It's a good story telling device to have a character where some thing, some event, is trying to press in on his memory. He usually doesn't want to remember because it's a trauma, a drama, a headache, a heartache. But he must remember. This Second Sunday in Lent is named Reminiscere, Remember.
Remember the journey. Remember how prominent the word 'journey' is in Luke's Gospel? Remember how Luke uses it for Jesus' trip to the cross, His Passion, His Mission, His quest? Now Bible class is heading into Acts, Luke's second epistle. Would it surprise you to know that while his Gospel has poreuo 50 times, Acts has it 38 times, the second most in the NT? In our short text, poreuo is used 3 times. The Pharisees warn Jesus that He must get out of Herod's land and he must journey for Himself elsewhere because Herod wants to kill Him. Jesus replies that they should journey to Herod and tell him that Jesus must be journeying to Jerusalem because no prophet can die outside Jerusalem.
The Holy Spirit ties this whole account together with the Greek word poreuo, journey. The Holy Spirit lets you know not to be deceived by the smarmy Pharisees coming up close to Jesus as if to give Him a friendly warning. Nope, their coming to Him is part of Jesus' journey, quest, mission, Passion. The Holy Spirit doesn't forget that the Pharisees and Herod's supporters are the first to speak of killing Jesus. Already in the second year of His ministry we read, "Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus" (Mk 3:6). And when Jesus sends them back to the Fox, Herod, He uses poreuo, journey because Herod still has his part to play in Jesus' suffering and death. Remember he will be there on the last day of His life. They're to tell the Fox that nothing will curtail Jesus' ministry. He will go on casting out demons and healing people till He reaches His goal. And if the insert translated literally, no Christian would fail to remember the cross, Good Friday, and Easter too. Jesus says literally, "Behold I cast forth demons, and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I am finished."
Stop listening right now before your head explodes. You remember all this. The 3rd day is when it all comes to a head. That's Easter. When the Father declares He accepts Jesus' death on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for the world's sins. And you remember the word 'finish' is what Jesus declares from the cross on Good Friday: "It is forever finished." He declares He's finished paying off the world's debt. Finally, Jesus drives into our memories the divine necessity of His journey. He uses that other Passion word, "I must keep going", is 'it is necessary', dei for Me to journey to Jerusalem because it's not possible for any prophet to die outside of Jerusalem. Jesus' goal, quest, mission was to suffer rejection by the church, and execution by the State in Jerusalem as a sacrificial Lamb should be.
Remember the journey and remember the tears. Most Bible translations label the last paragraph of our text a "lament." The Beck Bible and EHV label it a warning. I label it a weeping. Just 3 months from now on Palm Sunday, Luke will say this: "When Jesus came near and saw the city, He wept loud over it" (Lk. 19:41, AAT). Those tears begin now. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem" is prefigured by David mourning and lamenting his rebellious son's death, "The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: 'O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you--O Absalom, my son, my son'" (2 Sam 18:33)! Remember your God not only has hands, feet, ears, and mouth, He has tears and He weeps for those caught up in sins, even unbelief. The true God is not like a character in The Hunchback of Notre Dame describes kings and gods. "'they have no ears but in their feet'" (362), so you must crawl to them before they can hear you.
Remember the God with tears. Does He who laments Jerusalem act like He needs to be begged, goaded into forgiving or receiving them? No, He says, "How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" Remember on whose side the willingness and unwillingness is. Remember 2 Pt. 3:9. The Lord is " not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." They're unwilling, so Jesus says their house is left to them desolate. It's no longer God's House. It belongs to them. No more Cloudy Presence, no more House of Prayer. That's it, or is it?
Remember the promise. Jesus is prefigured in all the prophets. Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet. You will hear him say he's done praying for the people only to find him praying again. Here Jesus says He's leaving the rebellious, unbeliving, unwilling Jerusalem to their sins and sinfulness, but 3 months from now, we hear Jesus weeping for them once more and on the cross, He prays for their forgiveness, and after His resurrection to where does Jesus first send His apostles of forgiveness? To Jerusalem.
