Lent 3 March 19, 2017
155, 151:4-7, 370, 173
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Prayer for the 3rd Sunday in Lent: O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy, be gracious to all who have gone astray from Your ways and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of Your Word; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus, Dear Fellow Redeemed:
When someone betrays us, what is typically our reaction? Usually, we will cut off ties with the one who betrayed us; we want nothing to do with them. It’s not likely that we would stand with and support someone who betrayed us. But, if we were betrayed, and we remained faithful to that betrayer, that would really contrast the good and the bad.
As we continue to examine some “Lenten Contrasts,” today we consider:
When you here the word betrayal, whom do you think of? During Lent, we think of Judas. To betray is, basically, to do evil to someone who trusts you. Judas’ betrayal was very obvious. He was a trusted member of the twelve closest followers of the Lord Jesus. Judas betrayed the Lord by turning Jesus over to His enemies for thirty pieces of silver.
The other disciples were also guilty of betraying the Lord. Peter betrayed Jesus as he failed Jesus in time of need. He betrayed Jesus three times in the courtyard of the high priest. The other disciples were also guilty of this in that, at the time of Jesus’ arrest, “They all forsook Him and fled” (Luke 22:23).
Our own betrayal of the Lord Jesus might not be as obvious. Like the disciples, we are the beloved of the Lord Jesus. And yet, we daily betray Christ. Whereas Judas said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood!” we could very well say, “I have betrayed innocent blood by sinning!”
God does not want us to sin. He made that known when He said, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy!” (Leviticus 19:2). But we are not holy. As Luther wrote, “We daily sin much, and indeed, deserve nothing but punishment.” We have sinned, and by doing so we have betrayed our Lord. Jesus, out of love for us sinners, offered up Himself on the cross, shedding His innocent blood so that we might have the forgiveness of sins. When we only deserved punishment, He offered Himself up to declare us not guilty of sin. And yet, daily we turn our backs on Him by doing contrary to His will, by committing those very acts that made it necessary for Him to suffer and die in our place.
Whether our sin hurts others or not, our sin hurts our Savior. With the psalmist we all must confess to God, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4). By sinning we have betrayed the innocent blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Fortunately for us, and all sinners, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, so that we have been forgiven. When Christ Jesus suffered and died upon the cross, He died to pay for the sins of ALL people. The Holy Spirit means exactly what He says through the apostle John, “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from ALL sin” (1 John 1:7).
How’s that for a contrast? Christ Jesus died to pay for Judas’ betrayal; He died to pay for Peter’s denials; Jesus died to pay for your sins, for my sins, for the sins of every single person who ever has lived, and who ever will live. It is as it has been written, “Christ Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
God’s promise is that, “In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7). Judas knew that in betraying Jesus he had betrayed an innocent man. But Judas did not see that he had betrayed his Lord and Savior with his sin. For Judas, in his own mind, all hope was gone. In his opinion, hat he had done was unforgivable. But there is that contrast again. Judas was unfaithful, but God is faithful. Had Judas seen in Jesus Christ his God and Savior, he would have realized that there is forgiveness for every sin, for the Savior Himself promises in John 6:37, “The one who comes to Me, I will by no means cast out.”
When our text tells us to hold fast without wavering, it is not simply saying, “Don’t sin,” or, “Don’t doubt.” Our hope is not in our holiness or in the strength of our faith. Our text doesn’t tell us to rely on ourselves or on our strength. That’s not where our hope is. Our text teaches us that because we are sinners, we need to hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, without doubting. What is our hope? Is it that we’ll never betray our Lord again by sinning? Certainly, but we know that we will sin again. What is our confession that we hold to? Jesus died for me! What is our hope? That when we sin, “…He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God is not going to change His mind. Christ paid for sin in full. There will be no future collection against our debt of sin, for Jesus removed the debt. Instead of sinking into the pit of despair and giving up hope when we have been unfaithful, grab an even firmer hold onto that hope that you have in God’s faithfulness. Our confession is that we are sinners and that the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed us from ALL sin! That is our hope of salvation because God is faithful. He keeps His promises, including the promise that He has forgiven our sins. He is God our Savior. “If we are faithless, He is faithful. He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).
By our sins we are all guilty of betraying Jesus, for we have all gone contrary to His will. But in this contrast, our sinful betrayals and Christ’s faithfulness, we find the Law and the Gospel, man’s sin and God’s grace. Through our sin we have betrayed innocent blood, but through that innocent blood our sins have been forgiven by God from His undeserved love. What a contrast! He is God our Savior, and nothing, not even our unfaithfulness can change that. So don’t give up hope like Judas. When you sin, cling to the confession of hope in Christ, made fast in God’s faithfulness. He who called you is faithful. He keeps His promises.
Come to Calvary’s holy mountain, Sinners, ruined by the Fall;
Here a pure and healing fountain Flows to you, to me, to all,
In a full, perpetual tide, Opened when our Savior died.
He that drinks shall live forever; Tis a soul-renewing flood.
God is faithful; God will never Break His covenant of blood,
Signed when our Redeemer died, Sealed when He was glorified. Amen.
(TLH #149:1 & 4)
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.