Invocavit Midweek Vespers

gate-of-heaven-violet-1024x1024Invocavit Midweek Vespers

February 21, 2024 AD

Psalm 40
Matthew 26:30–56
Wednesday after Invocavit 2024

In our Lenten services this year we will be meditating on the passion of our Lord as recorded in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. Last year we meditated on the Passion as recorded in Saint Luke’s Gospel. And of course all four Gospels tell of our Lord’s Passion in considerable detail. Now WHY God has given us not just ONE but FOUR Gospels which tell of the life and death and resurrection of His Son, we simply do not know though it may well be that just one telling of this story couldn’t possibly unfold all the riches of Christ’s saving life and death and resurrection.

The chosen FOUR combine;
While each HIS OWN commission
Fulfills in EVERY line.

And so THIS year we consider the Passion according to Saint Matthew,-who was one of the Twelve Apostles and so had in fact been an eye witness to the public ministry, passion and resurrection of the Lord.

As we begin these meditations on the passion, we might well remember the words Moses heard when the angel of the Lord called to him out of the burning bush: “Put off your shoes from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Now all of Holy Scripture is holy ground – because in all of Holy Scripture the Holy Spirit is pointing to Christ – but the story of Jesus’ Passion is in-a real sense Scripture’s “Holy of holies” because there as nowhere else we catch a glimpse of “what no eye has seen nor ear heard-nor the heart of man conceived,” that love of God beyond understanding, the lengths to which that love will go to reclaim the human creatures who have taken up arms against Him; here we see what it cost God to redeem and save us – each and every one.

And what did it cost our Maker to redeem and save us? We catch a glimpses of that cost in the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane: “My Father, if it be possible, lei this CUP pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as you will.”

And what is that cup? We read in the 75th Psalm: “It is God who executes judgment… for in the hand of the Lord there is a cup… and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.” And there are many similar passages in the Old Testament in which the word “cup” speaks of God’s judgement, God’s wrath, “a cup… all the wicked of the earth shall drain, down to the dregs” Yet here the holy Jesus who knew no sin, who is Himself the Light and Life of God, Himself pure overflowing love which knows no end, faces the terrible prospect of draining the “cup prepared for the wicked’ – the cup of God’s wrath against sin.

Now God’s wrath is not like yours and mine! There is nothing in it of pettiness, of spite, of vindictiveness, of pleasure at the misery of one who has offended us, who has become our enemy; yet it still is wrath, the reaction of the altogether holy and loving God to the sin which disfigures and destroys His beloved human creatures. Because in His baptism the sinless Son of God had taken His place among sinners under the judgment of God, He now must – though Himself holy and sinless – drink the cup of wrath prepared for the wicked, drain to the dregs that bitter cup.

No wonder Jesus prays that this cup may be taken away from Him! But his prayer really is prayer, not a demand; He doesn’t set His own will over against the will of His Father, for the wish He expresses depends completely on the will of the Father: “Father, if it is Your will to take this cup from Me; nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.” Jesus never ceases always to pray in perfect union with the Father will and willingly goes – to the cross.

Preaching on the passion only months before his own difficult death from cancer, Dom Gregory Dix had this to say:

The spiritual agonies of the passion – the final grappling with the iniquity of sin by the soul of Jesus – is something we cannot hope to understand, because we are sinful and He, though tempted in all things as we are, was entirely sinless. We can only connect this dreadful inner conflict with the statement of Saint Paul, “God made Him to be sin who knew no sin so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

“What no eye has seen nor ear heard nor the human heart of conceived,” the lengths to which the love of God will go to reclaim the human creatures who have taken up arms against Him! The Son of God takes on Himself all that is ours that He might give us all that is His – the “happy exchange” so often spoken of by the-ancient fathers and by . Luther. The incarnate Son of God drains the bitter cup of wrath so that He might give you and me and all poor sinners the blessed cup – of salvation.

Saint Matthew tells us that, before Jesus and His disciples left the upper room to go to Gethsemane, they “sang a hymn.” And since it was the Feast of Passover that hymn was almost certainly the so-called Great Hallel of the-Psalter, Psalm 111 through Psalm 118 in which we find this verse, “I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.” Jesus had that very night taken in His hands the cup, had given thanks, and had made of the wine in that cup His blood, and then on the cross poured out His blood in death so that just as the angel of death passed over the homes of the Israelites marked with the blood of the Passover Lamb, so the cup of wrath might pass from us who by baptism and faith are washed in the blood of the true Passover Lamb.

“I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord!” Because of that cup of salvation, in which our sins are dead and nevermore remembered in all eternity, we have the absolute assurance that when the cup of suffering does pass our lips, as it surely must for each and every one, there is nothing in it of wrath or judgement but only a means whereby we are more fully conformed to the image of Him who suffered the judgement we deserve under the wrath of God, our merciful Savior, who through the cross – both His and ours – leads  us to our joyful resurrection.


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