Even as Jesus appears to close the door on Jerusalem, remember what He promises: "'Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see Me again until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Hmmm. This is note of hope, grace, mercy, of not too lateness, wouldn't you say? What do we hear on Palm Sunday? It echoes through all 4 accounts of the Triumphal Entry. Remember, there are not many things in the earthly ministry of Jesus that are recorded by all 4 Evangelists. When an event is, it's emphatic to the Holy Spirit. So, we hear from Mat 21:9, the crowds shouted, "'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'" In Mk 11:9 we hear, "'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'" Luk 19:37-38 records, "The whole crowd of disciples...praise God in loud voices 'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!'" And finally Jn 12:13 says, "They took palm branches and went out to meet Jesus, shouting,...'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'"
Jesus says that all who hear this, even in our day, will be called to faith. This is a quote from Psalm 118 that was sung during Passover week. Go home and read it. You'll remember a lot when you hear of "the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." And, "The Lord made this day, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Then there is, "Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar." And Ps. 118 closes with, "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever." Hold that last thought, remember it, for one more point about hearing "Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord".
We chant these words in the Sanctus. The Sanctus marks the end of that part of the Communion Service which represents the OT. In singing this, we join with the heavenly angels in Isaiah's vision who praised the Lord in His Temple. This is where John 12:41 says Isaiah saw Jesus' glory. In singing the last part of the Sanctus we remember Christ's ride into Jerusalem. "The Sanctus, which is used in Jewish, Greek, and Latin liturgies is always introduced as something sung by "both angels and people" (P. Culbertson and A Shippee eds. The Pastor, fn. 26, p. 183). Ancient commentaries say "the congregation is considered to be singing the words along with the 'superterrestrial hosts" (Oxford History of Christian Worship, 773). It's a component of the liturgy at the end of the 1st century as 1 Clement (34:5-8) shows (Sasse, The Lonely Way, II, 167 in Harris, Explanation to the Divine Service, 18). To paraphrase a mid-20th century English poet: The Lord came on lowly donkey one day in Palestine and comes today in Bread and Wine, and we see Him.
This Sunday as I said goes by the Latin name Reminiscere. It comes from the first word in the Latin introit. This is Ps. 25:6, "Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old." That's a fitting thought for Lent right? But there is something else I don't want you to forget. The Greeks and Romans after them prized highly forgetting particularly in the afterlife. There was a Fountain of Forgetfulness, also known as the River of Unmindfulness, which flowed around the cave of Hypnos and through the Underworld where all those who drank from it experienced complete forgetfulness. You'll get it's Latin name: Oblivio. Churchill looked forward to the big sleep. Many an atheist does. They think it will be dreamless, thoughtless sleep for all eternity. Remember that is not at all true. The Rich Man in hell is fully conscience of his torments, his pain, his sins that got him there, and his brothers headed there. But more than you'd remember this, the thing I've been keeping just out of memory is not the Introit's asking the Lord to remember to be merciful. It's the next verse in Ps. 25. "Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways."
Remember the Gospel is that for the sake of Jesus' holy life lived in your place and His guilty death suffered in your place and in payment of all sins, you have forgiveness. Remember that the Gospel is not that you forget in the afterlife but that for Jesus' sake God remembers your sins no more. That's the pledge of the New Testament. You may remember your sins bitterly and painfully. He has forgotten them. Many of us spend years, decades, lifetimes trying to forgot our sins. It wouldn't matter if we could. The Gospel is that the God who knows all, remembers all, forgets.
Don't believe me? Remember these passages: bathe yourself in them: Hb. 8:12, "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Is. 43:25, "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remembers your sins no more." Jer. 50:20, "'In those days, at that time,' declares the Lord, 'search will be made for Israel's guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found.'" Mc. 7:19, "You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." Hb.10:17 "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more."
That's our journey; that's our quest this Lent, to remember our God in Christ forgets our sins. Since He forgets them, it matters not who else remembers them. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Second Sunday in Lent (20220313); Luke 13:31-35