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Lent 6 – Saint Matthew’s Passion

by pastorjuhl ~ April 16th, 2011

I’m reading the entire Matthew Passion this year, so the sermon is brief and more of an exhortation than a sermon.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

The first thing we hear Jesus say as we begin the Passion Harmony during Lenten Vespers is You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified. This is also the first thing Jesus says in the Passion according to Saint Matthew. His Words are not insignificant. The death of Jesus Christ and the Passover go together. The reason that our heavenly Father mandated the Passover was so the Israelites might recall how they were delivered from bondage in Egypt. It was their feast of feasts.

The three word sentence Jesus speaks on the cross, It is finished, not only declares the work of salvation on our Savior’s part concluded. His sentence also brings to a conclusion the celebration of the Passover as the Jews knew it. No longer would they keep this feast of feasts. Jesus kept perfectly this feast for them. He is the Lamb of God. He is the First-Born from the Father, His only-begotten Son in Whom He is well pleased. As we will sing next week in Blessed Martin Luther’s Easter Hymn, See, His blood now marks our door; Faith points to it; death passes o’er, And Satan cannot harm us.

With the fulfillment of the Passover, Christ rests in the tomb to keep the perfect Sabbath for us. He rests in order that we might rest in His forgiving Word every Lord’s Day. He rests in order that we might be fed with living bread that comes down from heaven. His rest is a foreshadowing of our Sabbath rest in Him when we die, only to be raised from the dead, have body and soul reunited on the Last Day, and rest in the eternal Presence of God forever.

Today’s Passion Gospel should end with the phrase, “To be continued”. Guards watch over Noble Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, where the Savior rests. Jesus won’t rest there for long. The stone will be rolled away. Jesus will rise victorious over sin, death, and Satan. Over 500 people will be eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ. The continuation of the Passion Gospel is next Sunday, when death is swallowed up in victory.

Nevertheless, let there be no part-time Christians this week. There is much to savor in the Word of God later this week. We know well the story, but we’ll hear it again. It’s a story that needs to be told again and again, much like our family stories that are told over and over until they become a part of us. That’s the way it is with God’s family stories. We listen, we learn, and we savor them like a gourmet meal. We let the Word of Christ creep into our ears and roll around in the mind. We aspirate some air into them like one does with a fine wine, letting the layers of flavor play with our senses.

There’s always something new to pick up in Christ’s Passion and Resurrection accounts. Maybe it’s a word we’ve never heard before that has new meaning for us. Maybe it’s a verse that was glossed over before, but now cuts us to the quick. Whatever it might be, the Word will dwell in us richly once again this Holy Week. The Word will have its way with us, showing us what the cost of freedom from slavery to sin and death was for Jesus. The Word that became flesh and dwelled among us as a Child in Bethlehem grows up to die for the sins of the world. His Mother is there for both events, and we’ll be there with her. God willing, we’ll be here next week to rejoice in resurrection joy. After all, you can’t kill God. He will only come back to life, destroying death forever.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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