2nd Sunday in Lent February 28, 2021


Lift High the Cross!

Colossians 2:14; Ephesians 5:2; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

Scripture Readings

Genesis 22:1-14
John 12:20-26


279, 354, Worship Supplement 2000: #769, 512

Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted

+ In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen. +

Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

And walk in love, as Christ also loved us and given Himself for us, and offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him

A young boy once accompanied his mother to church. The boy was listening very attentively. The preacher’s sermon was on the crucifixion of Christ, and as the boy listened he began to weep. Soon he began to cry aloud. His mother became so embarrassed that she whispered to him, “Don’t take it so seriously.”

I wonder how seriously you and I take the preaching of the cross? Do we ever weep tears of sorrow over the fact that you and I killed Jesus, that we as much as pounded those nails into his flesh, and pressed that thorny crown down upon His head? Do we ever weep tears of joy as we marvel over the indescribable love that kept Him fastened to that cross to the bitter end? Or when we see tears in the eyes of others, are we quick to speak of the healing power of the cross, that mighty cross, which towers above the wrecks of time? How seriously do we take the cross? Has it to some extent become nothing more than a wall ornament? Or just a piece of jewelry we wear around our neck? Or even something we tire of hearing about?

The fact of the matter is that Jesus’ cross needs to be lifted high, far above everything else in our lives. What else in our lives can compare to the power, the significance, and the necessity of the cross? When you lift something up high, that means it’s important to you, you take it seriously. Well, God takes you seriously, and that’s why He sent His Son, God in human flesh, to that place called Calvary, to the horrible death of the cross. May His Word help us today and everyday to: LIFT HIGH THE CROSS 1. Lift it Up in Your Heart 2. Lift it Up in Your Life 3. Lift it Up before the World.

1. Lift it Up in Your Heart

A famous preacher from a hundred years ago once visited a prison called “The Tombs” to preach to the inmates. After he had finished speaking, he talked with a number of men in their cells. He asked each prisoner this question, “What brought you here?” Again and again he received replies like this: “I don’t deserve to be here.” “I was framed.” “I was falsely accused.” “I was given an unfair trial.” Not one inmate would admit he was guilty. Finally, the preacher found a man with his face buried in his hands, weeping. “And what’s wrong my friend?” He inquired. The prisoner responded, “My sins are more than I can bear.”

Your sins and mine are more than we could ever bear. With God’s help, let us learn to stop making excuses for them, and simply be honest about who we are, and what we’ve done. Then let’s learn anew to run for cover beneath the shadow of the cross. Our first verse from Colossians says: “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14)

The Cross of Christ has wiped out the sentence pronounced upon us. It says what once stood against you has been taken out of the way. It’s been nailed to the cross. The power of God’s law to accuse and to condemn has been silenced because on the cross the full price has been paid for all sin.

Are you seeing then how to deal with that guilty heart of yours? Are you understanding how to cope with that sin you committed this past week that is gnawing at your conscience? Do you understand the solution for muzzling that accusing voice which loves to remind you of your past? The Cross— LIFT IT UP! Lift it high in your heart!

It doesn’t’ matter what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter what your particular sin is. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve had to keep coming back. All your sin has been wiped out and taken out of the way! It was nailed to the cross!

One man writes:

Do you ever question if God’s loves you?

Look at the cross again and your question is answered.

Lift it high in your heart, for every drop of blood that Jesus shed cries out, “I love you!

2. Lift it Up in Your Life

The Cross! Lift it up in your heart. But let’s also lift it up in our lives. God wants you and me to live the cross. That’s what our second passage is teaching us today: Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ also loved us and given Himself for us, and offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Do you see it? Our Christian life of love is tied up and connected to Jesus’ cross. It is, in fact, our very power to walk in love, to live a life of love. A life of forgiveness. A life lived for others.

