Reminiscere Midweek Vespers
March 20, 2019 AD
THE PASSION AND THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
The Third and Fourth Commandments
Just before He died on the cross the Lord Jesus spoke that word which the bystanders no doubt understood as an admission of defeat but which was in fact Jesus’ cry of victory: “It is finished!” meaning “It is accomplished, it is completed!” And if we ask, “What is finished? What is accomplished? What is completed?” the answer is this: our Lord ‘s work of perfect love for His Father, His perfect love for this lost and fallen world. That Jesus lived a life of perfect love for His Father is seen in His perfect obedience to the Father’s will, humbling Himself even to the death of the cross. That Jesus lived a life of perfect love for this lost and fallen world is seen in His praying even for those who had brought His cruel death, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” A life of perfect love for the Father, a life of perfect love for this lost and fallen world: This is what is finished, accomplished, completed as the Lord Jesus bows His head and dies.
On these Lenten evening this year we’re meditating on the Ten Commandments in the light of Jesus’ passion and death.
We remember that when Jesus was asked, “Which is great commandment in the Law? He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In these words Jesus summarizes the Ten Commandments: the first ‘THREE commandments require love for God, the remaining SEVEN require love for the fellow human beings God has placed in our lives. But even these last seven also have to do with the love of God. For since they are commandments given by God, fulfilling them, keeping them, not disobeying them expresses love for God
This evening we reflect briefly on the Third and Fourth Commandments.
The Third Commandment is “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” And in the Catechism Dr. Luther explains this third commandment in this way. “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His word but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”
Jesus truly lived from the written Word of God. When tempted in the wilderness He defeated Satan with the Word of God: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. You shall not tempt the Lord your God. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.” And as Jesus lived so also He died. As His life drew to a close the Word of God was on his lips. For on the cross He prays in the words of the 22nd Psalm, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” and from the words of the 31st Psalm, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” The Lord Jesus not only prayed to the Father: in the most real sense His whole life was prayer, communion with the Father, and so perfect love for Him.
The Fourth Commandment is “Honor your father and your mother.” And in the Catechism we learn that this means: “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honor them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.” Saint John tells us in His Gospel that Jesus, “having loved His own who were in the world loved them to the end.” And so as He is dying on the cross Jesus says to Mary His mother, “Woman, behold your son,” and to John, “Behold your mother.” Here we see how our Lord provides for His mother by entrusting her to the care of John the beloved disciple. And we see in this the pattern of love for parents which God requires of us all — not always easy, but never, ever to be regretted!
But from the cross our Savior not only provides a home for His mother. In a deeper sense He provides a home for every lost and lonely child of Adam’s race — by bringing into being that holy family, His one holy Church, gathered together by the blood and water which flowed from His pierced side as He handed over the Spirit: the water of Holy Baptism, the blood of the Holy Sacrament, and in both of them the gift of the Holy Spirit. In that magnificent 68th Psalm which sings of the triumphal progress of the children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings the psalmist sings: “A father of the fatherless and a defender of the widow is God in His holy habitation: God sets the solitary in families.” And how does God do this? Through that CRUCIFIED Body born of Mary, gathering forgiven sinners into His MYSTICAL Body the Church, the whole company of His faithful people in heaven and on earth. And as Jesus in His death not only provided a home for His mother but an eternal home for every human being His love calls into being, so you and I who are already by our Baptism members of that blessed company of all faithful people are called to WELCOME into Christ’s family those who have yet to know His mercy and His grace.
Saint John wrote: “If you KNOW these things, blessed are you if you DO them.” May we then take to heart all we have been shown from God’s holy Word so that together with Christ’s blessed Mother and all saints we may forever rejoice in the unveiled presence of Him who died but is alive forevermore and has the keys of death and the grave!