Midweek Lent 3: Wednesday/Thursday March 3&4, 2021
Theme: “What Shall I Do with Jesus?” 21:2245
Follow Him in His Wondrous Love…To the Sanhedrin
Passion History Part 2: Gethsemane; Prayer; Arrested, Taken Away
Did anyone ever tell a lie about you that hurt your reputation? How did you react when you heard about what they said? Maybe you felt hurt, wondering why anyone would ever say something like that about you and try to ruin your good name. Maybe you felt angry, even vengeful, almost wanting to do something to make that person suffer as much as he made you suffer. There are never good results that take place when people tell lies that are meant to hurt. The Lord Jesus knows what that is like.
I. He stood in front of the enemy who blasphemed His name.
As the crowd of armed men brought Jesus into Jerusalem after His capture in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was first brought to trial before Caiaphas and the 70 leaders of the Jews known as the Sanhedrin. It was anything but a fair trial as they paraded one false witness after another in front of them to testify against Jesus. They all told lies about Him, but none of them made any sense. What wrong did they have against Him?
He healed the sick, He fed the crowds, He raised the dead like Lazarus. The more good He did, the more they were determined to lie about Him so that they could put Him to death. But they had nothing wrong to bring against Jesus. And it frustrated them.
In addition, the hand of God was at work confusing whatever they said. Even Caiaphas got so fed up with his false witnesses that he discarded what they claimed that produced no valid testimony against Jesus. But Caiaphas was determined that Jesus should die. Rising in front the crowd and facing Jesus, he charged him under oath, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
Up to this point Jesus had remained silent. But this was an issue for which He could not keep quiet. He must give clear witness to the truth, so He replied, “Yes, it is just as you say. And I tell all of you. In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
That incensed Caiaphas. “Blasphemy,” he cried as he tore his robe in mock anguish. “Why do we need any more witnesses. He is worthy of death.” They hit Him in the face, spit on Him, and made
fun of Him. That’s what lies did to the Son of God. They condemned Him with the verdict of blasphemy when they were the ones guilty of it by their lies and false charges.
To blaspheme means to speak abusively and harmfully, to speak words against God, words that insult and show contempt, disrespect, and lack of reverence towards God or sacred things. A scientist who makes fun of creation taking place in 6 days by the word of God is blaspheming Him. A teacher declaring that it is perfectly normal and right before God to engage in homosexual activity is blaspheming God. A person who refuses to believe the Bible or refuses to give Jesus the same honor as is given to the Father is blaspheming God. So Jesus’ enemies blasphemed His name as He stood right in front of the Sanhedrin.
It’s an easy thing to identify the blasphemy that the Sanhedrin spoke against Jesus. It’s a harder thing to see if there is any hint of blasphemy in our own lives. If you challenge God to prove Himself or His works in your life…
– if you tell Him to prove that He truly loves and cares for you,
– if you ask Him to prove that He is really God and will do the
things He says He will do, you are walking a tight rope with blasphemy. Whenever we challenge God to prove what His Word says, we walk close to blasphemy because His Word is true. So to question Him, to doubt His Word, and especially to demand proof of His care in an almost mocking way – that would be blasphemy.
People need to consider what Jesus told his enemy, Caiaphas, who stood in front of Him and blasphemed His name. He said, “I tell you. In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” He will come as Judge on the final day to rule against those who continue to blaspheme His name. Of this we even need warning should we allow our sinful flesh to rise within us.
But for those who turn from that flesh, repent, and look to Jesus for forgiveness, that final day will bring the complete fulfillment of His wondrous love. While His return will spell eternal death for all who die in their unbelief and blasphemy, it will mean victory for all who put their trust in the name of Jesus as Savior, for to see Jesus standing here before the enemy who blasphemed His name and to believe in whom He said He was is to see a Savior taking the punishment for sin upon Himself. This He endured for us that we might not have to endure His punishment in eternity. And as we see and believe in what He has done for us, our mouths are opened, not to slander Him, but to sing His praise, the praise of the Savior who displayed such wondrous love, even before the Sanhedrin.
II. He stood by the friend who denied His name.
Sadly, not all of Jesus’ followers sang His praise so boldly that night. In fact, they were afraid to be seen, afraid to be heard. They all ran away – except Peter and John.
After first running from the crowd arresting Jesus, Peter and John plucked up some courage and followed the company of soldiers – at a distance. Under the cover of darkness they followed safely behind where they could not be seen.
