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Lindemann on Lent V (Judica)

by revalkorn ~ April 4th, 2011

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, JUDICA

This Sunday is also called Dominica passionis, the Lord’s Day of the Passion. Another name was Dominica atra, because from this day the altars were draped in black. The Propers revolve around the thought of our High Priest bringing about the atonement, strictly speaking, the covering of our sins.

The Introit. “Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation. Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! For Thou art the God of my strength. Oh, send out Thy light and Thy truth! Let them lead me, let them bring me unto Thy holy hill.”

The Patient One, whom we see and hear in this day’s Holy Gospel, is in Gethsemane, pleading for a judicial decision between Him and the unholy Jewish people and the wicked, deceitful Judas. He commits Himself to Him who judges righteously. The Church makes this prayer her own. “Vindicate me, defend my cause against an ungodly people.” From our Lord’s lips the words “ungodly nation” were vividly real, for in the Holy Gospel we learn that the hatred had become national. “Let them bring me to Thy holy hill.” The first holy hill is Golgotha with its Cross, the second is the heavenly Jerusalem. “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? . . . He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:3,4; see also Rev. 7:13-17).

The Collect. “We beseech Thee, Almighty God, mercifully look upon Thy people that by Thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore both in body and soul.”

Some have found this prayer inadequate, and in 1689 a revision was suggested that made special reference to Christ as our High Priest. Yet, if we read the Collect quietly and slowly, and ponder it, we shall find it simple but beautiful and complete. We whom St. Paul addresses in the Epistle and who hear God’s words as the Holy Gospel says, humbly beseech God, directly and unhesitatingly, to look upon us, His people. We are not “an ungodly nation” of which the Introit speaks, but we are “Thy people,” described in the Holy Gospel as “of God.” The Jewish people were the people of God in virtue of their annual atonement, we in virtue of Christ’s atonement. We may therefore pray as such for the perfect government of God.

The Epistle (Heb. 9:11-15) shows the reality of what the ancient Mosaic ceremonies only typified. Speaking of our Lord’s high-priestly office, it presents Him as both Priest and Victim. The process of the Atonement was sacrifice, offering of Christ’s blood; the purpose was that He should secure an eternal redemption for us; the promise was that He is the Mediator of the New Covenant so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.

The Gradual. “Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies! Teach me to do Thy will! He delivereth me from mine enemies; yea, Thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me; Thou hast delivered me from the violent man.”

The Tract. “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth; may Israel now say: Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.”

The plaintive words of the suffering Lord lead us into the Passion. The Tract is from Psalm 129, whose third verse reads: “The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows.”

The Proper Sentence. “Christ hath humbled Himself and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

The Gospel (St. John 8:46-59). The Introit and the Holy Gospel bring before us the Pure and Holy and Patient One in His sufferings and in His rejection. We look into the abyss of His enemies’ wickedness, yet the light of Easter shines through: “Abraham rejoiced that he was to see My day; he saw it and was glad.” Our Lord’s Passion was not confined to a few hours and days but extended through His entire ministry. “He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not” (John 1:11). Note the Patient One’s calm questions and statements, His quiet and all-revealing answer: “Before Abraham was, I am.” It was the name revealed to Moses at the burning bush. To the Jews this revelation of our Lord’s deity was blasphemy. Their whole attitude shows what He meant when quietly He said: “He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

The Proper Preface. “Who on the tree of the cross didst give salvation unto mankind that, whence death arose, thence life also might rise again; and that he who by a tree once overcame likewise by a tree be overcome, through Christ, our Lord; through whom,” etc.

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE EPISTLE

The teachings of the Jewish Day of Atonement are most fittingly appointed for our Christian Atonement Sunday. We are to learn that in every possible way the fulfillment surpasses the type by which it was prefigured.

Our Atonement

A. A Greater High Priest. Our High Priest is greater than the high priest of the Jews in three respects: (1) He confers richer blessings. “The good things that have come,” or “good things to come,” the very blessings that were yet to come to the Jews. Jewish promises are Christian realities, the Jews’ hopes our certainties, their future our present. (2) He passed through a better tabernacle. On the Day of Atonement the Jewish high priest passed from the Holy Place (tabernacle) into the chamber of God’s presence. At our Savior’s death He passed through the tabernacle of His body into the presence of God, beyond the veil of flesh. At Christ’s ascension He passed through the tabernacle of the heavens to plead His sacrifice in the inner court beyond the veil of things visible. (Either interpretation may serve, but perhaps the latter is to be preferred.) (3) He completed His atoning work. “He entered once for all,” the Jewish priest once every year. The Jewish Atonement Day was annual, ours eternal, and eternally perfect, needing and allowing no repetition.

B. A More Perfect Sacrifice. The Jewish high priest offered a life lower than his own. Christ’s was the true sacrifice, for it was the sacrifice of self, a will obedient unto death, “and by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). The essence of sacrifice is not death, but a will obedient unto death, the uttermost test. If the lower sacrifice could take away ceremonial uncleanness, how much more shall be done by Christ’s sacrifice, offered in perfect unity with the Spirit of God? In union with such a willing sacrifice we can rise from dead works to the living personal service of a personal God.

C. A Better Covenant. The Jewish Day of Atonement was the cornerstone of the Jewish covenant, for by it their state of grace was annually renewed to the people of God. So Christ’s atonement was the bringing in of a better covenant, and the pledge of our inheritance in the kingdoms of grace and of glory. So we are baptized into the covenant procured by Christ’s death and are “baptized into His death.” Holy Baptism is, therefore, only the entrance of the individual into the sphere of the covenant, while the covenant itself was made “once for all” by Christ’s atonement.

