Sermon Preached by Fr. Allen at St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Church in Matthews, NC on February 11, 2024.
“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished.” In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
In today’s Gospel, we watch Jesus enter into the final stages of His mission to make man into His image – by setting out to become what His people had become. And, in our Epistle we are told that we know His mission was a success when His people are empowered to become like Him – images of His agape love and charity.
Over the last couple of weeks of Gesimatide, the Lections of Morning Prayer have taken us back to “in the beginning,” so that as we make our turn today with Jesus toward Jerusalem, we can understand how everything He will do there, will be done to accomplish what He began to do back in Genesis. As you know, in the beginning the Triune-God revealed His will to make “man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen.1:27). To do this, He took the good soil of the earth and breathed his Spirit into it to make the first man, and then He caused that man to fall into a deep sleep to make a woman from his side, so that both of them together could reflect and manifest His own image of agape love as they served one another in their shared task of doing their Creator’s will – taking dominion and growing the human family as He would do it if He were them (with patience, kindness, and respect; without arrogance, rudeness, and resentfulness).
The Serpent, of course, tried to derail this plan by beguiling the human family into sinfully rebelling, by sowing discord into the man and woman’s relationship, and by introducing death into the world (Gen.3; Wis.2:24). But God would not be thwarted in accomplishing the work He began with Adam and Eve. He would see it through no matter the cost, even though it would now require a detour through sin, death, and the grave. He would steer the growth of the human family through a series of covenants that would keep their rebellion and discord in check all while preserving them from the world of death that had been introduced. Now, while it’s true that the majority of men and women throughout time found themselves on the cursing-end of those covenants, nevertheless, God continued working his purposes outby each subsequent covenant toward His goal of having the world filled with a people made in His image of agape love-and-charity. Genesis shows us the first three of these covenants with Adam and Eve, then Noah and his household, and finally Abraham and his clan. Later, Exodus shows us the fourth covenant with Moses and the nation of Israel, and 2Samuel shows us the fifth with David whereby God’s people would grow into a kingdom. But the rest of the Old Testament only hints at the final covenant, which would grow that middle eastern kingdom into a universal Church that would bear God’s name, manifest His image, and fill the earth with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.
To establish this 6th New Covenant, is why Jesus “goes up to Jerusalem today,” whereby the whole world – not just one couple, household, clan, nation, or kingdom – can be reconciled unto God and be made into a universal people made in His image. To accomplish this, Jesus puts Himself forward as the spotless lamb of God who knew no sin, to become sin on behalf of this new people, so that they could become the righteousness of God (2Cor.5:21). Or as St. Athanasius put it, “the Son of God became man so that man could become a son of God.”
- Since His people had been exiled and handed over the Gentiles, so the Christ would be handed over to the Gentiles (23:22,25).
- Since His people had become a laughingstock among the Nations (Ps.44:14), so Christ would be mocked, spit upon, and shown no respect (Lk.22:63; 23:11,36).
- Because His people had fallen into the shame of nakedness after eating the tree of knowledge of good and evil (2:25; 3:7), so the Christ would be shamed and stripped naked by the tree of the Cross.
- Since His people had been beaten and defeated in fulfilling their calling, so the Christ would give His back to the smiters and be crushed for their iniquities.
- Because His people had been made subject to death, so the Christ would make Himself subject to death and be cut off from the land of the living.
Only when He had accomplished this, could He finally make fallen, sinful, shamed, failed, enslaved, and dead humanity into a universal people that could manifest His divine image of agape love & charity.
Of course, the disciples from their point of view had no clue about what Jesus was talking about when He explains to them His plan to do this(Lk.18:34); there was no way in their minds that such a road could be the one which led to success. In other words, they were just as spiritually blind to God’s plan as the beggar we encounter next was physically blind, and this is why Luke has recorded these two events side by side. Because both the disciples and the beggar suffer from a kind of blindness – and the cure for both is to have faith in Jesus and His promise.
And once that blindness is dealt with, our eyes of faith can be made to see Jesus, His mission, and our life aright. For when we look upon His mission with the eyes of faith, it will go from being simply a historical fact to be memorialize to a present reality to be celebrated and to be manifested in our lives: visibly manifesting the same kind of love and charity on behalf of those around us. May He give us such eyes to see now at His altar-throne of grace.