‘The New Covenant’ Lent 5B – March 25, 2012

March 25, 2012 at 6:43 am Leave a comment

The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz, III, STS
Lent 5B (texts from Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
United and St Paul Lutheran Churches
25 March 2012
‘The New Covenant’

If you like, in the coming weeks,
you should be able to find something on television or a magazine
about ‘the real Jesus’ or ‘the hidden Jesus’ or ‘the undiscovered Jesus.’
or even ‘the Jesus who never existed.’
Either a re-run or a new documentary
about what archaeologists or Bible scholars or sociologists
or historians have to say about Jesus these days.
I usually don’t watch these documentaries,
not only because I don’t have the time during Holy Week.
but because I have a personal failing.
I try not to watch or read things that I know in advance will get me upset.
That’s a weakness.
It opens me to the charge that I willfullly close my eyes
to that which doesn’t already conform to my beliefs.

On the other hand, there are those who eagerly devour these programs or magazine articles,
opening them to the charge that they are willing consumers of bad TV,
or are curiosity-seekers,
looking for a thrill or a conspiracy
or a reason to find another Jesus for themselves
other than the Jesus the Church proclaims.

You see, anyone who says anything about Jesus (or anything else for that matter)
has an agenda.
The agenda may be hidden, or it may be open.
The more honest it is, the less hidden the agenda.
The agenda may be as simple as selling books or advertising time,
or it may be to advance belief or disbelief in Jesus,
depending upon the point-of-view of the producer.

The Church has no hidden agenda about Jesus,
and the Jesus the Church proclaims is not a hidden Jesus.
There is nothing hidden about him.
There may be things we do not know –
what he looked like, how his voice sounded –
but the Church openly proclaims a Jesus who is not hidden,
who in his cross is revealed as the salvation of the world.
There, in the cross, he is revealed as the one who shares our humanity.
The letter to the Hebrews speaks of the time when ‘with loud cries and tears’
Jesus offered up prayers and supplications to God his Father,
to the one who was able to save him from death.
The Gospel of John portrays Jesus as slightly more detached,
but it is a stunning admission from Jesus anyhow –
‘Now my soul is troubled – and what should I say?
Father, save me from this hour?
No, it is for this purpose that I have come to this hour.’

In reflecting on Jesus,
both the Gospel of John and the letter to the Hebrews agree
that Jesus was troubled by the prospect of death,
but in faith and trust
he put himself in God his Father’s hands.
A Jesus who did not share our desire for life
or who suffered no want, fear, or privation
would not be like us at all.
But a Jesus who puts himself in his Father’s hands –
accepting death if it comes, but believing that by grace he may yet be given life-
this is a Jesus who shares our humanity
so that we might share his glory.

In the cross, Jesus is revealed as the one who bears our sin.
The high priest went into the most holy place of the temple once per year
to make perfect atonement for the sins of the people –
Jesus himself went to the cross once for all
to become perfect atonement for sin.
He made a way where there was no way.
The prayer of David in Psalm 51 –
the king’s prayer that is the prayer of all of us –
is answered in Jesus.
And yet in an incredible way, it is Jesus himself who shares
in praying King David’s prayer – our prayer.
Having no sin of his own,
he took our sins upon himself,
so that it is he, the high priest who has no sins of his own to confess,
who prays to God,
‘Wash me through and through from my wickedness,
and cleanse me from my sin.’

In the cross, Jesus is revealed as the one who is the mediator of a new covenant.
The vision of Jeremiah –
that a covenant shattered by the people
would be made new and perfect by God –
is fulfilled in Jesus.
Looking upon him there, lifted up,
our minds and souls filled with his love for us,
we ourselves are transformed,
forgiven, purged, cleansed.
We no longer look at our own failings,
we no longer look at the covenant which we broke,
we look only at him,
at his faithfulness, to us and to his Father,
and we put our trust in him.

Is it a personal failing
for me to look at this Jesus on the cross,
the Jesus the Church proclaims –
rather than the one who is also trotted out to me every Eastertime –
the Jesus who is undiscovered,, undefined, unproclaimed:
the so-called ‘secret Jesus’ who was either someone else entirely
or nobody at all?
I guess it depends on how you look at it.
If I willfully close my eyes to the truth,
then I am to be blamed.
But if I am simply told that I am uneducated,
that nothing claiming to represent truth is to be believed,
that people with higher knowledge than I have considered these things
and come to a different conclusion,
and if the only good reason given
is that this is on television or between the pages of a glossy magazine,
then I will not be bothered.

You see, the arguments about Jesus have been going on since he lived and died
(and some believe he rose again.)
And they’ll go on forever (or until, as some people claim, he is revealed as Lord of all.)
The Scriptures argue from an agenda –
and the agenda is this –
that the Jesus who was lifted high on the cross is the Truth,
the Truth about us that we are the beloved,
the Truth about God that he loves us without reserve.
By God’s grace alone,
it is this truth that we proclaim, and this truth we believe,
it is this Jesus whom we behold lifted high on the cross who draws all people to himself.

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