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

From the work of Christ in the atoning sacrifice we pass by a most instructive transition to the doctrine of the Person of Christ as declared by Himself and of His fitness to be our High Priest, who “offered Himself without blemish to God.” Our great High Priest possesses perfect fitness in the three great aspects of life as it concerns self, men, God.

A. Christ in Himself. Christ alone could challenge all men, even His enemies, to convict Him of sin and remain unanswered. His disciples declared: I Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5; 2 Cor. 5:21. But more striking still is our Lord’s own consciousness of perfection, when we remember that to Him we owe our deepest knowledge of human sinfulness. He condemned others but could not condemn Himself. He taught us to pray for pardon but did not join in the prayer. Sin is more than the act and word; it is the attitude of the soul toward God and man. Sin dishonors God and lives for self rather than for others. Christ alone could say, “I honor My Father,” and “I seek not My own glory.” The perfect life was based on a perfect motive.

B. Christ in Relation to Men. To men Jesus, the Christ, claims to be the Source of a life that can conquer death. The attribute of life and the power to communicate life to others was the gift of God to Him and Him alone. In this He was above the greatest saints of old, who could deliver neither themselves nor others from death. By virtue of communion with Christ we enjoy a communion with God which death cannot touch.

C. Christ in Relation to God. Jesus, the Christ, claims in the text an altogether unique relation to God. (1) Sonship. He speaks of God as “My Father … of whom you say that He is your God.” Christ will not join with us in saying, “Our Father,” but will rather say, “My Father and your Father” (John 20:17); for His Sonship is not derived as ours but inherited, not of grace but of nature. He is the Son by right, we sons by adoption; He in Himself and we only in Him. (2) Intimacy. “I know Him. If I said, I do not know Him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know Him, and I keep His Word.” That Christ’s knowledge of the Father is full and complete is implied in the word “I know,” which is a different word from that translated, “You have not known Him,” the latter implying growth in knowledge. Christ knows God, men learn Him; we take by faith, Christ by sight. Even at the risk of giving still further offense, our Savior must speak out the fact of His unique and absolute knowledge. To deny this would be to deny the truth. (3) Something yet Higher. Abraham, the friend of God, saw the day of Christ and was glad, for Christ, the Light, shone before His day began on earth. His existence was not begun by birth nor measured by time, being an eternal present, knowing neither past nor future, like the life of Him who revealed Himself to Moses as die “I am.”

These, then, are the qualifications of our High Priest (Heb. 7:26): In Himself — “holy, blameless, unstained.” In respect to men — “separated from sinners.” In respect to God – “exalted above the heavens” in His unique Sonship, knowledge, and being.

THE HOLY COMMUNION

The Eucharist is a commemoration of our High Priest’s atoning sacrifice. We eat and drink in remembrance of Him and His death for our redemption. It is our Lord’s will that we are- thereby reminded to remember Him and His boundless love for us. We are to remember vividly that He gave His body and shed His blood for us. It is as though He would haunt us with the memory of His sacrifice for us. He seems to say: “Your thoughts of all else may grow cold, your remembrance of all else may grow dim, but I want the Cross to stay forever undimmed. He intended that we never stop talking, singing, praying, thinking about the Cross. St. Paul caught the idea: “As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” The Lord’s Supper was instituted not for the remembrance of our Lord’s birth or the sweet story of His earthly life or His Kingdom with all its aims and hopes and responsibilities and triumphs. No, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper lays bare and naked to our faith, and to the gaze of mankind, His death on the Cross for our redemption. Evidently our Lord felt that what His followers needed most was to live under the spell of the Cross. They were to eat and drink constantly in remembrance of Him as He gave His body and shed His blood. Sinful men were to be won back to God and to be held in closest communion with their God by the sight of the pierced hands and the open side of their High Priest. It is the Cross we need to remember, not the sword, not the crown. From the arms of the Cross comes the power to transform and control us. There we get cured of sin. There Christian character is acquired. We must meet our Lord on Golgotha if we are ever to know Him. Our Holy of Holies is where the Cross is lifted up.

“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 shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God!” Our High Priest has made us priests. We hear the heavenly choir sing: “Thou . . . hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God” (Rev. 5:10). The office of a priest is to sacrifice. As we, then, in the Holy Communion pro-claim our faith in our High Priest’s perfect offering, we declare that we consider ourselves priests. As priests of the Lord we present ourselves, soul and body, a living sacrifice to God. St. Paul saw this clearly : “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1). In the Kingdom of Priests all offer up themselves in unselfish service to God. We serve God best through our fellow men. Love is substituted for hate, service for gain, men lay down their lives for the brethren. The priests of God are convinced: “He died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”

May the Holy Sacrament speak to us this morning of the Kingdom of Priests. As we proclaim the Lord’s death for us, may we remember that by our eating and drinking we also declare: He died for me that I may die unto self, that I may offer to Him the living sacrifice of body and soul, that I may become a member of the Kingdom in which all are priests. As we again proclaim our Lord’s death by eating the Body, which was given for us, and drinking the Blood, which was shed for us, we celebrate with grateful hearts the miracle of the ages, that the eternal God came down to earth and died on the Cross for us. With angels and archangels and all the redeemed saints in heaven, we prostrate ourselves before the throne of the Lamb and sing: “Worthy art Thou . . . for Thou wast slain and by Thy blood didst ransom men for God . . . and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God.”

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