I adapted this sermon and preached it at St Paul Chuckery this past Sunday. It is from the book Selected Sermons from Norman Nagel. Follow the link to buy the book. It will be well worth what you spend to have in your library.
Here is audio if you want to listen.
In our reading we have the third and last prediction of the passion, the fifth Sunday in Lent, Judica, which comes from the Introit, "Vindicate (or Judge) me O God." Who dares to pray such a prayer? Jesus does. Through Lent we have been following Jesus toward Calvary. Our Judica Gospel tells of the last stretch of that journey. "They were on the road going up to Jerusalem" Who dares to take such a journey? Jesus does.
The Disciples hung back in foreboding and fear. They were amazed and afraid. Twelve disciples. Twelve tribes of Israel. He who leads the disciples is the Lord of Israel, just as the statement of His presence, the bright cloud, led Israel on her journey to the Promised Land, which was entered by way of Jericho. That is where Bartimaeus is given his sight. He sees as the twelve failed to see.
Jesus told the twelve, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles." (Mark 10:33) The twelve did not get it. They did not see. What blinded them was their lust for power and the fear that they might lose out or lose their lives. First James and John, then the others, were indignant that they might only get third or fourth place or even - perish the thought - twelfth place, the bottom spot. They were looking to get the top spots. "One on your right hand, and the other on your left hand in your glory." (Mark 10:37) The two brothers just wanted to keep in in the family. The fight about who gets the right hand spot can wait until later, so long as its one of them. When we see that sort of thing going on today - nepotism, influence peddling, heads rolling, you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours, jostling for the power spots, simony, who gets to call the shots in the church and who has the greatest influence and clout in the voters meeting - when we see that sort of thing going on it just makes us want to puke in disgust.
Jesus does not puke. He continues on his way to Jerusalem. And he draws us along with Him, which means leaving all that putrid and enslaving stuff behind. How gently Jesus draws the disciples on. "You do not know what your are asking," He tells the brothers. The place is at his right hand and at his left. We know who gets those places when Jesus is crowned, proclaimed king, and enthroned, as John says. Those at his right hand and at his left are those who are crucified with him. All three of them are numbered with the transgressors.
One of the criminals who hung next to Jesus on the cross mocked Him, "If you are the Christ save yourself and us." (Luke 23:39) The other rebuked the thief saying, "And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." (Luke 23:41) The just for the unjust, Jesus is judged as the one who bears the iniquity of us all. He drinks the cup of God's wrath on sin, before which he shuddered at Gethsemane, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you; take away this cup from me. Never the less not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:36) Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him. He put him to grief when him made himself an offering to for sin.
"For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." (1 Peter 3:18) Those words are Peter's words, preaching in his first Epistle. Yet In Gethsemane Peter also slept, "For their eyes were heavy," (Mark 14:40). Then he thought power, (swinging a sword), would help Jesus. At Caesarea Philippi, Peter spoke for Satan. Peter wanted no crucified Christ. In today's Gospel he is indignant with James and John for trying to get the top spots. Jesus had a long way to pull them when he, walking ahead, went up to Jerusalem. There is death for them in that Lenten journey.
Jesus speaks of the cup that is His to drink at his baptism, his death that is His to do. Are you able? We are able. "Yes" says Jesus, "they will be yours, and that will put an end to your worrying about who sits at the right hand and who sits at the left. When yours are the cup and the baptism, you will no longer carry on as those who are not Mine. Those who are not Mine think of themselves great by how many people they can push around, get on top of, lording it over them, laying it on them from above, great by how many you can make serve you. That is not where Jesus does His thing. Jesus is at the bottom of the pile. The whole weight of it comes down on him. He is one lump with all sinners. All sins' enslavement He is slave to - judged, damned.
Jesus spoke of it as giving his life as a ransom for many. Ransomer is Redeemer, go'el and the price is his life. For many, as in Isaiah 53, Jesus speaks His disciples into that many, as He does also when He gives His body to eat and his blood to drink into our mouths this morning. His blood is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Our liturgy follows Luke at this point and says, "For you". The phrase "for you" evokes faith. Yes, for me too. We say, "Amen" as Jesus gives into us His body and blood. Those to whom our Lord gives His body and blood can pray, "Judge me O God" If he tosses you out, he is tossing out the body and blood of his son - and He cannot do that.
God did the judgment on you when He did the judgment on your sins on Jesus. That death for your sin was given you. It is yours at Baptism. His cup, His baptism - yours. There was a putting of you to death in your baptism by words and water and a new "you" was born, a you no longer enslaved to sin. "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20). It is no dead inert stuff that the Lord gives into your mouth this morning. As he forgives and enlivens you with his body and his blood, his body and blood are alive in you in the same way when he spoke of them as a ransom for many, for you, not to be served but to serve.