February 23, 2020
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Three times Jesus had told His disciples that He must suffer and died and be raised on the third day. Three times and the disciples still did not understand. It is almost hard to believe that these 12 who walked and talked with Jesus, who saw Him perform miracles and bring the Kingdom of God, still didn’t fully get it. Jesus said that He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.” This of course, is a direct reference to the involvement of Pontius Pilate and the Romans at the crucifixion How could Jesus be any more clear than He is here in our Gospel reading that He must suffer and died and be raised again?
Thankfully, St. Luke records the reasoning of this, “This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” It was hidden to them. That’s a pretty important thing. God hid from Jesus’ disciples the understanding of what all of this meant. All three passions predictions include the idea of God concealing and the disciple’s inability to comprehend the plan of salvation. In their misunderstanding, the disciples end up abandoning and even rejecting Jesus at His passion. Why would God do such a thing? Seeing Jesus right in front of them, they could not see who He was. But the blind man could for he saw by faith, not by sight.
How often have we felt as if we could not see, if God was hidden to us, that we just don’t understand? We all want to know where we’re going, how we’ll get there, and what our purpose is, and that plaguing question, “why.” It’s a hard place to be in. And it is so easy to think that if we could only have a sign, if we could only “see” Jesus and experience His works, if we could only have been with the disciples, our faith would be stronger, life would be easier, and we would “get it.” For as St. Paul says in 2 Cor 5:7, “we walk by faith, not by sight.”
Beware trying to explore the hiddenness of God. There is so much about God and His plans that we are not privy too. God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. It does no good to try to figure out God by yourself, to assume you know who He is or why He acts as He does. When it comes to God, speculation is extremely dangerous, and presumptuous.
So what are we left with? If the disciples couldn’t see who Jesus was even as He was stood right in front of them, if they couldn’t believe what Jesus was clearly telling them, what hope do we have? The issue is not so much that God cannot be seen, but that God actually and actively hides. God hides in order not to be found where humans want to find God. But God also hides in order to be found where God wills to be found.
The understanding of Christ for the disciples was not hidden for much longer. The Passion of Jesus is the stumbling block to the faith of the disciples that will only be reversed by the resurrection of Jesus. This revelation comes from Christ Himself as He opens up Scripture to them and opens their hearts to believe. Jesus said, “Everything written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.” (18:31). His passion and resurrection are in fulfillment of the Scriptures. After His resurrection, as Jesus chastises the disciples on the road to Emmaus for not believing the Scriptures (24:25), He opens up for them all the Scriptures concerning how the Christ must suffer and then enter into glory. He opens up the minds as to how the Scriptures have been fulfilled in Him. He opens up their hearts to faith in Him. From then on, the passion and resurrection is the main article of faith in Jesus and the central focus of the Resurrection and proclamation of the Gospel.
This is incredibly important. A person comes to believe in Jesus through the power of the word and the work of the Holy Spirit. What is hidden has to be revealed, and it is revealed in Christ. When someone finally understands, knows, recognizes the passion of Christ, their eyes are opened and they know Jesus. That is a miracle much more important than making a blind man see. He makes the blind heart see Jesus as the Christ.
Faith in Christ does not come by understanding Jesus, but faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. Remember how after Jesus’ resurrection, when He showed Himself to His disciples Thomas refused to believe until He had seen Jesus. And when He saw the nail holes, he fell down and proclaimed “My Lord and My God.” And Jesus responds, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:28ff). And then St. Peter says in his second letter, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…”
For you, Christ has been revealed. With our eyes opened to faith in Christ, we see the Savior on His ways of sorrows but also in His resurrection glory. Lent, Holy Week, and Easter stand before our eyes. These things are not hidden anymore, but proclaimed throughout our lives. As we travel throughout Lent, the shame and embarrassment of the crucifixion and our own misbeliefs are heightened. There is no glory without the cross. Jesus retains His scars as signs of His love for you.
To follow Jesus means to share His cross, to be crucified with Him. St Paul says in 2 Cor 5:15 “Christ died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” We must carry our own cross after Him. this too will entail suffering and shame before world, so do not be surprised when it comes. But it is also means the glory of Easter. Join us this year on our Lenten journey to the cross and the empty grave, wherein Christ reveals Himself to us that we might be raised