Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the Fifth Sunday in Lent, 4/3/2022. The service was not broadcast due to ongoing technical difficulties. The bulletin is available as a PDF: Lent5 Bulletin
The texts for the sermon were the day’s lessons. To read the Bible texts for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, click here.
All words that might describe the mood depicted in the readings for morning. And not without good reason.
The clouds have gathered, and the storm is approaching, as history races ever more intensely towards its glorious purpose.
Despite the veils, the cross is now in full view; as clear as when Abraham lifted his eyes to behold the dreaded Mount in the distance.
So, if Jesus sounds a bit on edge in today’s Gospel, it’s because He is. But it’s not due to His impending crucifixion, and it can’t be accounted for by stress. Jesus’ righteous anger comes from His holy zeal and anxiety for Israel. He tells them the truth, and they do not believe Him.
From the beginning, He has taught with obvious, divine authority. Every word He has spoken has been utterly consistent with Moses and the Prophets. No one can say anything against His teaching. So, they will blaspheme Him and hurl accusations at Him; but they will not hear Him; since that is the only way to protect themselves.
Looking for any reason to reject Christ, they appealed to Abraham, the great hero of the faith.
They’ve descended from Abraham, as Jesus also has; and He does not deny them this. But those descendants of Abraham will have no share in Abraham’s inheritance. Not because it is denied to them or capriciously refused to them; but because they themselves refuse it.
They have circumcision, and they have the Law; but they are not like their ancestor, Abraham, because they do not hear. That’s what makes them so different.
Abraham heard God’s voice. And because he heard, he also saw. Abraham saw Jesus’ day and rejoiced. He saw it in the near sacrifice of Isaac, who went forth as a lamb: uncomplaining and obedient. He saw it on the holy mountain, where the Temple would later be built. He saw it in God’s gracious providence: the ram draped in thorns. He saw it and was glad.
He was glad because, at the end of the day, he took Isaac home with him. I’m not saying that he was simply happy because he didn’t have to kill his son; though that is most certainly true. But it’s bigger than that. Abraham was glad because he went home with God’s promise walking alongside him.
For it was through Isaac that Abraham would become the father of many nations, and it was through Isaac’s line that Messiah would come. As Abraham walked down the mountain with his son, he was glad because he knew that he had a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
This is what has Jesus so upset. Abraham’s descendants ought to hear as he heard, believe as he believed, and receive the salvation that he received. But they will not.
They will pick up stones to throw at Jesus. And they will crucify Jesus. But they will not benefit from it. As Abraham sacrificed the ram caught in thorns, they will most certainly kill Jesus. But the difference is that they will also kill Isaac.
This is what I mean: by rejecting Christ, they cut themselves off from God’s promises. It would be as if Abraham sacrificed the ram, but then also killed his son, Isaac, even though there was no reason to do so. That would make nothing of the sacrifice that God provided. And it would mean that Abraham has no future, no Savior, and no hope.
To crucify Jesus in anger, and to not get any benefit from it; this makes them nothing like Abraham; and very much like their father, Satan, whose lies they have heard and believed. But when it comes to Jesus, they don’t hear; and so, they don’t see. Thus, Jesus hides Himself.
But He will not stay hidden. Next Sunday we will gather with Palms and Hosannas. We will gather with Jerusalem and herald our Lord, as we hear His passion.
But, it’s not a drama or a play. Neither is it a reenactment. For all we have in common with those who welcome Him and crucify Him, we know the end of the story, even now this morning.
It’s there in the letter to the Hebrews:
When Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. verses 11-14
Christ has entered heaven to present His sacrificed blood to the Father. He has freed you from Satan’s accusations. By grace you hear Him and see Him, know Him and love Him; thus, He has made you true descendants of Abraham, and children of God.
So, let the next two weeks be practice for the rest of your life. Hear Jesus. See Jesus.
Repent of your sins. Weep over them. But do not weep for Jesus any more than Abraham wept at having to sacrifice the ram.
Jesus does not only go to the cross obediently and uncomplaining, like Isaac. But for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross and despised its shame.
You are the joy that was set before Him. Embrace Him now, as the Joy set before you.