But we need to understand something. Lifting high the cross in our everyday lives is not some showy activity concerned with getting the praise and applause of others. Lifting high the cross is the father bringing up his children to know the Lord. It is the mother tirelessly caring for the little ones the Lord has placed into her care. It is the child honoring and obeying his parents. Lifting the cross is the young person resisting the temptations which surround them. Lifting high the cross is seen in the Christian worker doing something useful with his hands so he can share with those in need. It is the everyday acts of kindness God’s people to show to others, even to their enemies. It is the believing husband and wife honoring and loving one another in a marriage which reflects God’s love and forgiveness. It is the church member faithfully getting in his car every Sunday morning and driving to worship the LORD who paid with blood for his soul.

Are these spectacular actions? Maybe not. Yet they are all wonderful examples of Christians lifting the cross in their everyday lives. More than that, they are the result of the new life God the Holy Spirit has worked in the hearts of His children through His message. The message which says Christ also loved us and given Himself for us. The message of the cross!

You see, the mighty, towering cross, is a force in our lives! It’s the power that makes us want to, from the heart, follow the guidance of God’s Word. It’s the driving force which leads us to put others first, to forgive those who sin against us, to live a life of unselfish, self-sacrificing, Christ-like love. While the world offers Band-Aid solutions for deep seated spiritual problems, the Cross of Jesus replaces sin-wrecked, selfish hearts with new, tender, loving hearts of faith. That’s exactly what our marriages need, what our families need, and what our nation needs. We need the cross of Jesus planting its heavenly love squarely in the middle of our lives.

3. Lift it Up before the World

We lift the Cross in our hearts. We lift it high in our lives. But finally we lift it up before the world. Our last passage says: “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

We are Christ’s ambassadors. He sends us out with a message: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him!” We can tell people, anybody and everybody, that their sin— all of it—was put on Jesus. In exchange, God has put on each and every sinner Jesus’ righteousness as a free gift. The bottom line is that the sinner is now right with God. Therefore, whoever believes in Jesus Christ and Him crucified has eternal life. It’s not rocket science. It’s God’s straightforward and saving truth for a world leveled by sin.

But where do we take the cross to lift it high? Certainly, we take it to far off places like India, Africa, the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal. Reports show how the LORD is using our mission dollars to bring in a rich harvest of souls—souls once bound for hell. The LORD is also using our mission dollars to plant churches and to do exploratory work in our own country. The need for the preaching of the cross has perhaps never been greater in our land. Be encouraged, brothers and sisters, to generously support our CLC mission program. Our mission program is all about putting lost sinners in touch with God’s life line to heaven, Jesus’ cross.

But lifting the cross really starts in your own backyard: where you work, at your school, and among your own friends and relatives. You can tell them of God’s love which sent His Son to die personally for them so that they may have life without end. We need to lift the cross up so that our friends and neighbors can see it and find in it their sure hope for salvation.

Many years ago on the roof of a certain little church on the edge of the prairie, my younger brother and I were trying to put up Christmas lights along the roof line of the church. But there was a problem: the roof was extremely slippery that day, and we had all we could do to keep ourselves from plunging over the edge. Finally, we came up with the idea of tying one of us to the cross which stood atop that little church. With one end of the rope securely tied to the cross, and the other around my brother’s waist, he was able to get out to the edge of the building and complete the job without fear of plunging over the side.

The cross we lift high before the world gives eternal security to those who are tied in faith to the One Who once offered his life there for one and all—the cross which will not allow the believer in Christ to plunge into the dark abyss of hell.

And finally that’s where we will see the cross in the fullness of its power and glory! In eternity! The cross of Jesus’ towers above the wrecks of time, but it also reaches into eternity. When we lift up our eyes and gaze upon the cross we see right into heaven itself. In Revelation seven we read these words: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:14-17)

The Cross! Lift it high! Lift its peace high when your conscience is assaulted by guilt. Lift its love high when forgiveness and healing are needed in your relationships. Lift its power high so that those in your corner of the world may believe and be saved! AMEN!

—Pastor Mike Wilke

Gethsemane Lutheran Church
Saginaw, MI

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