"Got You Covered"#88-30
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on March 28, 2021
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2021 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Mark 15
"Don't worry, I've got you covered." Has anyone ever said that to you? Maybe when they said it, it bothered you a little. It sounded like an insult. "What do you mean, you've got me covered? Thanks, but I can cover myself." Or in another situation maybe somebody told you, "Don't worry I've got you covered." And you realized that you were in a pinch, and you knew that you were out of options, and so when they said it, it sounded different. It still implied the same thing, but because you realized that you're in a pinch and you're out of options, it didn't sound like an insult. It sounded like good news.
On this program we've been listening to the Good News according to Mark, the Gospel according to Mark. It's one of the ancient biographies of Jesus, and it's called the Gospel because Gospel means "good news." And if you wanted a short summary of Mark's good news, I'll give you one in seven words: "Jesus says, 'I have got you covered.'" Now when some people hear that they might take it as an insult or just an empty promise. "What do you mean Jesus has me covered? How can an ancient Middle Eastern Rabbi cover me? Thanks, but I can cover myself." But can you? Because you're a lot to cover. You're a human being, after all. You are one of the most stunning, most mysterious, most promising discoveries of the natural world—and not just you but the whole human race of which you are a small but important part. And if you're offering cover, it can't just be for you because your story, your history, and your hope are inextricably tangled up in the lives of all the people around you—and that's a lot to cover.
Humankind has practically unlimited potential, more potential than nine billion nuclear reactions, and humankind, your kind, is incalculably dangerous, more dangerous than a stockpile of nuclear weapons, and that's a lot of liability to cover. That hasn't stopped people from trying. Throughout our human history many people have made this promise, "I've got you covered," and they realized that as soon as they made the promise they needed to be ready with punishment, because human beings are dangerous. Promises and punishments, that's how our kind has tried to give us cover.
In the ancient world, people promised peace just like they do today. But in the ancient world, the new nuclear option to secure peace, the ultimate punishment, was the cross, that is, death by crucifixion. It's not just death but slow, agonizing, public shame and humiliation for the crucified person and everyone related to them. As one ancient writer described it, "The crucified was stripped naked and punished with limbs outstretched, fastened, and nailed to the cross in the most bitter torments and left as evil food for birds of prey and grim pickings for dogs."
In the ancient world, the cross was called the "supreme punishment," and the important thing to remember about crucifixion was that it was designed as a deterrent. It was a way to keep the peace.
Now early on the Romans criticized crucifixion as something only the barbarians would do to their victims, but as Roman rule began to cover the region they also adopted it as a peacekeeping mechanism. For example, during one of the slave rebellions, six-thousand rebel slaves were crucified on crosses posted all along the road from Rome to a neighboring city so that everyone passing by would see what happens to people who threaten the peace. The Romans also used crucifixion to control conquered peoples, such as the Jewish people. During a Jewish uprising that took place when Jesus of Nazareth was just a boy, the Romans nailed thousands of Jews to crosses not far from where Jesus lived. And the Romans believed that they had good reason to do it because they had made their citizens a promise: "We've got you covered."
People still make such promises today, but you don't see crosses like that anymore except as jewelry and decorations. Crucifixion as a form of punishment has fallen out of favor in the modern world, but notice how modern people still use features of crucifixion. Because we know that modern people are no less dangerous than ancient ones. So in public we still shame and humiliate people to deter behavior that we find undesirable, and in private we still inflict emotional and physical pain to try to control people. And sometimes we still cause death in the hope of finding some peace. Regardless of how many of these actions you think are justified, it's still good to ask the question: "Do they really have us covered?" If you have any doubts about that at all consider again Jesus' offer, "I've got you covered." Now to understand what He means by that—it would take a lifetime; it would take an eternity to understand it. But to receive it, that can happen right now—believe that Jesus is for you.
Listen to what He did for you. It's all there recorded for you in Mark 15. It happened after the chief priests, the Jewish leaders, decided that Jesus was lying about His identity as the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, and they took this so seriously that they handed Him over to the Roman governor, to a man named Pontus Pilate, and Pilate began to question Him, "You are the King of the Jews?" And in response Jesus said to him, "You say so." