Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wednesday of Oculi (Mid-week)

22 March 2006 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: 2 Sam 18:1-21, 31-33

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Ever since the day, recorded in Genesis 3:15, when God promised mankind that a Seed, a descendant of Eve, would conquer the devil, mankind has hoped, and been disappointed. For Eve herself seemed to think the Savior was to be the son she would soon bear, a little boy named “Cain.” Far from being a giver of life and a conqueror of sin, he was to be a dealer in death and a casualty of sin.

Again and again in the Old Testament, we see sons – sons of Adam, sons of Abraham, sons of Isaac, sons of Jacob, sons of David – all sons of men, but none of whom turned out to be the Son of Man. But while all of these men fizzled, failed, and fell – Jesus does not. For all of these men reflect imperfectly who Jesus is and what he does. And unlike his ancestors, what does, he does perfectly.

David’s son Absolom on first glance looks like he may be the Messiah. He is a son of David, a royal prince of Israel, a warrior, a mighty physical specimen, who is described as “the flawless one.” Of course, Scripture makes it clear that the sacrificial Lamb of God was to be a flawless Son of David.

And indeed, we see Absolom die a death – one that appears on the surface to be a sacrificial death. He is certainly paying the price for sin. He is a son of David riding on a mule. And this mule transported Absolom to the tree on which he would be suspended “between heaven and earth.” And while Absolom was hanging on the tree, his heart was pierced by a spear. Absolom’s body was put into a tomb and sealed with stones. The death of this son of David was called “good news,” that is to say “gospel.” And his father was greatly moved by this death, grieving over his beloved son.

Indeed, there are many similarities here, pointers to Jesus, the fulfillment of all Scripture. And yet, there are two crucial differences. First, Absolom’s death was a sacrifice for his own sins, his own follies. Absolom murdered his brother in an act of revenge after two years of plotting. He was also in a state of rebellion against the kingly authority of his father. Second, Absolom did not rise from the dead.

But let’s compare Absolom, the so-named “flawless” son of David, to Jesus, the truly flawless Son of David.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem, David’s Royal City, on a donkey. This beast, which spoke the Word of God in the Old Testament, was transporting Jesus, the Word of God to his death, where he would be suspended on a tree, “between heaven and earth” as the Son of Man was “lifted up.” Jesus’ sacrificial death was not like Absolom’s – as he committed no sins, no follies. Jesus did not lash out in rage toward his sinful brother, no indeed! In fact, Jesus dies in the very place of his sinful brothers and sisters. Jesus is in no way in rebellion against his Father’s kingly authority, no indeed! For Jesus fulfills his Father’s will, faithful unto the cross, drinking the bitter cup of pain and death down to the dregs. Instead of committing rebellion, the ever-obedient Jesus dies for those who rebel against his Father.

When Jesus, the “Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world” is pierced in the heart by the spear, no ordinary blood and water flow from him. The Blood of Jesus cries out to God on our behalf, and the water from the side of Christ testifies of Holy Baptism, which cleanses us of our sins and makes us all sons and daughters of the King.

And unlike the pointless humiliating death of Absolom, the humiliating death of Jesus is the very act that conquers sin, death, and the devil. For in humbling himself, he takes on our nature – only without sin. And in dying for us, he takes on our punishment. And in rising for us, he blazes the trail of our own resurrection and conquest of death.

For contrary to that of Absolom, no stony grave was able to hold the true, flawless, royal, faithful Son of David. Unlike Absolom’s lifeless body that saw corruption, the body of Jesus came back to life. Unlike the rocks that covered Absolom’s grave, the stone that sealed the tomb of Jesus was rolled away, cast aside, unable to confine the Son of David from his beloved Church.

For the risen Christ appeared to many. The Son of David made himself known. The resurrected Lord Jesus breathed on his disciples and gave them the authority to forgive sins, to preach, baptize, and administer the Holy Supper in his name. And the living, flawless Son of David continues to come to us bodily in the Lord’s Supper in a way that Absolom does not.

And notice the reaction of the fathers. King David, the “man after God’s heart,” grieves for his son. In spite of his sinfulness, he loves him. He wishes he could have died in his place. But aside from his emotions, there is no getting around the fact that the death of Absolom is “good news.” For it assures the continued existence of the kingdom. After Absolom’s death. After the demise of Absolom, Israel experienced a time of peace. And the Seed promised way back in Genesis 3:15 is still in place, waiting for the fullness of time to appear, to the time of Jesus.

Similarly, God the Father grieves at the sacrifice of his beloved Son. And yet, this is the plan of salvation, that Jesus should die in our place. And the grief of the Father notwithstanding, there is no getting around the fact that the death of Jesus is “good news.” It is the Gospel. That day of death and mourning is known as “Good Friday.” For after Jesus’ death, a state of peace has been restored between God and man. For the Seed, the Son of David, indeed matured, and grew, and was to crush the serpent’s head at the hill known as the Skull.

In spite of the failure of the so-called “flawless” son of David, in spite of his sin and folly, in spite of his pointless death, in spite of the fact that his body never left its rocky tomb, we are in fact blessed by him. For in his own way, Absolom points us to a New and Greater Absolom, a truly flawless Son of David, one with no sin and no folly, one whose death was far from meaningless. In fact, the death of Jesus is the most meaningful event in history. And his resurrection is the greatest vindication in history.

For unlike Absolom, Jesus is no mere symbol, no pointer to something greater. No indeed! He is the greater, the greatest! He is the flawless one! For he is God in the flesh! He is the one whose sacrificial death is good news to all who believe.

Dear Christian friends, as we continue to journey through Lent, let us ponder anew the follies of Absolom, his rage, his plotting of evil, his destructiveness, his rejection of authority, his refusal to repent. Let us ponder the grief he caused his friends and family. And let us see ourselves – the very same sins we harbor, the very same destruction we deal out in our refusal to repent. Let us look upon the lifeless, spear-ridden body of Absolom, hanging shamefully from a tree. And let us ponder that entombed body covered with stones – and let us see in the fallen Absolom what ought to be our own deserved fate.

But let us also ponder our Lord, his patience, his gentleness, his refusal to fall into temptation, his obedience to his Father – even unto death on the cross. Let us ponder the crucified, spear-wounded body of Jesus hanging shamefully from a tree, and let us ponder the tomb – seeing to what end Jesus was willing to go in order to redeem us “poor miserable sinners.” And let us look toward Easter, where not even the grave could hold the body of the flawless Son of David. And there, let us ponder the fate that awaits us: everlasting life in the very presence of God.

Thanks be to the New and Greater Absolom, the flawless sacrificial Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

No comments: