“The Sadness, and the Persistence of Jesus”
“The Sadness and Persistence of Jesus”
What are the things that make you sad? I’ll bet we could assemble quite a list here. What comes to mind? Funerals and the deaths of loved ones or friends sure can. Certain songs can make us sad. Movies and TV shows can do that as well. As I guy, I know I should not admit this but there are some movies that have gotten me sniffly at the end: Brian’s Song, Courage Under Fire, United 93. Needless to say, I also had a strong emotional reaction to The Passion, which we saw as a church 15 years ago. My reaction to that movie was so strong that I have not watched it a second time. Not yet. I ask this question this morning because in the Gospel lesson today we see a time when Jesus was sad. We usually do not think in terms of Jesus being sad, but it happens. This text also offers some reminders of Jesus’ persistence as well. So that will be our theme for today, “The Sadness and the Persistence of Jesus.”
We start with the sadness of Jesus. This is found at the end of the text. Jesus was sad, as He prepared for His eventual arrival in Jerusalem where He would sacrifice Himself. Jerusalem would, just as Israel had done so consistently in the past, reject the one God had sent to her to lead them to God and bring them God’s message of hope and love. Jesus knew that was going to happen. And it made Him sad.
This is not the only time that Jesus showed sadness. Jesus was sad at the grave of Lazarus. When Jesus got to Bethany and was informed that Lazarus was dead, Jesus wept. We see Jesus sad and angry when He got to the temple during Holy Week, and He threw out all the folks who were desecrating it and making a mockery of God’s house. Jesus was also sad, I think we would agree when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying that He would not have to go through with His mission to die for us.
This is important for us to note because Jesus, I believe is saddened every time we sin. Every time we disappoint Him, every time we choose our own path and not His, every time we do something stupid or let Him down in any way, Jesus is sad because, as it clearly states in 1Corinthians 10:13, there is no temptation thrown at us by Satan that we cannot handle with God’s help. It makes Jesus sad when we mess up because we know better. It makes Jesus sad when we reject Him and push Him away. It’s just like when parents are sad and disappointed when their children are caught doing something wrong. We should never be so arrogant, so selfish, so stubborn, that we forget there are consequences to our sins. We talked about this a good deal last week.
On the other hand, we are also reminded today of God’s persistence. God, His Son Jesus, show persistence in loving us. We see persistence from heaven in the Old Testament. God gave the children of Israel manna, food, in the desert in spite of the fact that they constantly whined, complained, and disobeyed. When they complained about not having water to drink, God let Moses get water from the rock at Meribah. When God punished Israel with the snakes, He led Moses to put the bronze snake on a pole as a sign to the Israelites that God’s love was still there for them. And the long line of prophets throughout Old Testament history bringing God’s word to a stubborn and rebellious nation was another sign of the persistent God who loves His children.
In the New Testament, persistence was demonstrated in our text. As the gospel lesson for today begins, Jesus is in the region that was under the control of a guy named Herod Antipas, who you may recall was the fellow who had John the Baptist beheaded. Some Pharisees came to Jesus and warned Him that Herod was out to get Him, too. It is interesting that the Pharisees were coming to Jesus to give him a warning when we see the Pharisees as Jesus’ enemies throughout most of the Gospels. While some theologians believe that this was an attempt by the Pharisees to protect Jesus, I believe it was more likely that these Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus, to keep Him from fulfilling His mission, which they had rejected. We know from the Gospels that Herod did not want to kill Jesus, he wanted to meet Jesus. Also, if Jesus listened to their warning then He wouldn’t go to Jerusalem and finish His mission.
Jesus responded, in effect, by saying “Go tell your puny little king that I will go on and reach my goal, and no one can stop me.” When Jesus stood before the Jewish council, He bravely admitted that He was the Son of God. And when Jesus stood before Pilate, the man who would sentence Him to death, Jesus told him that He (Jesus) was a king and that “everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Nothing was going to stop Jesus from completing His mission of His death on the cross, and His resurrection three days later.
That persistence did not stop with Jesus on the cross and with the empty tomb either. Through Word and Sacrament, Jesus continues His ministry of healing us of the fatal disease of our sins and gathering us to Himself. His work in us will be complete when we are in His presence, in heaven. He also preserves His church on earth despite wars, floods, fires, earthquakes, epidemics, and other turmoil we find in the nations around the world. The church was preserved in the Soviet Union and is now growing there after the fall of communism. The Church grows in China. The Church grows in Iran. And His church will continue to be preserved in this country no matter what our society may try to do to it. And finally, God calls, gathers and preserves us in our personal lives, sparing us from or helping us after accidents, curing us and keeping us from sickness, helping us in our jobs and guiding us in our personal relationships. God has persistently sought us out; to help us, and save us, and love us.
We start to wrap this up with a story. For more than 40 years, a shy Welshman went to his neighbor’s door each week and slipped a love letter underneath. Because of an argument they’d had years before, she refused to speak to him. Finally, after writing 2,184 love letters with no response of any kind, the 74-year-old man went to the door, knocked on it, and asked the 74-year-old woman to marry him. Much to his surprise, she said yes and they soon tied the knot. (Richard Armstrong, Make (Your Life Worthwhile) Love is like that. It keeps on trying, even when it faces rejection. And the ultimate example of the persistence of love is God.
We are reminded today that Jesus is saddened every time we reject Him, every time we sin. Although in many ways we may stubbornly resist, our Savior continues to seek us by the Holy Spirit through the Word and through the Sacraments. Just as we admire persistence in the heroes we crown in our society, we should admire and praise God for the persistence He has shown in doing everything He has done to win for us forgiveness, to take away our sins, and to bless us as His children. This morning we can leave here this morning comforted at knowing how hard God works to provide for us, protect us, and save us. God bless us all to that end.
In Jesus’ Name.