“Pierced by Love”
Isaiah 53:5 – John 19:37 – March 25, 2016
This service tonight is brought to you—to me—to all of us—by the word “LOVE.” All through Lent we have been following Jesus on the road to Jerusalem, following Him as He expressed that love to all He met, in various ways.
On the first Sunday in Lent, Valentine’s Day, we looked at Jesus as He was tempted in the wilderness. While He was here on earth, Jesus made sure His heart was given to His Heavenly Father, And, He advised us on where our hearts ought to be, too. Loving God.
This giant Valentine heart I’m holding is a conversation heart. Can we think of it as a Valentine from Jesus? On one side, it says “Be mine.” On the other, it says “I’m yours.”
Who—or what—do we give our hearts to?
We heard Jesus compare Himself to a mother hen. Jesus welcomes us into His embrace, into His community of love and caring. Just as a lost little chick who finally finds the way home into the nest, into his or her mother hen’s warm feathery embrace, so we can find our way into a community of caring, love, nourishing and belonging. I hope our church community extends that caring and loving welcome to everyone. Jesus wants us to know that we are welcome with Him, loved by Him, always.
We followed the thread of covenant love given to King David. Are we sharing God’s covenant love with those who need to hear? Many are hiding in loneliness and desperation thinking that no one loves them. We can introduce them to our Lord Jesus. We can tell them of the love of God that we have received through Christ. With our Lord Jesus we can find acceptance and security, and most importantly, love. The thread of covenant love, traced down to today. God is offering that love to us, today. Can you feel it?
Then, the parable of the Prodigal. Jesus gives hope to all those who make bad choices and run away to a far country.(Including us.) God the heavenly Father—the heavenly Parent—is actively looking for us when we make bad choices. When we come to our senses and return to God for forgiveness, God comes running to meet us, from a long way off. If that isn’t love, what is?
We come to Mary of Bethany, anointing Jesus with a whole bottle of unbelievably expensive perfume. She intended this gift as a token of her extravagant love for Jesus. We know Jesus had given real expressions of His love to her and her family, in the raising of Lazarus.
Can you believe, spending a whole year’s wages on a small bottle of perfume? Astronomically expensive. Do you understand why I called Mary’s expression a gift of extravagant love?
I think Mary understood the warnings Jesus had been giving, about very soon entering Jerusalem. About the path He must travel—to the cross. Passover was coming! The Gospel tells us so. She is not only showing her extravagant love, but preparing Jesus for whatever it is that He will face—very soon.
Now, today, Good Friday, Jesus is facing that ultimate gift of love.
When I was in my twenties, recently graduated from a Christian college, it was this time of year. Holy Week. I had connections to several different churches around Chicago, in different denominations. I took the opportunity to attend a service each day at this time, at each place of worship. Thursday night, Maundy Thursday, I attended a Lutheran church. The night our Lord Jesus instituted the Eucharist. We celebrated the Lord’s Supper that night. Good Friday, I went to church at an evangelical church. The church celebrated communion that night. On Saturday at that time, I was in the habit of occasionally attending a Messianic synagogue. I attended that Saturday, and they celebrated that commemoration of the Passover dinner where Messiah Yeshua instituted the Lord’s Supper. And on Sunday morning, Easter morning, I went to a Presbyterian church, where we celebrated Easter communion.
Four very different services at four diverse places of worship. Four separate occasions where I had the opportunity to partake in the Lord’s Supper. With each renewed reminder of the Words of Institution, where we remembered that on the night in which He was betrayed, our Lord Jesus took bread and took the cup at supper. Said, “This is My body, this is My blood, broken and shed for all of you.” And St. Paul in 1 Corinthians reminds us when we eat this bread and drink this cup, we remember the death of our Lord until He comes again.
As each service washed over me, my consciousness of my sinfulness and how unworthy I was also washed over me. I love this reading from the prophet, Isaiah chapter 53. This chapter of Isaiah keeps breaking my heart. It broke my heart in my twenties, and still continues to break my heart today. I bow my head in grief as I read about our Lord Jesus, despised and rejected of humanity. A man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Acquainted with grief.
On that Holy Week in my twenties, with the repeated communion services, my sin was repeatedly put before me. Extreme grief and sorrow came over me each time as I repeatedly considered my sins, my transgressions, and these words from the prophet Isaiah.
Jesus was, indeed, pierced for my transgressions. Through His death on the cross, through those wounds He received, I was healed. Healed from all iniquity!
These words of the prophet are not just words on a page. They became vividly real to me some years ago. Just as they are still vividly real, today. Real for me, for you, for everyone. Jesus was pierced for all of our transgressions. Jesus was crushed for all of our iniquities.
“On Thursday—yesterday, Jesus ate with His disciples. He knew it would be His last meal with them. When no one washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus did the job. He even washed the feet of Judas who would turn Him in to the soldiers and Peter who would pretend he did not even know Jesus later that night. That is love!
“On Friday, Jesus endured whipping and being nailed to a cross. He forgave the soldiers who did the job. He endured the crowds who mocked him as He died and forgave them. He watched His mother watch Him die on the cross, and even asked his friend John to take care of her. That is love!
“By the time he died on Friday, His heart was broken by his enemies, by the crowds, and even by His friends. But Jesus kept on loving them all. That is love – God’s love!” (from Worshiping with Children, Palm/Passion Sunday, Including children in the congregation’s worship, using the Revised Common Lectionary, Carolyn C. Brown, 2016.)
Yes, our Lord Jesus did die on the cross. He took upon Himself the sins of humanity, willingly. Lovingly. He was pierced, because of love. The best news of all? Jesus did it because He loved us with God’s love. Boundless, abundant, transforming. Jesus loves without limits.
We have been forgiven. Just as the prophet says, through His wounds we are truly healed. That is indeed something for which we all can thank God.
That is not the end of the story. No! Jesus may have died that Good Friday afternoon, but He did not stay dead. He rose from the dead! Sunday is coming! However, it is not here yet.
Yes, we sorrow with the women and with John, there at the Cross. Yes, we bow our heads in anguish and shame, guilt and grief.
When someone asks us, “How much did Jesus love people?” We can say, “Jesus loved us this much.” (holding up outstretched arms)
(Thanks to Carolyn Brown, for her excellent ideas for a Lenten series on Love! I borrowed freely from Worshiping with Children, Palm/Passion Sunday, Including children in the congregation’s worship, using the Revised Common Lectionary, Carolyn C. Brown, 2016.