“Sold and Bought” Matt. 26:15 Lenten Mid-week #2 Feb.

13, 2008

IN the Name of Jesus. Amen. This past Sunday some of you may have recognized the gold crucifix I am wearing. Some of you asked about it, and I told you there was a story behind it. Tonight I’m going to tell you that story. When I entered the ministry, I received this cross as a gift. I wore it every Sunday during my time as pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church and school in Chicago. During that time I was blessed to serve with Ruth Koenig. She had been the church secretary at Bethel since 1959. She didn’t consider it her job, but her ministry. She was an encourager, frequently writing notes to parishioners—as well as to other people. She was very supportive of me, as well as the other teachers. And I can’t begin to count the number of times a child would come in to the office, facing some kind of crisis—like having forgotten their lunch—and Ruth would comfort them, hug them, and leave them with these words: “Make it a great day for Jesus.” Ruth was an icon of faith—for the community, the church, and for me and my family. When I accepted the Call to serve in PNG in 1991, I wanted to leave Ruth a gift. Something special, not only to remember me by, but to encourage this dear woman who had encouraged so many others. And so, I gave her this crucifix. I did the same for the dear, faithful secretary that I worked with in Las Cruces, Joy Johnstone. She also was an example of Christian love. When I left Las Cruces to come here, I

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gave her the special cross I wore on Sundays. And that explains why, for three years here at PWC, I haven’t worn a cross on Sundays; I wanted to wear one that had significance to me. But back to Ruth. She wore this gold crucifix faithfully for fifteen years, until her illness prevented her from doing so. Two weeks ago the Lord delivered her from this pale of tears, and last Thursday Pat and I traveled to Chicago to do her funeral. On Thursday night, as we arrived at the Funeral Home, and went to the casket, there was the body of Ruth, with this cross hanging around her neck. I don’t know if it was appropriate, but I asked the family if, prior to Ruth’s burial, if I could please have this cross back. They graciously granted my request. Every time I put it on I will think not only of Jesus, but of dear Ruth. And so now you know the story of this gold cross, and how much it means to me. So how much would you give me for it? Yes, you heard me right. I’m asking you what it’s worth to you. Would you like to buy it? “Why, that’s a shocking, heartless thing to ask” isn’t it? And I’m not serious when I ask that question—but Judas was. It is the question we hear him asking the chief priests—“What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” Judas was not bartering away a special keepsake or momento—he was selling the Lord! We know of people in the Bible that were sold—in our Sunday morning Bible Study we just learned about Joseph, who was sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt. We know that at the time of Jesus slavery was common, as we heard in our lessons from Corinthians, and as we learn from Paul’s letter entitled “Philemon”. But Jesus was not Judas’ slave, He was Judas’ rabbi and Redeemer.
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Jesus had welcomed Judas into His inner circle of disciples, and had entrusted Judas to keep track of the money. And now Judas was betraying him, selling him down the river, treating him like a slave. Though none of us have been slaves, we know what it feels like to be betrayed, don’t we? We’ve all experienced at least one time in life when someone we loved, and trusted, not only turned THEIR back on us, but in the process put a knife in ours. What was our response? Anger, hatred, and a desire for revenge. But note this about the betrayal of Jesus: First of all, He not only knew it was going to happen—as He made clear in the Last Supper by saying “The one with whom I dip bread will this night betray me.”—but He actually arranged that it might be so. It had to happen this way—in order to fulfill Scripture, and His mission. Secondly, though He wasn’t a slave, Jesus allowed Himself to be put in that position. The humiliation, degradation, and death that He suffers is one reserved for the dregs of humanity. People who had little or not worth. Thirdly, He doesn’t respond with hate and anger, but with love toward Judas. Do you remember what He said to Judas in the Garden of Gethsemanee when the soldiers came to arrest Him? (“Judas, do you betray me with a kiss?”) In all of this we see the sinless Son of God allowing Himself to be sold, suffer and die as a slave. Why did He do this? Because this was the price He had to pay in order to purchase us. For you see, WE are the ones who were slaves. Slaves to sin—in bondage to Satan. St. Paul makes this clear here in 1 Corinthians 7. In fact, St. Paul Himself has no qualms about referring
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to himself as a slave to Christ. Because He knew that Christ had bought Him at a very high price. We are told what that price was in 1 Peter 1 —“Know this—you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” This is what we are reminded of in the explanation to the second article of the Apostles Creed as recorded in the Small Catechism: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary is my Lord. That He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sin, death, and the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. THAT I MAY BE HIS OWN, LIVE UNDER HIM IN HIS KINGDOM, AND SERVE HIM IN EVERLASTING RIGHTEOUSNESS INNOCENCE AND BLESSEDNESS.” Did you hear that? God loved you so much that He was willing to purchase you! You were bought with a price. We are Christ’s precious possessions. Every time we sin, every time we give in to the devil, it is as if we are putting ourselves up for sale. But having paid for us, having redeemed us from the hands of Satan, Christ would never sell us back. Just as this crucifix, which was rightfully mine to begin with, has been returned to me; so also we have been returned to Christ. And just as I will never, ever, give up this precious gift—no matter what the price—so too Christ will never, ever give us up either. You are too valuable to Him. Tonight you will receive a small money bag to place on your cross. May it remind you of these three things:
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1. The betrayal of Judas. 2. The price Jesus has paid for you by Himself hanging on the cross. 3. How valuable you are to Him. That He will never, as He promised, leave you, sell you, nor forsake you. Amen.

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