Midweek of Lent 2 | Is 45:15-21; Mt 26:30-56
“Truly You are a God Who Hides Himself”
So the Missouri Synod put out a sort of Lectionary plan for Wednesdays in Lent.
This year, the theme of that series is called, “Behold, My Servant.”
The idea is that we hear a section from Isaiah’s Servant Songs, along with a reading from Jesus’ Passion,
And learn to see and better know Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise spoken by His prophet.
This week specifically, the theme is:
“Truly You are a God Who Hides Himself.”
That’s a huge relief.
As a pastor without a great deal of time, given the recent birth of our second baby,
Not having to come up with a theme or set of readings is a huge load off my back.
And to know the intended direction of any given sermon from the outset,
That can save hours.
“Behold, My Servant.” and “Truly, You are a God Who hides Himself.”
Naturally, it was with these ideas in mind that I approached the portions of Scripture we’ve heard here this evening.
But, to be honest, this week things didn’t come as naturally as last week.
When I’d read through the Scriptures, I wasn’t sure I understood.
Maybe I felt a bit like Nicodemus did this last Sunday.
On one hand I have a God Who hides Himself,
And on the other hand, I have the same God revealed in Jesus Christ.
So which is it? Does He hide Himself, or does He not?
The prophet indeed does speak of a God Who hides Himself.
This is in contrast to the idols of every other nation,
Who, though they were visible, made of wood and stone, they were…idol.
They didn’t actually do anything.
The LORD, however, had done lots of things.
The history of God’s people had been one of constant redemption and preservation.
From flood and dry land, to exile and return, from one side of the Jordan to the other, all throughout history,
Their God did things.
That’s why in this short reading, He is referred to as “Savior.”
And He doesn’t do it in secret either.
God’s salvation was not a matter of private revelation, but public record.
“I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in vain.’”
Truly, He is a God Who hides Himself.
But His salvation is well published.
What He does, nobody forgets.
But what He looks like…that nobody could say.
That’s because, naturally speaking, nobody knows where to look.
You won’t find Him in sticks and stones.
This is a God Who hides Himself in Flesh and Bones.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…” (Col 1.15-16a)
But if Jesus is all of that –
If He is revelation and manifestation, and image, and icon, and…God Himself;
How can Isaiah’s words be true of Jesus?
How can we actually say of Christ, “Truly You are a God Who hides Himself?”
For starters, we may consider the crowd that comes to arrest Jesus tonight.
They’re a mix of folks:
Jews, gentiles, rioters, and some guards just doing what they’re told.
But they can’t do it. They can’t arrest Jesus.
They don’t know what He looks like.
Though He has taught day after day in the Temple, they did not hear Him.
Though He has put Himself in plain view, He has remained hidden.
While Jesus was preaching about His Kingdom,
They were too busy messing with their idols.
For the Gentiles that certainly meant statues of the pantheon and Cesar,
For the Jews, idolatry had more to do with their own piety and righteousness;
But there’s also every chance that the idols which occupied their hands and lips and eyes were not altogether different from your own.
For Jew and Gentile alike, idols are everything that comes between them and Jesus; between you and Jesus.
And now their idols have left them confused.
As Isaiah wrote, “All of them are put to shame and confounded; the makers of idols go in confusion together.”
I guess we should observe that last part as well. They aren’t an unruly mob. They are focused, and intentional, and even organized. They are not confused one-by-one, but together.
This is a bit embarrassing for the disciples.
Though they have eyes to see Jesus, and ears to hear Jesus, they lack the discipline that even a mob has. And so they’re picked apart, one-by-one.
Judas is the first to go. He’s really been gone for awhile now.
In a moment of panic, even Peter even pulls out a sword and tries to save the day.
Within the span of just a few moments, all the disciples will leave Him for dead.
As it is, when Lent hits full throttle, even Jesus’ very best friends get confused.
For them what is most hidden is this:
That God would do His saving this way.
That He would let an angry mob come after Him with swords and clubs;
That He would turn down, now for the second time, the help of those angels created to serve Him;
That He would be nailed to a tree He created.
“Truly, You are a God Who hides Himself.” And yet,
“All of this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”
There is no other God besides Him, a righteous God and a Savior.
There is none besides Him (v21).
Beside Him, instead, are two criminals.
The God who has hidden Himself in your flesh,
Is not afraid to hide Himself among robbers and murderers, for your sake.
Thanks be to God, this Jesus, who is the express icon of His Father, hides still.
For you He hides in the water of the font,
That when He hits you along with the water, you would see Him.
For you He hides on the altar, wrapped in bread and wine,
That when He speaks, your eyes would see and your mouth may taste, what your ears have heard: “This is My Body.” “This is My Blood.”
Truly, He is a God Who Hides Himself. Thanks be to Christ, no and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.