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Last Sunday of the Church Year

November 24, 2019 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Pentecost

Passage: Luke 23:27–23:43

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Luke 23:27-43
Date: Sunday November 24th, 2019; Last Sunday of the Church Year; Series C
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
  • Our Gospel reading for this morning seems to be an odd choice for the Last Sunday of the Church Year.
  • We expect to hear about the sheep and the goats or about the wise and foolish bridesmaids.
  • But instead we get Luke’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • It seems odd to have a Good Friday text on the Last Sunday of the Church Year, the Sunday when we consider Jesus’ appearing in glory to judge the living and the dead.
  • But this reading was selected because Good Friday is the beginning of the end. 
  • Good Friday is the lens through which we, as Christians, see everything. 
  • Everything before that day was leading up to it. 
  • Everything after that day is flowing from it. 
  • Good Friday changed the world and is the centre of history.
  • So today, on this Last Sunday of the Church Year, we consider our lives and the Last Day through the lens of the cross. 
  • It is in Jesus’ death and life that our lives and our death find meaning, peace, and hope.
  • In our Gospel reading we heard Jesus’ amazing words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.
  • Usually when we hear this, we focus on what great love, compassion, and grace Jesus has that he could pray such words! 
  • And that’s not wrong. We hear Jesus praying for forgiveness for those who put him on the cross. Those who drove the nails through his hands and feet. Those who mocked and taunted him.
  • For Jesus to pray for forgiveness - even for those who were torturing him and taking his life - is incredible!  And it provides great comfort for us sinners today.
  • But the second part of Jesus’ prayer is also worth focusing on, when Jesus said, “for they know not what they do.” 
  • In context, as Jesus spoke those words, certainly the people who put him on the cross didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t know that the hands they were driving nails through were the hands that had created all things and had even knit them together in their mother’s wombs. 
  • They didn’t know that the feet they had fastened to the cross were the feet that had walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day and would soon make the earth their footstool. 
  • They didn’t know that the head into which they pressed that crown of thorns was the head of the One who knows all things. 
  • They didn’t know that in this man they were putting to death - was their life. 
  • They thought they knew what they were doing - they thought they were simply getting rid of a troublemaker and a blasphemer and someone who was going to bring the wrath of Rome down on their nation. 
  • And they thought they knew what God should be doing: that if Jesus really was God then he should jump down from the cross and save himself. 
  • Even those who believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah wondered if God knew what he was doing while our Lord hung helplessly on the cross.
  • That question has often crossed the minds of God’s people, because how often it seems to us as though he doesn’t! 
  • We heard it again from the prophet Malachi today. 
  • The people were saying: We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing - but what is it getting us? The arrogant are the ones who seem to be blessed.  The evildoers are the ones who seem to be prospering! 
  • They are putting God to the test with their sins and evil and perversion and getting away with it—nothing happens to them! 
  • Does God know what he’s doing?
  • We can end up wondering about this too.
  • We go to church, and try to be good, and live a godly life - God should be prospering and blessing us.  
  • But even as his people we struggle and suffer.   
  • And meanwhile it can seem as though those who do evil are prospering and evil keeps advancing.
  • Does God know what he’s doing?
  • Jesus was right.  Maybe it’s we who don’t know what we’re doing.
  • The truth is that there is a lot more going on than meets the eye. 
  • God tells his people through the prophet Malachi, “The day is coming - then you will see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked.
  • But we want to see it all now. We want God to punish evildoers now. 
  • The problem is, if he did so, what would happen to us? 
  • We who hurt, who lie, who lust, who doubt and disbelieve, who covet, who rebel, who do not love God with all our heart and mind and with all our soul and with all our strength all the time.
  • There’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. 
  • Paul told the Colossians that Jesus is the creator of all things visible and invisible, as we also confess in the Creed. 
  • And there’s a lot more invisible than we know. We do not know all that God is doing, how he is working, what he is doing in the world, in our neighbours, and in our lives.
  • But we cling to the promise that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).
  • There’s more going on than meets the eye - and that is especially true of the cross. 
  • The man who was unjustly sentenced to death by crucifixion is the very Son of God, the Lamb of God, the atonement for the sins of the entire world. 
  • Although it doesn’t look like it, although at times it might seem like the opposite - in fact, God does know what he’s doing.
  • And the Day is coming when that will be seen.
  • The disciples saw it three days after the cross when Jesus rose from the dead. 
  • The before looked bleak. The after revealed the truth and the joy.
  • And so also for us on the Last Day it will be seen. 
  • Now, in this before time, we have God’s Word of promise.
  • In faith, we say with the criminal hanging next to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
  • And he does.
  • We know that the tree of the cross that looked like defeat - actually restores and grants us eternal life in paradise.
  • Now, ascended and sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus is ruling all things for us and for our salvation.
  • Through our Baptism, Jesus is promising, “You will be with me in Paradise.” 
  • Through the gift of our faith, through the Words of forgiveness that cleanses our sin, Jesus is promising, “You will be with me in Paradise.” 
  • When you receive the true body and blood of Jesus, he is promising, “You will be with me in Paradise.” 
  • To the thief on the cross, Jesus said, Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” 
  • When that today will be for us, we don’t know.
  • But it will be a day of joy, when, as St. Paul said in our Epistle, we are delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13–14).
  • God knows what he’s doing.
  • The One who comes on the Last Day to judge - is the same One who came to the cross to be judged in our place. 
  • The One who comes on the Last Day - is the One who comes to you today with the gifts of his sacrifice. 
  • Jesus, remember me.  That’s faith’s prayer. 
  • And Jesus’ response is ever the same: “Amen, I say to you, Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”  Amen.

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