Friday, March 13, 2020

Lenten Midweek II

Lenten Midweek II: “Eyes on Jesus: Sleepy Eyes”[1] 
March 11, 2020 
Text: Mark 13:32-37, 14:32-42 
Could you not watch one hour?” (Mark 14:37; ESV).  No, you can’t.  It’s not that you haven’t tried.  God knows you’ve tried.  But your eyes are heavy.  “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (v. 38).  You’re no better than Peter, James, and John.  Peter, who boasted that, though they all fall away, he would never deny Jesus (Mark 14:29).  In fact, he would go to the death with Jesus if that’s what it takes (v. 31).  James and John, who boasted that they could indeed drink the cup Jesus would drink and be baptized with the Baptism with which He is baptized, and so, yes, Jesus, we’d like to sit, one at your right, and the other at your left, when you come into your Kingdom (Mark 10:35 ff.).  What has become of these boasters?  When Jesus needs them most, when His soul is sorrowful even unto death, as He is praying that, if it be the Father’s will, the cup be removed from Him… you know, the cup James and John are certain they can drink… as Jesus has asked His dearest friends to watch with Him, and pray, in this His bitter hour… They are asleep!  Their eyes were heavy.  One little hour was too much for Peter, James, and John.
            And what of you?  It would be easy to boast.  Here you are in Church on a Wednesday night.  Extra credit, surely.  You serve the congregation, say your prayers, give an offering, and all of that is wonderful, to be sure.  But don’t make it a cause to boast.  This doesn’t mean you can drink the cup.  When you imagine the trials of the martyrs, those who suffered and died for the Name of Jesus, you have enough humility to know you should say, “I’m not sure I know what I’d do in that moment of persecution, but I pray God for the strength to confess Him and take my death with courage and faith.”  Perhaps you’ve learned a thing or two from the mistakes of our boastful Apostles.  You’ve taken to heart the truth of our Lord’s Words: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  You want to confess.  You want to stay awake.  You want to be faithful to the Lord.  But there are so many other voices vying for your time and attention.  Your mind wanders.  Your eyes get heavy.  Why does Church have to go so long?  Why do we have to meet so often?  Is Satan really such a threat?  Are my sins really that bad?  Yes, you’ve had such thoughts.  You don’t want them, but they come anyway.  And sometimes, when you’re weak, when you’re tired, you entertain them.  You think them.  You’re asleep.  Repent. 
            Even Jesus, the Son of God, had to pray for strength to be faithful in the hour of trial, to do the Father’s will, to drink the cup.  If that is true of Jesus, how true it is for you and me.  Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation, Jesus tells us.  But as time progresses, we are lulled into a false sense of security.  We become complacent, apathetic.  Of course, I’ll do the Father’s will when the time comes.  But for now, I’ll just rest my eyes a little, let down my guard, listen a minute to the soothing voices of the world.  What could it hurt?  Surely God would not begrudge me this moment of rest.  Weak.  Your flesh is so weak.  Wake up!  Pray!  Satan never rests. 
            Thank God, the Almighty does not slumber or sleep (Ps. 121).  He keeps Israel, keeps the Church, keeps you under His watchful eye, under the shadow of His wings.  He helps you.  He delivers you.  He will not let your foot be moved.  He gives His angels charge over you, to guard you in all your ways.  He, Himself defends you and protects you.  He drives away the demons and fends off the crafts and assaults of the devil.  He defends you against all danger and guards and protects you from all evil.  He overcomes your enemies, so that you are kept in the hour of temptation.  He rescues you from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally when your last hour comes, graciously takes you from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.  This is His good and gracious will, and it is done on earth as it is in heaven. 
            And why does He do it?  Not because you, and Peter, James, and John, are so loyal.  But because He is so good.  You, and James and John, should drink the cup of Jesus.  It is the foaming cup of God’s wrath for sin.  But you do not.  Jesus drinks it, on the cross.  The whole thing.  Right down to the bitter dregs.  He swallows it all, so that you drink instead from the cup of blessing, the Lord’s blood, for your forgiveness. 
            You, and James and John, should be baptized with the Baptism with which Jesus is baptized.  It is the Baptism of blood as payment for sin.  But you are not baptized in your own blood.  You are baptized in Jesus’ blood, by water and the Word.  He suffers and bleeds.  You live eternally. 
            You, and Peter, should die the death of the cross for your sins.  But you do not.  Jesus suffers it and dies in your place, as your substitute, as the sacrifice of atonement for your sins. 
            And that is the one time God sleeps.  When He closes His eyes in death for you. 
            And then He wakes up.  On the third day.  He rises.  He lives.  And now what does He do?  He awakens you.  He wakes you up from spiritual death, awakens you to faith by His Word and Spirit.  He wakes you up to the will of the Father, to the need of your neighbor, to love and to joy.  Now you can drink whatever cup of suffering the Father bids you drink.  Now you can faithfully confess Him, even unto death if that is the Father’s will.  For He wakes you.  He wakes you up now by His Word and Spirit, and He’ll wake you up then, bodily, on that Day that knows no end, when He comes again in glory to give you life. 
            So “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14).  Or, as Paul puts it this evening in our first reading, “you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep” (Rom. 13:11).  For Jesus is coming.  Salvation, the great Day of Deliverance, is nearer to us now than when we first believed, nearer to us now than ever!  The night is far gone!  The Day is at hand!  Cast off the works of darkness.  Put on the armor of light.  Watch and pray.  Be on guard, and keep awake” (Mark 13:33).  How do you do that?  Live in the confidence of your Baptism.  Hear the Word at every opportunity.  Let nothing hinder you from the body and blood of Jesus in the Supper.  Temptation and evil are an ever-present danger.  But Christ keeps us.  And He is coming soon to give us the victory.
            We cannot watch one hour, but Jesus watches over us.  The Father watches over us.  The Spirit keeps us.  And so tonight, before you go to bed, commend your body, your soul, and all things into His hands.  Then go to sleep at once and in good cheer, knowing that soon, Christ, our risen Lord, will wake you.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace.”[2]  Amen.                  

[1] The theme and many of the ideas in this sermon are taken from Eyes on Jesus (St. Louis: Concordia, 2019).

[2] Lutheran Service Book, Compline (St. Louis: Concordia, 2006) p. 258.

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