The Good of Hatred

The Good of Hatred

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and
from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the
texts for this morning come from all three but primarily the Gospel reading.

She was twenty-three and he was twenty-two, and they had
joined the military together. And they were stationed up here at Fort Hood,
and they worked a deal so that they could be deployed together to Iraq so they
wouldn’t be apart from one another. So they both were at the same base. She
had a totally different type of unit than his.

The unit that she was a part of was the kind that went out
and found the explosive ordnances and sequestered them and took them off of the
track or the road and then took the explosive and exploded it safely somewhere
else. That night, though, when she picked up that explosive, it exploded on her.
Her arms were gone from the elbow down, both, but God be praised for the body
armor and her helmet, her face and her chest were very, very good. That’s
probably what kept her alive as they stabilized her in the hospital there. When
they brought him in, shock had set in on him, the husband, as he looked upon
his bride of but a few years, and he became very flat-lined in his affect, full
of emotion.

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” the Greeks said. Well, there
before me in that hospital room was Jesus. It didn’t look like Jesus, and it
didn’t smell like Jesus, but there was Jesus right there. You see, when the
Greeks asked this question of the apostles, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” this
followed, as you look at the text, right on the heels of His triumphant entry
into Jerusalem. “Show us the power. Show us the glory. Show us the might. Show
us something that proves to our mind and our emotions that that there is God in
all of His power.” That was in essence the request.

That is also, in essence, your and my request at many times
in your and my life. We wish to see something that we can prove Jesus to
ourself and our doubts, or we wish to have something that we can prove to our
loved one or our family member who is not a believer or who does not take this
seriously. Show us.

And so when these Greeks come to talk to Jesus, Jesus
doesn’t whip out a miracle and show them. He doesn’t change water into wine or
heal someone’s atrophied limb or bring blindness to sight. He says, “You want
to see it? You’re about to see it within a week. The hour has come for the Son
of Man to be glorified.”

“Good, good. We’re going to see Jesus glorified. You hear

“Truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the
earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

For that young couple in that busy ER, for them, Jesus was
right there. But can you imagine…can you imagine the ridiculousness of someone
saying, “All that is necessary of you is to believe. All that is necessary of
you is to keep in your mind the great miracles that you have seen in the past
in your life. All that remains for you to see Jesus is to make sure you focus
upon those glorious events in your life when you saw such great wonder.” It’s
not what Jesus showed the Greeks, and that’s not what He shows you and me.

He shows us the cross. “There’s where I’m glorified. There’s
where the Father’s glory shines forth brighter than all. There’s where
substance is to be found, meat to put your teeth in. There is food and drink

When Jesus points the disciples and those Greeks to what was
going to happen in but a few days, He was pointing them to an event that
completely was counter….counter to all of the things that He had established
Himself prior to that moment. Remember, He had revealed Himself as being the
One in the changing of the water to wine, the miracles, feeding of the five
thousand, and so on. All of those things that He had done had shown Him to be
the Messiah. But nothing more glorified can it be than Him hanging upon the
accursed tree.

You know, there are many beautiful and inspirational
examples that you and I have read in books and we’ve seen in other people’s
lives, but do you know when God glorified Himself in that person the most? Why
go there? Let’s ask yourself.

Do you know when God glorified Himself in you the most?
When you had the world by the tail? When things were going swimmingly and
smoothly? He glorified Himself in you when you were at your lowest. He
glorified Himself in you when you were broken and could not have anything about
which to praise God. That’s when He glorified Himself in you the most, for that
is when you glorified Christ the most, when He emptied Himself of all things
and took upon Himself your and my brokenness to become broken for you and me.

So in the midst of that operating room where they stabilized
her did this woman and this man see Christ glorified in their lives, because
God carried them upon His shoulders and bore them in His bosom.

By now, she has, I am sure, been released from Brooke Army
Medical Center. She probably has prosthetics unto which she’s getting used to,
though she’ll never know what it’s like to braid her daughter’s hair or her
son’s hair someday. But she knows the power of God in her life and she will
look back at that event, a lot like how you look back at the events that broke
you and crushed you and say, There God did glorify Himself in me though I
have nothing about which in my life that I can say was glorifying to God except
God glorifying Himself in my brokenness.

So, when Jesus says, “Whoever loves his life loses it and
whoever hates his life in this world will keep it,” He is saying it’s good to
hate the good life. Does that mean we need to become monastic and deprive ourselves
of all things and beat ourselves? No. The Middle Ages did that very well in
trying to figure this out. No. This does mean that we daily come back to that
cross. Daily. Hourly, if need be. It is a regular cyclical occurrence that
we kneel before the cross and see therein our beginning again.

It’s interesting. We contemplate the Christian life as kind
of a linear concept. Here’s our beginning and our baptism, and there’s the
completion at our death, and we wish to look at it somewhat of a ascending
line, almost as if we’re getting better as time goes on because we’ve been
around Jesus more and more, and more infused with Him as it were.

When really the Christian life is a circle. It has a
beginning, but it really doesn’t have an end, or it has an end, but you really
don’t know where the beginning is. It just keeps going. Because every day you
have no idea, nor do I, what God will bring into your and my life.

He chooses to bless us this day with comfort and peace,
praise be to God. He chooses to allow something to crush us, praise be to God,
for the same God who gives is the same God who takes away, who has shown
Himself to be loving. And the only place He shows Himself to be loving is upon
that accursed tree for you, and you were joined to Him in your baptism, and you
feed and drink upon Him at that supper. Therein lies your glory. His glory.

But this world’s sirens calls us to its bosom and warm
harbor day in and day out, unceasingly, wishing to wreck us against its rocks. Whoever
loves his life in this world will lose it, but whoever hates his life in this
world will save it.

A very wonderful promise. Listen. “If anyone serves me, he
must follow me, and where I am, there my servant be also.” That’s comforting.
It’s kind of a Catch 22 comfort, but it is comforting.

The Catch 22 part is that, in this life while we live out
our faith in this sinful world in a sinful flesh, we will encounter ourselves
more than we wish. We will encounter this world more than we wish, and it will
seek to destroy us. But where He is, there you shall be. He sits at the right
hand of the Father; so shall you. He was glorified in His Resurrection, as
well; so shall you. There He glories in you.

So this young couple, as they move through life, they’ve got
many years to live, many years for Satan, like a drop, to keep dripping away at
the doubts and concerns of, Why God? Why, God? And Jesus promises
them, “Don’t forget the glory, the glory that’s hidden. My glory for you and
your glory when I took you and broke you and made you whole again in one fell
swoop, that you may have your lips opened, that you may give praise to me when
you can’t see anything worthy of praise according to the world’s standards.”

The Old Testament reading has that same illustration;
doesn’t it? In the midst of death, they’re to do something that is completely
seemingly ridiculous. To trust in a promise sitting atop a stick lifted up by
the servant of God, Moses, and yet it brought life. And so you and I each day
are drawn to the same stick. Yet not with a serpent of temporal nature, but
with an eternal God who ate and drank that cup down to the dregs for you. You
will be with Him and you will be in paradise.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds upon Christ Jesus to life everlasting.