Somehow, John was allowed to enter where the proceedings before the Sanhedrin were held. Peter remained outside in the courtyard, warming himself by the fire. There, sitting among Jesus’ enemies, he denied three times any knowing and following of Jesus on his part. There, Jesus’ sworn friend denied Jesus’ name. “I don’t know the man!” he swore. Was that blasphemy, perhaps not directly but indirectly swearing against Jesus? Then Jesus, who must have been led across the courtyard, turned and looked at him.
What a look that must have been, a painful look: “Peter, how could you?” Can you feel those eyes piercing through you, even as Peter must have felt it? But there was something more in that look, and invitation of love: “Peter, you have denied me, but I want you back. That’s the reason I warned you.”
God’s Word is filled with plenty of loving warnings. They are there because whenever we are tempted by sin and fall, we are denying Christ’s name over again – denying that we are His followers, for true followers do not do that which is goes against His will. Yet, we sin and in sinning we deny Him.
But, thank God, like Peter He looks upon us to reassure us of His wondrous love. He endured this denial for us that we might not be denied by Him in eternity. He would have us as His own. Even our many failures cannot separate from His wondrous love those who return to Him in faith.
Jesus once said, “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” (Mt.12:32). God grant that we not reject the workings of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and instead cling to Christ and His wondrous love in faith. God grant it for Jesus’ sake.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
What Wondrous Love
When Judas approached, Jesus addressed him as “Friend.” If ever the full sweetness and tender yearning of the Savior’s loving invitation was pressed into one little word, it was pressed into the word “friend” that night. Jesus knew full well what Judas would do. He knew the meaning of the kiss – betrayal. He knew all this and more. Yet, in His love He called him “Friend.” Jesus was still eager to forgive him if he would return in penitence and faith. If we ever betray our Savior by sinful behavior, may we hear that loving voice still pleading: “Friend.” What wondrous love that He still calls us “Friend!”
Tonight: Follow Him in His Love …to the Sanhedrin
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
Midweek Lenten Service 3 Thursday, March 4, 2021
Tonight’s Order of Worship
(No offering will be taken in the service this evening. The offering plates
will be in the narthex where you may leave your offering after the service.)
The Invocation and Opening Prayer
Pastor: In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. Once again we gather tonight to commemorate the wondrous love that Jesus Christ has for us.
All: What wondrous love it is as we recall Jesus’ suffering to remove the dreadful curse on our sinful souls.
Pastor: At times our record has been shameful. Whereas our love for You, Lord, demands that we follow You, our love for ourselves too often supersedes it. It is often like Peter’s. He followed You from Gethsemane, but his love for himself, his comfort and convenience, demanded that his following be done from afar, from a comfortable distance. How often have we done something similar? We must confess that our thoughts have all too often been:
All: “Lord, of course we will follow You, but not now; people are looking. Lord, of course we will follow You, but not too closely. There are still some things which we must keep between us. Surely, we will follow You, Lord. But may we do it from a distance?”
Pastor: Perhaps we have never said it that way, but sometimes we have lived it. Lord, help us to be done with a purely comfortable Christianity. Help us to be done with holding back in our faith, with lingering on the very edge of darkness, not quite ready to step into the full light of Your love and salvation.
All: With Your Spirit’s aid, help us make our way to the front of the procession and take our stand with Christ. In spite of threats of scorn, ridicule, or persecution, help us say to all alike: “I am this man’s disciple!”
Pastor: Enable us to respond to Your wondrous love with a deeper love for You and a stronger devotion to carry out Your will in our lives. You have cleansed us from sin. You have looked upon us with Your love. You have assured us that we can always come to You for rest. Increase our faith to receive with thanksgiving Your wondrous forgiveness.
All: Be with us, Lord, as we follow You this night from Gethsemane to the court of the Sanhedrin. Help us to pay close attention to all You say and do on Your mission of rescuing love. Impress on our hearts and minds the precious meaning of Your Passion. Increase our faith and strengthen our grasp on the eternal life You have won for us. Grant this to us as we worship You in truth this night. In Your name we pray. Amen.
The Hymn: “O Dearest Jesus” st.1-5 117
The Reading of the Passion History: Agony of Soul in Gethsemane
Patterned after the Lutheran arrangement that was printed in “The Lutheran Lectionary” of the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America in the 1940s.
The Hymn: “What Wondrous Love Is This” 120
What Shall I Do with Jesus? Follow Him in His Wondrous Love…to the Sanhedrin
Prayer and Luther’s Evening Prayer
All: I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day. Forgive me all my sins and graciously keep me this night. Into Your hands I commend my body and soul and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen
Congr: (sung) Amen.
Closing Hymn: “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night” 592
Next Thursday: 5:45 pm – Supper
7:00 pm – Service 4: Follow Him in His Love…to Pilate.