Sermon in a nutshell: Matthew 27:45-54
Today is the second Sunday of Lent. We are examining the “Way of the Cross” during this Lenten season. What are the ways of the Cross? Last Sunday, we read the Bible and meditated on the ways that Jesus handled the insults and mockeries. Because (1) Jesus understood the nature of human wickedness and weakness and (2) knew who He was and what He was sent for, Jesus could endure all the insults and still bless those who persecuted and ridiculed Him. So, if we understand the ways of the world and realize our identity and our calling we can also follow the steps of our Lord, the Way of the Cross.
This week, we want to understand the simple truth that “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Jesus and for the Gospel will save it.” In the Bible, Jesus looked like a loser at first. Darkness came over him for three hours. Then he cried out, saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
This cry is from Psalm 22:1. Interestingly enough the psalm has a tune, “The Doe of the Morning.” What does a doe do in the morning? It comes out to lick the morning dew on the leaves and grass. It comes out to greet the grace of God! Like the Israelites who ate Manna in the wilderness every morning, a doe tastes God’s grace every morning. That is what the tune is saying. But, the Psalm continues, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, I find no rest.”
This Psalm has some expressions that sound as if they are describing the suffering of our Lord, Jesus. For example:
“All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. ‘He trusts in the Lord,’ they say, ‘let the Lord rescue him. Let the Lord deliver him, since He delights in him.’” (vv.7-8)
“They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”(vv.17-18)
However, this Psalm ends with praise and hope. From verse 22 on, King David strongly praises God and declares that the name of the Lord should be praised all over the world! It ends like this: “They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn -‘ He has done it!’ ” (v.31)
If you know Psalm 22, when you hear the cry of Jesus on the Cross, you know that it is not the end of the world! You would rather expect the great ending of the Psalm when everybody worships God and even unborn people will learn that God has done it!
Our passage for today also displays the powerful actions of God that the Jewish people and the pagan (Roman) elite (centurion) witnessed to. First, the curtain between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place was torn down. Now the division between the high priest and priests, the division between the holy and the secular are gone! Then the graves of the saints were opened. The power of death was shattered. The gap between death and life was bridged. When Jesus died on the Cross, a new world started and a new life was given to everybody who accepted Jesus as the Lord! The vision that David had in Psalm 22 was actually realized there and then.
Jesus was not John the Baptist who urged people to repent and live upright lives. Jesus was not Elijah or one of the prophets who showed the power of God’s judgment. Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus did not pay attention to human concerns, reformation and revolution. Jesus had the concerns of God in mind: salvation of all humanity. For that the Son of God had to die!
This is the Way of Cross, the Holy Way. It is much more serious than justice or righteousness. Morally straight behavior and legal justice are our human ideal. However, God died for us to live eternally! Our reformation and moral actions are just the shadow of it. Still, even shadows are significant because the shadows are cast from the Holy Cross. Praise God!
• When have you experienced sacrifice in your life? Who made the sacrifice and who got the benefit?
• What is your cross that you have to carry to save others? Who are these “others” in your life?