I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122:1

Sweat of Suffering: Sign of Sin; Sign of Salvation

Midweek Lent 2 – Pr. Anderson sermon
Genesis 3:16, 19; St. Luke 23:39-44 “Sweat of Suffering: Sign of Sin; Sign of Salvation”
February 28, 2024 | Christ Lutheran Church

In Nomine Iesu
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Rise, my soul, to watch and pray; From thy sleep awaken! Be not by the evil day unawares o’er taken. For the foe, well we know, oft his harvest reapeth while the Christian sleepeth. Therefore let us watch and pray, Knowing He will hear us. As we see from day to day dangers ever near us, and the end doth impend our redemption neareth when the Lord appeareth. Amen. (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnody #253 v. 1 & 6)

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Rom. 1:7, etc.)

When a crime has been committed and the crime scene investigators are called in, they are going to search over everything to find as much evidence as possible. There are certain signs the investigators are looking for. If it was a robbery or someone is abducted, they will be looking for signs of forced entry and signs of a struggle. If someone is found murdered, they will look for a murder weapon and blood that will help in identifying it. When we are searching for answers, we look for signs. When the world fell into sin, the signs were loud and clear. Adam and Eve had begun to realize the effects when they found themselves naked. They did not have to look for the rest of the signs. Their Creator tells them what those signs will look like. As God reveals these signs, He also reveals the signs of salvation. Both of these signs are found in the sweat of suffering.

Is there suffering when we are sweating? To answer this question, we have to look at why the body sweats. The body sweats because it is physically exerting itself. The body is trying to control the body temperature. It is overheating and it needs to be cooled. We don’t have to look at the science to know that when we are sweating, for the most part it means we are doing hard work. Whether we are working out in the field, the construction site, or playing athletic sports, our bodies are feeling it and when we are done, we are exhausted. It would be interesting for us to see what life would have been like before the fall. Our bodies wouldn’t be falling apart after working for a day. Only Adam and Eve knew what this looked like. They were also the first to experience it stripped away. To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”

My wife and I have quite a few friends who have had their first or second child. The result of course is a blessing as it was meant to be a blessing in the beginning, but some have shared that being pregnant for nine months is not an easy chore. The sign of sin, childbearing will no longer be easy. Even today, where we have the blessings of modern medicine, a situation can rise in which the mother or child could die in child birth. The state of our fallen world is evident. We also see that sin infiltrated the family union. Marriages are not perfect. Men fail their wives when they don’t lead which causes the wife to take the leadership role. There will be men who will hold the role like a dictator, not leading by example and service. The world is pushing these divides, tearing up the family unit as we know it.

This is not the only way that the sinful world comes after us. As God told Eve the way in which she and all women would be chastised because of sin, God tells Adam how the world will treat him. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The short life that we are destined to live has been laid out. There is pain in childbirth to bring us into the world. We will toil our lives away to work and make a living. After we have worked, our bodies will shut down, even as many attempt to preserve the body, the body will go back to where it came from. It will die, decay, and turn into dust. This is where everyone is destined and it all stems from sin. God told Adam, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). For Adam, he would be called home at the age of 930. Now we pray, “the years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty” (Psalm 90:10a). After sweating and suffering, the ultimate sign of sin is a physical death.

As our bodies head for that physical death, Jesus was also experiencing physical death. While He hung on the cross, knowing what was coming, one of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” Jesus is still being ridiculed as He dies the death of criminals. Now both criminals had ridiculed Jesus, but one now has a change of heart. He sees that what he is witnessing is not right. Jesus is hanging on the cross suffering death and He is innocent! So, the criminal, seeing Jesus in this instance of pain, sweat, suffering, and soon death, repents of his sins.

This is why Jesus is hanging on the cross. That the world may see Him and look to Him for the hope of their Salvation. There are many who do not look forward to these days of Lent and Good Friday. Who wants to gaze on a man, who is hanging on a cross sweaty, in great pain, suffering, and anguish, as it is the world that has put Him there? He is not there for Himself. This is what He wants. This is the sign of salvation. The Son of God gives up His life to save those lost in sin so that they will be redeemed. The Man who had done nothing wrong.

This Man did more than suffer and die. As His bloody sweat dripped off of Him, the thief looked at this shell of a man and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” The thief knew that he was getting what he deserved. It wasn’t only the physical death, but he deserved a spiritual death in hell. As He acknowledged what he had done wrong in his life, he repented and looked to the sign of salvation. Even in this instance with death upon him, he heard the sweet sound of forgiveness that comes from the One who not only dies, but saves and lives. What a gracious blessing to hear on his death bed that he will be with Jesus in paradise.

It is in this great cross of Christ that you hear the same words. In this sweat of suffering, something so hard to look at, it is here that you find the keys to paradise. Jesus is doing this all for you. When you look at the sins that you have committed, you find them washed away in the blood of Christ. St. Paul tells you where you find the hope for your family. You look for the perfect example of marriage set by Christ. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:22-25). There is no greater sacrifice than for one to give up his life for another. When sin comes and knocks again, you look to the sign of salvation, Christ giving Himself up, unlocking heavens doors for you.

The thief saw another sign of salvation. “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” The gracious sacrifice truly had all the sins of the world. As we read and hear how Jesus was cursed, and as we see the darkness covering the land as Jesus was abandoned by His heavenly Father, here on the cross atonement is made. The innocent Man suffered the very pain of hell for our sakes. It wasn’t just physical sweat and suffering that had to happen, but the suffering of hell itself. The suffering the thief deserved and the suffering that we deserve. In pain and strife, we gaze on the sign of salvation and we rejoice in Jesus’ death as we hear the sweet words, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Sweat of suffering for your salvation. Amen.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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