting life forever.
Matthew chapter 20 tells us, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” And Hebrews chapter 9, “He offered Himself without blemish to God, a spiritual and eternal sacrifice, and His blood will cleanse our conscience from the deadness of our former ways.
Christ’s suffering and death was the centerpiece of God eternal salvation, but suffering and death were not a part of God’s original plan for us. We brought suffering and death upon ourselves, starting with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is not God’s plan that children should be in hospital beds, or that our bodies should be infected with diseases that cripple and destroy us. Suffering and death are from the devil, not from the hand of God. We may refer to death as “resting in peace,” or “a calm repose,”but the grim reaper in an unwelcome intrusion into God creation. In our text, Jesus set His face resolutely toward Jerusalem and the cross to defeat death, our final and greatest enemy.
But people still suffer; people still die. So what did Christ really accomplish? His resurrection proved that the grave will never ever have the final say for a Christian. The Scriptures assure us that the wages of sin is still death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Savior. High above all of the misery, pain, suffering, and death in this world there is a glorious hope – an eternity with God Himself, given to us by our Savior Jesus.
What does all of this mean to those suffering? To those with cancer or heart disease, or whose lives have been changed forever by accident or disease? To those whose lives will never be the same? When Christ was in the wilderness for 40 days, angels came to Him and gave Him strength. But we have even a greater hope than angels. Christ Himself has promised to with you in your hour of need. We have more than a hope, we have Almighty God by our side.
We have the experience of countless sufferers who have known the comfort and strength that God has brought to them. I myself know well that comfort and strength. Perhaps you do, as well.
The death and resurrection of Jesus brought God and His people back together once again. Our corrupted and sinful lives, our broken resolutions, and our tarnished ideals are no longer a barrier between us and God. Through Jesus, sinful people and Almighty God are united once again. As Lent relentlessly progresses toward the cross, let’s go with Jesus as He enters Jerusalem one final time. Let’s go with Him as He fulfills the words of the prophet, “They will flog Him and kill Him, and on the third day he will rise again.” Thanks be to God! Amen!