[Note:  This sermon was preached in the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Wednesday, March 20, 2013.  + Herbert Mueller]

31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:31-34).

People loved by God in Jesus!

After telling the parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector, blessing the children, and dealing with the man who asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus takes the 12 aside and starts the final journey: “See,” He says, “we are going up to Jerusalem, where I’ll be delivered up and killed.”

There are several issues we could engage in this, Jesus’ 3rd prediction of His passion:

  • We could emphasize the fact that His suffering will accomplish everything written in the prophets, from the stone the builders rejected becoming the head of the corner to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.  Something Luke does himself in chapter 24 of his Gospel.
  • We could explain how the cross and resurrection of Jesus is central to God’s plan of salvation, and how it was easy for Jesus to SAY, but quite another thing to go and do it – to die and to rise – which Jesus actually went and did!
  • We could focus on Jesus’ passive obedience as He laid down His life for us – note the passives – He WILL BE delivered over, He WILL BE mocked, and shamefully treated and spit upon.  After flogging Him, they will Kill Him, as He is obedient to the will of the Father, obedient even unto death, even the death of the cross.

But hearing the story again this time, though, I was quite taken by the fact that the disciples who first heard this understood NONE of these things. This word, this matter, was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

Perhaps this adds to the believeability of the Gospel. After all, if it were a made up story, you would think those who concocted it would make themselves look better than they did, for this is now the second time Luke tells us the 12 didn’t understand what Jesus was saying and were afraid to ask.

That’s what caught my eye this time…   They understood NONE of these things – it was hidden from them and they did not grasp what was said.

What about you?

What about me?

Do we grasp it? Do we live as though we understand none of this?

Well, of course not! We know the story! We’ve memorized the details. Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He was betrayed. He carried ALL our sins, took them all. He spoke from the cross, “Father, forgive them…” He is God in our flesh dying for us. And by His resurrection He promises to raise us as well.

We get that!

But do we? More than superficially?

Do we see that God in Jesus has only this one way of operating? That the way to the Kingdom, the way to life is ONLY by death and by resurrection? That this is God’s only game? That God is not in the business of just fixing you up a bit, putting some little finishing touches on the good stuff you are already doing to make it a bit more acceptable? No, God’s aim in His Law is to KILL you, to drown your flesh, to lead you to see YOUR death, so that in His Gospel in Jesus He can raise you to life. “I kill and I make alive,” He says.

  • It happened when we were baptized, buried with Christ in His death and raised up by His resurrection.
  • It happens now when we are led to repent and to confess our sin, so that we can be raised to life by the forgiveness of sins.
  • It will happen, when we die, and our bodies are laid to rest with the promise that He will come back to change our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body even by the power that enables Him to subdue all things to Himself.

I’ve occasionally enjoyed a little game with people in Bible Class. I’ll ask – what do you have that is uniquely yours to give to Jesus? People bring all kinds of answers.  I bring Him my worship. I give Jesus my trust.  He wants my heart. I’ll give Him my love, my whole life. It’s all admirable.  But all that is stuff He gave you or by His Spirit has worked in you.

Then finally someone gets it. The only thing we have that is uniquely ours that Jesus didn’t give us is our death which comes from our brokenness, our sin.

But THAT is exactly what Jesus has come to take! Our death and our brokenness. That’s why He was going up to Jerusalem to be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, to be mocked and flogged and killed – to take YOUR death, my death, into Himself.

You see, death is the great equalizer. We each get one. Just one. But that is the ONE thing we have that Jesus can truly use, because His game, ultimately His ONLY game, is to raise the dead.

Of course, if you don’t think you’re dying, you don’t need Jesus. But when you see your brokenness, when you see death coming, ONLY Jesus can help. Because only Jesus rose from the dead. And His Church today is His sign of the resurrection, confessing, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”

The disciples didn’t get it till Jesus, in the upper room on Easter evening, opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, that repentance and forgiveness of sins be preached in His name to all nations, because Jesus is alive, and He has come to raise the dead – even YOU.

Only with that confidence in Jesus’ death and resurrection will you be able to stand by the grave-side to speak the promises of God. Oh, it will be relatively easy sometimes, like when it’s the 85-year-old grandma who loved Jesus. It’ll be quite another when it’s the 2 day old baby the parents desperately wanted, or worse yet, a 31-year-old father of two little kids who died in a senseless accident.

Only the real resurrection of Jesus will do – when they won’t care what you think, but will be desperate to hear what God has to say.

And that’s also the thing that enables you and me to deal with our own mortality.

Knowing that you, too, are a dying sinner, but forgiven and raised to life in Jesus will be the only strength that will sustain you in the face of unrelenting evil, in the times of profound disappointment, in the midst of often unbearable suffering, and when you walk into the presence of death itself.

May the Spirit of God hold each of you in the confidence that Jesus has taken YOUR death and YOUR brokenness into Himself, and enable you to grasp that, because He rose, He will raise also YOU!

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.