This week we enter more deeply into the Passion of Jesus Christ. We celebrated Palm Sunday yesterday and now we, in a mysterious way, through the liturgy, go up with him to Jerusalem, as we remember his death on the cross on Good Friday.
And as we remember Jesus going willingly to his death on our behalf, we are confronted with our sin that sent him there. We remember that we are both in the crowd that shouted “Hosanna” to him but also cried to crucify him. Jesus is not who we would have expected, and if we’re honest, many times is not who we expect, or maybe even want.
Yesterday I had the privilege of hearing the Rev. Fleming Rutledge speak on the “Good News of Sin.” We, like Israel, have turned from God, we “sin more and more.” Fleming Rutledge spoke about how our sin is not just one incident, or one choice, but is an overwhelming chain of sin that can’t be broken by our own will or effort.
Satan and the Power of Evil wants us to believe that those chains we have aren’t there or that we are able to control the weight of sin through other means. While we might not cry out for a “king” as the Israelites did, we ask for other things from God to protect us and to secure us. And when we receive those things, we are tempted and may even fall into the same trap that the Israelites did.
Listen to what Hosea writes,
“But I am the Lord your God
from the land of Egypt;
you know no God but me,
and besides me there is no savior.
5 It was I who knew you in the wilderness,
in the land of drought;
6 but when they had grazed, they became full,
they were filled, and their heart was lifted up;
therefore they forgot me.”
And God isn’t too pleased when we put idols on his throne. He is the King of the Universe and he doesn’t like when his people worship other things, things that do not bring life, but only death. Sometimes, in his severe mercy, God destroys us.
He destroys you, O Israel,
for you are against me, against your helper.
10 Where now is your king, to save you in all your cities?
Where are all your rulers—
those of whom you said,
“Give me a king and princes”?
11 I gave you a king in my anger,
and I took him away in my wrath.
I know I’m feeling that succinctly right now. The Lord has taken away some significant things from my life and it’s possible that he may be taking another source of security from me soon.
It’s terrifying and painful…but it’s also convicting. It’s shown me how often I’ve put my faith in “princes,” how often I’ve put my faith in myself, my job, and my abilities, rather than trusting in Christ. In ways I’ve forgotten him. In this pain, I’ve had to press harder into Christ.
Maybe you’ve forgotten him today, too. Maybe you get caught up in security, in a 401K, or your savings account. Maybe you put your faith in someone else when in a moment, they could be gone. Or maybe you put your faith in other good gifts of God, maybe even in your own theological expertise.
When we do this, when we forget God, we likely forget our sin too. John writes,
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
There is no other way. We have to know Jesus, we have to continue to know him. In that, our sin is exposed, our neediness uncovered. But we also are freed to know that we don’t have to make our own path, that we don’t have to figure everything out, or improve our self-esteem. No, we can know that Jesus Christ is the way and he is the Way who came to us, who still comes to us today through His Spirit, His Word, and His Sacrament.
So today I hope that you and I can see what our “kings” are. I hope that we can see our sin even succinctly. I even hope that it overwhelms you and me a little more as we journey together through this Holy Week. Not so that we stay in the pit but so that we cry out knowing that Jesus has come to break our chains for us and to give us freedom from ourselves, our idols, and our sin.