January 31, 2016
Think about the many people who were there when Jesus was hanging on the cross. Two of them were right next to Him. Several of them were below Him, the Roman soldiers overseeing the crucifixion. Some were bystanders. Some of the disciples were watching from a distance. His own mother was there, watching her Son die.
All of these people were witnessing something that was part of society in the Roman Empire at that time. And yet, they were witnessing something that was unlike anything else that had ever happened. They didn’t fully realize it at the time. What was going through the minds of the people who were there? One of the criminals being crucified with Jesus was beginning to see that Jesus wasn’t a criminal. He asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His Kingdom. One of the Roman soldiers ended up seeing in Jesus the Son of God.
The religious leaders saw in Jesus their enemy finally coming to a just end. They continued in their mockery of Him. Many of the soldiers saw Jesus as just another criminal, one who deserved crucifixion like all the rest. Some of the bystanders mocked Him, some realized there was something different about Him, some were there just to see a crucifixion.
Then there were the disciples. They should have known that this is what Jesus had chosen; that He knew this had been coming; that He was willingly laying down His life. Instead, as they watched Jesus die, they were seeing all their hopes die with Him. They were wondering how it had all gone so terribly wrong.
All of these people were seeing the same thing. They had different feelings about it and different reactions to it. None of them fully understood what was going on. But this one event changed the world regardless of what people believe about it. To grasp the crucifixion of Jesus as more than just an event in the past we must see it through the mind of one other person who was there, and that was Jesus Himself.
What was going through His mind as He was suffering and dying on the cross? He had indeed known it was all coming down to this. It was now here. What thoughts flowed through His mind now that He was actually on the cross, dying as He had known He would?
The Holy Spirit has inspired the Word of God to be written down for us and so we can know what Jesus was thinking at the moment when He was suffering and dying on the cross.
When one of the criminals beside Him was reviling Him, did Jesus think, “You deserve this. You have no idea that I’m suffering unjustly”? When the criminal who asked Him to remember him in His Kingdom, did Jesus say, “You’ve got a lot of nerve to request that of Me, I think I’ll leave you to your doom, which is what you deserve”?
Did Jesus return the reviling of the religious leaders upon them, telling them that they were the ones who deserved to be here whereas He deserved honor and worship? Did He condemn the soldier who now saw Him as the Son of God as a hypocrite? Did He shake His head at His disciples as they continued to not get it and finally give up hope in them since they were too dense to be faithful disciples?
Did Jesus, now that He was actually bearing the sin and the guilt of the world, finally see that it wasn’t worth it? That so many people willfully sinning, so many people seeking the things of the world over against the true God, were not deserving of such a sacrifice as to take away every single sin? Did Jesus begin revising His method and offer His sacrifice only for those who actually got it, who actually put their hope in Him no matter what?
Did Jesus recoil in horror at the action of His dear Heavenly Father who was now forsaking Him? Did He begin to descend into despair at the prospect that Satan appeared to be victorious? Was He seriously contemplating the very doable action of coming down from the cross as the religious leaders chided Him to do?
All of these were temptations. Satan had tempted Jesus before and Jesus retorted with the Scriptures. Jesus was being tempted on the cross to the extreme. But there was no wavering. We see Jesus going once again to the Scriptures in His time on the cross suffering. Every word He uttered was a trusting and confident prayer to His Father in heaven. Everything Jesus had been preparing for was now coming about, He was taking upon Himself every sin of every person of every time and place.
Nobody else there saw this. But He knew this was happening. The Holy Spirit has given us this clear proclamation that God Himself in the flesh was suffering so that we human beings would not suffer eternally. In His agony Jesus knew this. It was crystal clear. The salvation He was accomplishing was not for a few. It wasn’t only for certain people. It was not for those who followed Him or who were good, decent people. It was not for those who were poor or downtrodden. It wasn’t just for those who didn’t know better.
He was suffering and dying for every single person. We know clearly what was happening when Jesus was dying on the cross even though those who were there saw in a glass dimly. Many today see in the crucifixion nothing more than an event in the past. They don’t believe what was actually happening. If you were to think about how salvation would be accomplished you probably wouldn’t think of it being accomplished through suffering and death. But God knows that this is the only way.
In the Gospel reading Jesus says that a sower sowed his seed. When a seed is planted in the ground it is no longer seen. But there is something going on in the ground as that seed is nourished by nutrients and water. The seed is only temporary. Something happens to it and that something is that it dies. The seed is no longer a seed, it becomes a plant and grows and flourishes.
Jesus knew He was going to the cross to die. There’s no plant unless the seed dies. There’s no salvation unless Christ dies. Jesus is the Word made flesh. He says in the Gospel reading that the seed the sower sows is the Word of God. The very Word God sent to the world is His Son Jesus Christ. The Word made flesh suffered and died on the cross.
The Word made flesh was not garnering forgiveness and salvation for only some. This was the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world. The sower in the Gospel reading didn’t pick and choose which types of soil to sow the seed in. He sowed it in all types of soil. Every person is who God wants to save. Jesus died for everyone.
Jesus wasn’t disgusted with the fact that most everyone who was there as He was dying wasn’t understanding what He was doing. He was joyful that He was doing it for them. He was joyful that He was dying for us and every person.
The seed is the Word of God and the Word of God goes to everyone. We don’t need to determine who is ready for it or not. We don’t need to wonder if they are able to understand it or not. We don’t need to discount people who are hostile to God and His Word.
The Church is the place where the Gospel rings forth. The Church is the place where the Gospel forgives people. The Church is the place where the Gospel equips the people of God to go out into the world to tell people of the one who died on the cross for every single person. They may not get it. They may be hostile. They may despair. But they need the Gospel and so we the people of God bring them the Gospel.
Jesus has not set up salvation as a club that is only for some people. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Something happens to you in Baptism that is unseen. You die. When a seed dies, new life comes forth and flourishes. When you die in Baptism you are brought forth to new life and you flourish as you are nourished by the Gospel, hearing it and eating and drinking it.
Isn’t it amazing that when Jesus wants to show us what His Kingdom, His salvation, His grace is like He says it’s like a sower sowing seed? It doesn’t seem like much, and maybe that’s because it isn’t much. What happened to you is what happened to Jesus. You died in Baptism into His death and were raised in Baptism into His resurrection. You hear the Gospel, the proclamation of the suffering and death of Jesus for all of your sins. You eat the very body of Christ given into death and drink the very blood of Christ shed on the cross. The seed is the Word and the Word is for all people. As a seed dies and brings forth life, so Jesus died and brought forth life for all. It doesn’t seem like much, but then, that’s the point. Amen.