On Sunday we read the entire Passion narrative from Matthew 26-27. Read what our pastor said about it in a sermon that contains the “God who didn’t act like a God” bit that I blogged about yesterday. From Rev. James Douthwaite, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Palm / Passion Sunday Sermon:
You just heard the story that all the Bible is about. This is not just part of the story, this is what it’s all about. Take this story out and the Bible is just another holy book – teaching us what to do and how to be good. But with this story, the Bible becomes a wholly different book, and everything in it gains new meaning. Everything in the Bible must be understood through the lens of this story, or not be understood at all.
Now some would object to that, saying that is to impose on the Old Testament a meaning that is not there – or at least, not yet understood. But not understood is quite different than not there. For even if the people didn’t always understand, God did. God knew what He was doing. And so even if they didn’t realize, for example, that the bronze serpent on a pole in the wilderness that saved them from the deadly venom of the snakes that were biting them was a picture of what Jesus would do for us on the cross – it is still true. Even if they didn’t realize that passing through the Red Sea was a picture of baptism, or the manna in the desert a picture of the Lord’s Supper, or the sacrifice of Abraham’s son Isaac a picture of the sacrifice of God’s Son Jesus – it is still true. God working everything toward this day, this story that we just heard. This story of the salvation of the world.
So perhaps we should not be surprised when we hear in John that His disciples did not understand these things at first. We should not be surprised when Pontius Pilate is confused, or the people are confused. For they wondered: Can a king who doesn’t act like a king be a king? Or to phrase that in a way people today would say it: can a God who doesn’t act like God be God?
But to think that way is to judge God by the way we think; what we expect of Him, and if He doesn’t act the way we think He should, then deny Him. But to do that is to wind up with a God of your own making, which is to say, an idol. It is to have, therefore, no God at all.
For if you want to know God, you must know Him here, like this – a giving God, a dying God. This is how God wants to be known – quite different than all earthbound thoughts of power and glory and the way we think things ought to be. Here, with this story, we learn things not as we want them to be or how we think they should be, but as they are. Here we learn the seriousness of our sins – all of them, even those we think aren’t so bad; even those we think aren’t hurting anybody; even those we don’t think should be sins. Here they are. Every last one of them, on Jesus, on the cross, crushing Him, separating Him from the Father. But even more than that, we learn here just how great and deep and high and long and wide the love of God for you (Eph 3:18-19) – that He would do this for you. All this, for you. The Father, for you. The Son, for you. The Holy Spirit, for you. Giving everything, for you.