Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Glass Cross

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
February 15, 2009
Mark 1:40-45

If you would please take the Bible that’s in your pew and look at it. Don’t open it up, just look at it. What do you see? You see the Bible. Now look at it as though you’re looking at it through glass. It looks the same, doesn’t it? But imagine if that glass you’re looking through is in the shape of a cross. The Bible still looks the same, only now you’re not just seeing the Bible, you’re also seeing the cross. Not only that, you’re also seeing the Bible through the cross. Now open up the Bible, to any page, it doesn’t matter. Every word in that Bible is the Word of God. Every sentence, every phrase, every narrative is God speaking to you what He wants you to know.

Don’t just look at every word, though. Don’t simply believe it’s the Word of God and read for what you can get out of it. See it for what it really is. Look at it through that glass cross. When you read the Word of God see the cross as you’re reading.

This is what Jesus was trying to get the man to see in the Gospel reading. He didn’t want the man to see Him as the one who would take away his leprosy. He wanted the man to look at Him through a glass cross. In the Old Testament reading Naaman wanted to be healed from his leprosy. Elisha wanted him to see that God would offer him so much more. Naaman could only see that, though, if he looked through a glass cross.

Elisha didn’t know the specific name Jesus, the specific person Jesus. Naaman didn’t know anymore than Elisha did. The leper in the Gospel reading was face to face with Jesus, the one Elisha believed in as the promised Savior. But the leper didn’t know Jesus. He was looking at a man who could heal him. He didn’t look at Jesus through a glass cross.

We don’t know what happened to this man later on. But we know what happened to Jesus. The cross. The cross is what happened to Jesus. What Jesus was doing with that man who wanted healing was all about the cross. Elisha’s directive to Naaman was all about the cross. Jesus knew these things. And we know these things, too. Because we have the Word of God, the Bible. And we have a glass cross to see the Bible through.

Nothing Jesus did makes sense without the cross. Or at least, it’s ultimately meaningless without the cross. Everything in the Bible is useless to us without the cross. If you look at the Bible through any lens other than the cross you will not see Jesus and what He does for you. You will see a lot of things. But none of them will have anything to do with Jesus’ work of salvation for you.

When you see things through the glass cross you will see things differently than if you’re looking to get your due from God. You will begin to see that all that appears not quite right in your world is swallowed up in the cross. If the lens through which you’re looking at the world and your life is your problems and unmet needs, then you will miss the cross. And when you miss the cross you miss the salvation Christ brings to you.

You might wonder how in the world you can take the story of Naaman and the story of the leper in the Gospel reading and see it as all about the cross. The cross isn’t mentioned. The cross hadn’t even happened yet in both cases. How could these men be expected to know that that’s why Jesus came? And you might even wonder what the cross has to do with your life, and your problems, and your needs. How does the cross help you feel better when you’re suffering severe illness like the men in our Scripture readings? How does the cross impact your life in your struggles at work or with your family? How does the cross help you out when you have some real needs—not just wants—when you’re struggling financially month to month, when you fear you’re on the chopping block at work?

Talk about the cross is one thing. Jesus dying on the cross is all nice and good. But life is another thing. Practical life stuff is real—how does the cross make this stuff better? How does it help you in your life? Naaman found out. The leper in the Gospel reading found out. You can find out, too. Because you have something. You have a glass cross. Hold it up. Look at that Bible. Look at the words on the page. See what God does for you through the cross. See that the healing of Naaman and the leper of the Gospel reading were stops along the way to the cross. They were little snippets of the salvation God brings to you in the cross.

Whatever it is you’re going through, stop worrying about it and put the cross up before your eyes. Whatever your struggles, quit blaming God and look at the cross. You want to know what He’s doing to help you? Look at the cross. That’s what He does. He sends His Son to suffer in a way that you could never quite understand or endure. He sends His Son to come into this world where there are some who can’t even be around others or everyone else would suffer from such a horrible condition. But Jesus doesn’t just heal. He touches. He’s not afraid of leprosy, or anything else you might come to Him with. He’ll touch you in your condition and take it upon Himself. In fact, He’ll take it to its death in His own death. That happened on the cross. Nowhere else. In no other way. The cross. Not by you straightening up and flying right. Not by you believing enough or suffering enough. Not by you being a stronger Christian than some that you know aren’t as strong.

The cross. There’s only one reason Christ came. There’s only one reason God sent His Son. The cross. If this is the way it is for God, then why are we looking at everything but? Why are we wondering why we suffer as we do, when Christ has given us the cross? When He shows us that suffering is swallowed up in His suffering? Why are we questioning God when we struggle; when we don’t understand how He works—when He gives us the cross? Is it really so hard to see that it’s all about the cross? That that’s what Jesus is always pointing people to? That it’s what He is always pointing us to? Is it really so hard?

Yes. It is. We know it. We know it’s hard. We know we can’t do it. The doubts creep in. Pain piles onto more pain. Temptations come harder and more frequently the stronger we become. Struggles never seem to go away, only change their circumstances. What we do through all of this is see ourselves in it all. We ask the questions. We wonder why. We lament that it doesn’t seem all that blessed to be a Christian.

And you know what God’s reaction to this is? He’s angry. He’s beside Himself that we don’t see it. There’s one thing there, but we miss it. We can spot everything else and miss the one thing. The cross. Why else did Jesus speak harshly to the man after healing him? Because it meant nothing without the cross. The man didn’t see that. He went on his merry way, rejoicing in his freedom, and forgetting about what Jesus had told him. Apart from the cross the man’s healing means nothing. Apart from the cross our lives are separated from Christ, ultimately eternally in hell.

Through the cross, though, through the cross, you have life. You have life in Christ. You have life eternal. You have life in which you know that everything is given by God to you for your good or used by God for your good. You don’t have to wonder—you know. You know because you have a glass cross to look through. You know because He didn’t leave the cross back there, on Calvary, two thousand years ago. You know because He brings the cross to you. Today. Every day. In your life. Eternally. He brings the cross to you in your Baptism. In Baptism you died with Christ so that you may rise with Him. He brings the cross to you in Absolution. In Confession and Absolution you are slain, your sinful flesh convicted and brought low so that you may be raised up to new life. He brings the cross to you in His Holy Supper. In His Holy Supper He invites you to come and feast on Him. Come thirsty. Come hungry. Come with your illness, your sin, your guilt. He brings to you the cross. His body hung on that cross. His blood was shed on that cross. He brings you that. Yes, Himself.

That’s what the cross is all about. It’s all about Him. That’s what we need. We need Him. Not just whatever He can do for us (which is anything). What He did on the cross. That’s what He gives you. That’s why He came. That’s what you always have. Look through that glass cross and see Jesus. See your salvation. Amen.


No comments: