Monday, April 13, 2015

Even the enemies of God find themselves doing His work


But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all.  Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish."  John 11:49-50

BECAUSE God is God even His enemies must praise Him.  St. Paul tells us in today's epistle that, "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Pilate was such a case.  He unintentionally preached the gospel of the one he crucified.  He did it by a placard affixed to the cross that read, "the King of the Jews," written in three languages, in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, so that no one would miss the message, so it is that a Roman governor preached to the world with Pentecostal tongue that the Man here crucified is the Savior of the world, the Redeemer of the planet now soaked in the last drops of his saving blood.

The same can be said of the blood-thirsty mob calling for the Lord's crucifixion with the chant His blood be on us and on our children.  They too preached the gospel unawares because St. Peter says on Pentecost that the promise is to you and to your children and to your children's children.

Caiaphas the high priest also glorified God unawares.  As the Lord's fame had reached a feverish pitch so that it appeared that the whole world would become His followers, he addressed the Jewish council with the following words:  it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.

Better indeed!  Yet it was not theology that moved Caiaphas to speak that day, but politics.  He feared his Roman over-lords.  He knew that the Roman state could be quite tolerant as long order was maintained, but he also knew that the empire could "strike back" if anyone should disturb the peace, and the peace was definitely being disturbed.  Jesus had turned the whole world upside down!  His fame was spreading like a brush fire, and ancient messianic hopes were being re-ignited.

That's what it looked like from the surface at any rate, but another power was at play; the power of God unto salvation for all who believe!

Caiaphas was not a believer.  He knew who Jesus was.  He was aware of the message He preached and of the mighty miracles He performed; everyone was, but he was more politician than cleric.  Rather than marvel at the Lord's message and sit at His feet with a broken and contrite heart like so many others did, he rejected Jesus and determined to be rid of Him once and for all.

The Lord still has His enemies today and it is their greatest desire to silence the Jesus of Scripture, the Jesus of the catechism, and of the church's liturgy, and if Christians are not careful they too can be swept away by the tide because there is a little Caiaphas residing in each of us.  Unbelievers and Sinful Nature both ask the same question:  can the whole world really be under God's condemnation because of Adam's sin?  Can the death of One Man really prevent the whole world from perishing?  Is the way of life indeed that narrow?   And can God really act that way?  But they answer their own question, because the sin of Adam is still alive and well in his children and the only way to be rid of it, the only way to avoid "death after death" is to have the righteousness of Jesus Himself put into our account.  That is what happened on the cross.  In His mercy God arranged that one Man should die for the nation, so that, "by the obedience of one Man," to use the words of St. Paul, "the many should be made righteous."  Jesus is that One Man whose obedience avails for all, and you are the many made righteous by His blood.

Yes.  Blood.  For without the shedding of blood, Scripture says, there can be no forgiveness of sins, but we are so conflicted.  On the one hand society likes to pretend that the world is a utopia, a place where if we never talk about violence it won't happen, a place where if a school child should even shape a piece of bread to look like a gun, he must be sent for "re-instruction," but on the other hand we favor camo pants and love to wear BDU's.  We fill the air waves with every bloody story no matter how distant from us it is, and we get all gushy whenever a military band plays the national anthem.

There can be no doubt that innocent blood is shed daily and that it is a tragedy in every case, but in this case, the death of this One Man, this holy, innocent Son of God, this Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, the words of Caiaphas apply!  It is better that one man should die for the people than that the whole nation should perish, and so it was!  Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day knowing what awaited Him, rode forward to the acclamations Hosanna, which means "save us."  The crowd, too, preaching a gospel they did not understand, but were soon to find out.

A well-known spiritual asks, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"  No.  We were not, neither do we need be because the benefits of the Lord's death are brought forward to us in the church today.  The Gospel preached is nothing other than absolution, baptism nothing other than salvation, and the Blessed Sacrament nothing other than life.  These are the things generously given to all who come to the church each Sunday.  Not only are the incomparable blessings of salvation brought forward, but they propel us ever forward as well; forward in thanksgiving, in humility, in holiness, in faith and in love for both God and one another; forward beyond the cold grave to the heavenly Jerusalem that is our true home where we will see our Savior face to face and bask in His love which endures forever.  Amen.

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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