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March 21, 2021: The Fifty Sunday in Lent

“Joyful Amidst Service”

Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:5-13; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-28

It might have been Holy Week in the gospel today as Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover to take His throne, to establish His kingdom, and to start ruling and reigning. His throne is the cross; His crown was the thorns. In the Passover, there were thousands of pilgrims and it included non-Jews, Greeks, who were observers; and they probably heard about Jesus. They wanted to meet Him so they went to Philip. Jesus knew why the Greeks were there. Jesus spoke and said, “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” He knew that in the next few days, He would face His passion and death. For Jesus, the cross is glorious; however, it doesn’t mean that it is ugly or cruel because what it will accomplish is for the glory of God.

The Cross is the Lamb of God victoriously taking away the sin of the world. Jesus said, “Unless grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." The price of glory is His life. Jesus continues, “He who loves his life loses it, he who hates his life in dis world will keep it to life eternal." In Jesus’ humanity, He was troubled. He was struggling. Hebrews said, “In the days of His flesh, He did not glorify Himself. He glorified God. He ignored His own sake to glorify God. Hebrews also said that He offered loud groaning and tears because He was struggling. He went through what we go through. He suffers with us. He has to pay a high price to give His life for the life of the world.

Jesus asked, “What do I say?” He did not say, “Deliver Me from this.” He said, “I will go through this that Your Name be glorified.” Jesus said, “Father, glorify Your Name and Your will be done.” God the Father spoke, “I have and will glorify it again.” Out of obedience, Jesus will glorify God.

God equips, strengthens, prepares us and causes us to grow so we can face what we need to face. Jesus said, “If you follow Me, if you follow the will of God, you will be persecuted and you will suffer.” When we come to this hour, we need to ask, “Should I ask God to deliver me from this or should I realize and understand that this has a purpose. I was prepared for this, strengthened for this, and I can handle this because God strengthens me.” No confrontation has overtaken us that we cannot bear for God will only give us what we can endure and overcome.

The Psalmist said that the sons of Ephraim were archers equipped with bows and yet, they turned back in the day of battle. God says that He will have no pleasure in those who shrink back in the day of battle, confrontation and in the day we need to face in order to accomplish His will and glorify His Name.” When challenges, storms, and conflicts come, remember to always say, “Father, be glorified through me in this situation.” If we are too self-centered, we can complain about our situation. Remember Jesus said, “If you want to follow Me, take up your cross and follow Me.”

The Cross is brutal and an unimaginable cruelty. I wonder who came up with such an animalistic, very unthinkable, merciless and dehumanizing method of execution. Let us ask ourselves, “How can I give glory to God in a situation? In this pandemic, be careful, but do not be fearful as to ignore God or to categorize God and our religion as non-essential. Christian life is essential. Partaking of the Eucharist is essential. We must be willing to glorify God in our situations. If we are facing a sad event in our lives, we ask, “How can I glorify God in this situation?”

Jesus said, “Three things will happen. One: now, the world will be judged. Two: the ruler of this world will be cast out. Three, “I will be lifted up from the earth and I will draw all men unto Me.” Jesus being lifted up meant His crucifixion, His cross. Through Jesus’ cross, He will accomplish all three things: One, He will judge the world; two, He will cast down the devil; third, He will draw all men to Him. Through the Cross, the world will be changed.

The world will be judged and many fear judgment. The Cross means three things: first, the diagnosis – the identification of the nature of an illness by examining the symptoms. Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:19, “This is the judgment: Light has come into world but men love the darkness rather than the Light, because their deeds are evil.” The evil deeds are the symptoms; the judgment is that one can be guilty. God looks at it more clinically, medically than judicially. God is not concerned about our guilt; but our sickness. We are sick with sin rather than being guilty of it. What we need is not to be punished, but to be healed.

Jesus said that He is a Physician, and He came because the world is sick; not to judge. Scriptures says, “God did not send His Son to judge the world, but to save it and to heal it.” We have been judged sick so Jesus comes so that we can be healed of our sickness.

Sometimes, we are so used to certain sickness and wrongs to think that they are normal. We become desensitized to polygamy, slavery, divorce, abortion, and corruption in government and we think it is normal. Among these things, one thing is common: the strong abuses the weak to preserve and protect their privilege. Sometimes, it takes a prophet to jolt us. David was so used to committing crimes and many others and Nathan comes along to tell him that what he is doing is wrong.

Jesus was the victim of the political and the religious system during His time as those in power were threatened by Him. The world is sick with sin and the Cross is the ultimate injustice and the stark reminder of sin, so Jesus sets us free from this.

The Cross also means: casting out. Jesus says that the ruler of this world will be cast out. The world will be set free from the power of this ruler – the devil, the accuser, the one who has the spirit of accusation and blame. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit is an Advocate, on our side, and defends us.

Right after sinning, Adam and Eve were influenced by the spirit of blame. Their son, Cain, took the blame game to the next level and murdered his brother. The devil put some justification in Cain’s mind. God told Cain that sin and temptation is lurking at the door, but he must conquer it for he has the ability to overcome temptation to justify blaming others.

Blaming is the foundation of the world’s system. It is justifying the abuses and the violence with blame. Others are wrong; others started it; others forced it so they deserve it. Finger pointing and recrimination goes on and on. As long as we play the blame game, we enthrone the devil and we make him king and the ruler of the system. We participate in his system and it can control us.

Jesus says, “This ends with Me, on the cross. I am blameless, but I will take all the blame and nail them to the cross for this is the only way to stop it.” The devil doesn’t care who’s right or wrong, just play his game; but Jesus also says that it doesn’t care who is right or wrong, just forgive. This is how the ruler of this world is cast out. This is why Jesus says that we should forgive the sins of any.

The Cross shows the third point: the result after the diagnosis and the casting out. God’s kindness draws all men to repentance and to change and be restored to Him. Jesus’ cross causes us to open our eyes to Him. Formerly, we were committing sin, but now our eyes are focused on Jesus that forgiveness, the mercy to love our enemies and those who are unlovable will be reconciled to God through repentance.

How did these things happen? Jesus ignored His own sake, not withholding His life but falling to the ground and to be buried like the grain of wheat. Remember that the Cross is Jesus’ glorification, the victory of Jesus. John said, “For this purpose, Christ was revealed to destroy sin, and all the works of evil one.” On the cross, Jesus did this by forgiveness; by stopping the perpetuation of sin, of accusation, and blaming, which are the works of the devil.

Like Jesus, we are called to deny ourselves. Say no to the temptation of pointing fingers, of blaming and justifying our hatred, our anger or our divisions. We are guilty also if we point a finger at another person or convinced in our mind that they are wrong. It doesn’t matter. Learn to forgive. Deny ourselves and say no to the temptation. Take up our cross, follow Jesus footsteps by forgiving; and share in His glory and His victory.

This is what next week, Holy Week, will be all about and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.


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