Jesus Came to…Redeem the World

A Homily for the Final Wednesday in Lent

Text: St. Mark 12:1-11

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who came to redeem the world. Amen.

Over these Lenten Wednesdays, we’ve heard the stories of Christ’s ministry throughout the Gospel according to Saint Mark – the various teachings and miraculous deeds and simple gestures that defined so much of Christ’s ministry. We heard about his early healings and exorcisms, restoring people to health and to community. We heard of his divine teaching, about the sower who joyfully scatters the seed, paying no heed to what’s lost in the thorns or to the birds, to bring others into the Kingdom of God. We heard about Christ’ confrontation with the powers and principalities of this world, proclaiming God’s Kingdom over that of an earthly tyrant like Herod. We heard of Christ’s mighty and miraculous deeds showing a new Kingdom erupting forth into this world. We saw that Christ welcomed in the least of these, the children, and blessed them.

Throughout his ministry, Christ did the work of reconciling humanity, creating a community that includes those who are usually excluded: tax collectors and Samaritans and even Roman soldiers.

It would be simple to say that this work can be disregarded as unimportant. There are, after all, many great leaders in history who worked to include the outsider: I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, and Desmond Tutu, just to name a few examples from the twentieth century.

What makes Jesus of Nazareth different? What sets him apart as more than merely a great religious thinker and social activist?

We might be tempted to say that it is because Christ died on the cross. Isn’t that what this Holy Week is leading up to? Good Friday? But Pr. Bonhoeffer and Rev. King also died while striving to build up a just community.

No, the answer is deeper than just a good person dying for a just cause. It’s deeper even than a perfect person dying for a perfect cause. Christ’s teaching, his miracles, his life-giving passion and death are vital to our faith, but they are not the entirety.

What sets Christ apart is that he is the only Son of the Father. He is the cornerstone of our faith. He came not just to reconcile us to each other but to God as well. The work to which we are called, the ways in which we are to love our neighbor, each other, and even our enemies – all of that flows out of our love for God. This beloved community is nothing short of an in-breaking of the Kingdom of Heaven.

And so even though the world has rejected Christ, even though he was lifted up on to the cross, and even though we repeatedly reject Christ when we turn our backs on the least of these Christ overcomes. Because Lent and Holy Week aren’t building up to Good Friday.

Tomorrow, when we strip the altar, there will be more to come.

Friday, when we depart in silence and darkness, there will be more to come.

Death is not the end. Our rejection is not the end. There is more to come.


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