Quinquagesima – Fifty Days to Easter
“Jesus’ Divine Love”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
St. Luke 18.31-43; 1 Corinthians 13
23 February 2020
+ In the Name of Jesus +
St. Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians contains the marvelous and memorable passage on God’s divine love, a love that never fails, never ends – grace – the undeserved love God generously shows to us sinners, the love we are called to reflect to our fellow Christians and neighbors. 1 Corinthians 13 is often read at weddings – and that’s understandable, for we should want husbands and wives to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things with such love for their spouse. But Paul really describes our Savior and His love for you.
The church fathers show their wisdom in having us read 1 Corinthians 13 today, on this Sunday within fifty days of Easter, as we endeavor to head with our Lord Jesus up to Jerusalem through this upcoming Lenten season on the road to His saving death on the cross and His victorious resurrection. The Gospel today shows us this perfect divine love in the Lord predicting His death and resurrection to His disciples, preparing them for what is coming, and then healing the blind man.
Jesus speaks the tongues of men and of angels for sure, but in love for us, He is no noisy gong or clanging cymbal. He freely reveals all for our salvation, tells the disciples again and again He will be delivered over to the Gentiles, shamefully treated, mocked, spit upon, flogged, and killed, and endures it all out of love for His fallen children. He indeed goes up into Jerusalem to fulfill all prophecies, to lay down His life for His friends and even for His enemies. He gives away all He has, even His last garment, His last shred of dignity, His last, dying breath. He delivers up His body to be burned in His Father’s righteous wrath over our sin, over sin He Himself is innocent of.
He is therefore ever patient and kind. He suffers all – remains silent to the envy, arrogance, and rude treatment of those who mock Him. Even in the midst of His own loneliness and agony on the cross, He still thinks of others. He forgives the penitent thief his sins, relieves him of his burdens, and welcomes Him that day into paradise. He arranges for His mother to be looked after, catechized and kept in the Church, giving her care into the hands of the Apostle whom He loves. He calls on the Father to forgive those who crucify Him for they know not what they are doing – undeserved, divine love shown for the loveless, that they might lovely be, as we sing in a Lenten hymn.
God sent His Son to be the atonement for our sins. God so loved the world, He gave His only-begotten Son in this way – to bear all things, endure all things to the death. The Son believes and hopes that all things that His Father wills, even His own innocent suffering and death on the cross, are for the ultimate good, and that the Father will vindicate this obedience He shows.
As for prophecies, they will pass away. The time will come when there is nothing more to preach. As for tongues, they will cease. We will be one family in Christ. As for knowledge, it, too, will pass away, for we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, even the Lord in judgement, having been crucified, raised, and ascended, when He comes in that glorious mercy to get us and bring us home, then the partial will pass away.
Now we see in a mirror dimly, with scarcely more understanding than the disciples, and perhaps not yet as much as blind Bartimaeus crying to the Son of David for mercy, but then we will see face to face. Now we know in part; then we shall know fully, even as we have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down His life for his friends. The righteous man was lifted up on the cross to draw all men unto Himself, suffering for the ungodly in order that He might lead them back to the Father in heaven – true love that is hard to understand, hard to believe – that the Father wants us sinners back in His fold, whole, undefiled, healed – and all done for us freely, given freely.
The talk of a crucified Savior, the talk of showing such divine love, was of course a stumbling block to the Jew and foolishness to the Gentile. The disciples can see with their eyes, yet they do not see with the eye of faith to understand. They see, but they don’t, truly. They hear, but they do not understand. It was a mystery to them – how could the Messiah give up His life? Was not the kingdom of Israel to be restored on earth? And to the Romans and other gentiles, such divine condescension was utter foolishness, weakness where the pantheon of gods and emperors ruled by strength and might, never by sacrificial love.
Jesus told us last week in the Parable of the Sower that the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh would actively work against His Word. You can see that happening in the twelve disciples. They do not understand what Jesus takes them aside to tell them, to prepare them for. They perhaps do not want to hear it. Peter will deny our Lord. Judas will betray Him to the Romans. The rest will flee in terror and leave Jesus all alone. All this Jesus bore patiently.
The sinful flesh and the whispers of the devil in each sin-stricken conscience still consider this revelation of divine love in a crucified Savior to be irrational and foolish. Too many preachers, secular and Christian, put their faith in moralism and character development. Jesus becomes just another great teacher, an example to follow, if he is listened to at all. There are also too many sermons being preached out there that you must love who you want to love, when you want to love them, how you want to love them. There is not a lot of talk about giving of yourself for others, enduring all things, coming not to be served but to serve. The divine love of Jesus is still a stumbling block to many – for if there is a savior from sin, a ransom being paid freely – then there must be a recognition that there is sin, that there is God’s Law, and that men have darkened hearts against God, and that there is no price, no gold or silver, that we can pay for the debt owed for sin against God.
Meanwhile, there are those of the good soil who revel in Jesus’ divine love. Such is the case with the blind man near Jericho. He cannot see with his eyes, is only able to beg each day for his existence, yet he believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things looking in faith to the Lord, the Son of David who finally passes by. The blind man has faith in, hope for, and love of the promised Savior, even a Savior and King who is heading to Jerusalem to die, that this Savior and King will show him mercy. He did. The one who could not see could see again. Saved from sin, He followed Jesus then, says Luke, glorifying God. When you see what manner of love the Father has for you, you give praise to God. Eventually, after the Resurrection, the disciples too would rejoice to know this love of their Lord and Savior, and would go from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth praising that divine love, even giving their own lives for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus’ divine love does that.
That love has done that in you to. You are here today, believing and hoping for all things promised by the divine love of Jesus you have come to know. You too will endure all things in this life, even the cross. I wish it were not so, but enemies will abuse you, co-workers and friends will betray you, spouses and relatives will let you down. Death, disease, disaster strike. You’ll be blind to the ways of this world, and begging for God’s kingdom to come quickly and save.
But I know and you know what every baptized, blind beggar knows: that Jesus has shown the divine love of God, He has shown mercy, for He has gone up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets has been accomplished. He has been delivered over to the Gentiles for your offenses. He has been mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon as punishment for your sins, in your stead. And after they flogged and tortured him, they killed him in the most agonizing and shameful way they could. Divine love took its course, the only course that could save you.
And you know this story of Jesus’ divine love for you to be true, too, for on the third day He rose and He rose for you, to bring you home.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +