sermon

Praying for our Faith

Rev. John J. Lolla, Jr.

April 18, 2019

Text: Luke 22:3, N.T.: Luke 22:28-34

Maundy Thursday

            Jesus’ chosen twelve faced the darkest hour of their lives this night. Years beyond this evening, long after Easter, they would face their private Gethsemanes, and suffer their personal Calvary’s.

But in those future challenging times they would know better the outcome of God’s righteousness. They would not be terrified like they were this night.

By the end of the night, the chosen twelve would over-whelmed by the day’s horrors. They had witnessed the most devastating attack upon a human being they had ever seen. Jesus’ goodness, compassion, and humility were destroyed.  Utterly, totally, completely destroyed. By the time Jesus was taken down from the Cross, it was hard to tell who He was. You couldn’t recognize Him.

It was bad enough to see what had become of Him. What was even worse was what it meant. Here was a person who was so obviously good, Jesus was so clearly wonderful. Yet His goodness, all the wonderful things He had done, all of the beautiful love He showed for everyone meant nothing – absolutely nothing.

What did this mean for anyone who was good? What did this mean for anyone who was wonderfully compassionate to other people? What did this mean for anyone whose love for others was so beautiful? 

They could see Jesus didn’t just love them, His chosen twelve. Jesus didn’t just love people who were loving and cared for the needy. Jesus didn’t just love unlovable people – the lepers, the maimed, the diseased, the complainers. Jesus even loved His accusers, the men who condemned Him to the Cross, the men who nailed Him to the Cross, the men who mocked Him in His public humiliation.

Jesus was such a good person. Everyone could see it, couldn’t they?

But His goodness, His love, His compassion meant nothing to anyone. Every good thing Jesus represented meant nothing. It didn’t bring respect. It didn’t foster appreciation. It didn’t inspire love. It brought total rejection.

For the first time, the chosen twelve– now 11 – were faced with the depravity of humankind. If everything that Jesus stood for and gave was so completely rejected by His own people, what did that mean for any good person’s chances to be respected, appreciated, or loved by anyone?

The disciples were terrified. They had always known that evil was in the world. They had known that about the Romans for years. Roman law was only a justification for extortion. Roman law was not God’s law. Its justice came from self-idolatry. Its purpose was to keep in power men who worshipped themselves. There was no question about whether the Romans would value Jesus’ goodness and compassion.

But now the disciples understood evil resided within their very own public institutions that were devoted to worshipping God. Jesus’ disciples had respected and appreciated their public institutions. That had believed these institutions represented God’s own will for the Jewish people. Herod and Caiaphas were the kingship and priesthood of Judah.

The failure of these two men to appreciate Jesus’ goodness – if nothing else – was devastating. Herod and Caiaphas’ rejection of Jesus’ wonderful love represented not only their personal failures as Judah’s leaders, it represented a complete failure in everything Judah’s institutions meant. Judah’s institutions did not appreciate or value the basic goodness, kindness, and love that was obvious in Jesus. But the day’s horrors meant even more.

Jesus’ own choices of the twelve betrayed Jesus’ goodness. Jesus’ own trust and confidence in His disciples was regarded by one of them as meaningless. One who had been so close to Jesus as one of the inner circle of believers, who had seen first-hand the benefits of Jesus’ goodness, compassion, and love. He rejected the goodness, compassion, and love that Jesus offered to people who had no appreciation for what Jesus was giving them.

Another of the chosen twelve disowned Jesus when it saved him from being associated with Jesus. He was the one Jesus had said was the “rock of the church.” Jesus had given him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Yet here he was distancing himself from Jesus’ goodness.

How could such a man be trusted to employ goodness, compassion, and love as gate-keeper to God’s kingdom?

How could Jesus give him the keys to heaven?

Two of Jesus’ chosen twelve had shown no more appreciation for what Jesus offered than any of those who had public positions of power to protect. Judas and Peter showed being followers of Jesus was no better than being a complete disbeliever in Jesus. What good was it to be a follower of Jesus when any one of them could betray the goodness Jesus was? The disciples couldn’t even trust themselves and their commitment to goodness and mercy.

But there was even more.

God’s own unwillingness to intervene in the spectacle of the Cross failed His own righteousness. God had stood back and let all this happen to the best person in all of Judah. God’s inactivity supported all who stood against goodness. It made no sense.        

As far as the remaining 11 could understand this night, God had rejected the goodness, the compassion, the beautiful love by which Jesus had lived – which Jesus had said was God’s own goodness, compassion, and love.

The disciples’ faith in everything that represented God’s goodness and mercy had collapsed. Their faith in God was devastated by 24 hours of horrors.

There was nothing left in this world but hatred, greed, and self-idolatry. Narcissism rules. From this night the remaining disciples could only conclude that virtually no one appreciates goodness and mercy, kindness and compassion, love and service to others.

There are times in our lives when similar torments afflict us. These are times when our sense of isolation and loneliness before life’s dark forces leave us teetering on the precipice of losing faith.

These are moments when life is beyond our control and we can only helplessly watch goodness, compassion, and love be crucified on the altar of hatred, greed, and self-idolatry.

When all that is worth living and giving your life to defend is utterly, completely, and totally destroyed – when your faith lies in ruins – Jesus is praying for your faith to prevail. Trust in the Eternal Father. Trust in Jesus – who has faith in the Father.

Jesus knew this night would arrive. He had begun praying for the chosen twelve long before this dark night of the soul would come. He is praying for us in preparation for those moments when you will enter the dark night of the soul.

Jesus had prayed for Herod, Caiaphas, and Pontius Pilate. He had prayed for Simon Peter, James, John, and Andrew – Thomas, Nathaniel, Simon the Zealot. He had prayed for Matthew, Philip, James the son of Alphaeus, Judas the son of James. Jesus had prayed even for Judas Iscariot.

Jesus’ knew that Satan would mount all the forces at his disposal to attack the goodness, compassion, and love that Jesus brought to earth from the Father. Jesus knew that in the dark night of the soul, when all seems lost, faith in God is at its greatest risk.

When that night comes, don’t find it strange, as if it’s something with which you’ve never been acquainted. God has been preparing you for it every day, knowing this day will come.

Neither should you think that you can’t face that dark night’s arrival. Christ has been ceaselessly praying for you not to lose faith in God’s goodness, compassion, and love despite the horrors you see in this world that defy Him.

Jesus’ love is boundless. It cannot be contained. He knows the fears that will overwhelm you – the agony through which you will pass. He has anticipated the journey for you. His is praying for you not to lose faith.

Friends, our faith shall prevail despite the loss we experience because Jesus’ goodness, compassion, and love ultimately prevails. We will face that moment when it seems that God has turned His face away from us. But it is at that very moment that Christ is near us. He is strengthening our faith through prayer so that we can see beyond the present dark night to the glory over the horizon in the day that lies ahead.

Our Father who loves us has shown us this through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Amen.

 

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