Sermon for Sunday, March 21, 2021, 5Th Sunday of Lent
Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51:1-13; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33
A few years ago a group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their wives that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday night’s dinner. In their rush, with tickets and briefcases, one of these salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of apples. Apples flew everywhere. Without stopping or even looking back, they all managed to reach the plane in time for their nearly missed boarding… ALL BUT ONE!!!
He paused, took a deep breath, and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned..
He told his buddies to go on without him, waved good-bye, told one of them to call his wife when they arrived at their home destination and explain his taking a later flight. Then he returned to the terminal where the apples were all over the terminal floor. He was glad he did.
The 16 year old girl was totally blind! She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks in frustration, and at the same time helplessly groping for her spilled produce as the crowd swirled about her, no one stopping and no one to care for her plight.
The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them back on the table and helped organize her display. As he did this, he noticed that many of them had become battered and bruised; these he set aside in another basket. When he had finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, ‘Here, please take this $40 for the damage we did. Are you okay?’ She nodded through her tears. He continued on with, ‘I hope we didn’t spoil your day too badly.’
As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, ‘Mister…….’ He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes. She continued, ‘Are you Jesus?’
Our lesson from Jeremiah reveals that God has worked since creation to create a people for whom He can truly be related as their God. He worked through the masses of humanity, narrowed His work to the individual patriarchs, and then created the nation Israel, which soon divided. The then created the old covenant, centering the community worship and community dedication to the covenant obligations. Each individual was responsible to God and could be excluded from the community for being unfaithful to God’s covenant, but the emphasis on the community continued. The new covenant reemphasized God’s Desire to form a people who would let Him be Master of their lives. It also included obligation which covenant members accept. The new covenant has at lease four radically new elements: 1) instructions or law which make up the covenant obligations are no longer external documents taught by human teachers; they are internal desires of the transformed heart; 2) The new covenant is not restricted to one nations or worship community; all people are invited to know God in a personal, experiential way; 3) It is offered to individuals who can know God’s personal forgiveness rather that emphasized the nation as a worshiping community; 4) Forgiveness by God rather than covenant renewal by people stands at the center of the new covenant. God forgets our sins. This was made possible by Jesus, God’s Son, through His life, death, and resurrection. He fulfilled the obligations of he old a covenant and opened the door of forgiveness to the new. This brought two divisions to God’s Inspirit Word—-the Old and New Testaments.
From Psalm 51, we are introduced to the most famous penitential psalms. When suffering is the consequence of sin, he sufferer should repent. Reconciliation with God opens the way for God’s saving actions. God remains free to determine when and how to act. Repentance is no guarantee of God’s immediate healing, but without repentance, the way to God is blocked.
In our lesson from Hebrews, Jesus is our High Priest representing us before God because God chose His Son to be our eternal Priest. Interpretation and application of the Old Testament in Light of Christ proves this. His prayer life of submission to the Father during His earthly ministry showed He is an effective Priest. His atoning death brought an end to the priests’ role in atonement, giving us eternal salvation. His prayer life and His suffering highlight His full humanity in absolute submission to the Father. Some of the best priests I have ever encountered willingly and intentionally submitted their lives to God through Jesus Christ and their lessons, sermons, and the way they lived their lives were a testament to this very concept.
Faced with His impending death, Jesus thought only of bringing glory to God. At Bethany, While Martha was laboring in the kitchen, and their brother Lazarus was reclining around the table, May took out a jar of very expensive perfume. It was a pint of pure nard and generally used for the purpose of being used to anoint the dead. Judas scolded her, saying, “It could be put to better use or sold and the money given to the poor.” Of course, he often took money out of their common purse for himself and this was probably the reason why he objected.
Jesus said, “Leave her alone.” “It was intended for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” Christ’s death is the most significant moment of history, for it allowed Christ and he Father to reveal Their full glory and to receive praise acknowledging Their glory. Beloved Jesus died that all people might know His saving power. He commanded the church to proclaim His message to everyone. No people are excluded from the church. They who reject the message exclude themselves when they refuse to accept Jesus as Lord.
Remember the man in the airport terminal and the blind girl selling her apples. In the haste of the group he was with, they turned her only way of making money for herself was selling enough apples, to keep buying them and use the profits to live one. I suspect the man who stopped and helped her gather her apples back up, knew this and he even gave her forty dollars as well.
What happened next is one of the most significant things that we all need to ask of ourselves. “He stopped in mid-stride, and he wondered. Then slowly he made his way to catch the later flight with that question burning and bouncing about in his soul: ‘Are you Jesus?’ Do people mistake you for Jesus? That’s our Destiny, is it not? To be so much like Jesus that people cannot tell the difference as we live and interact with a world that is blind to His love, life and grace.
If we claim to know Him,we should live, walk and act as He would. Knowing Him is more than simply quoting Scripture and going to church. It’s actually living the Word as life unfolds day to day.
You are the apple of His eye even though we, too, have been bruised by a fall. He stopped what He was doing and picked you and me up on a hill called Calvary and paid in full for our damaged fruit.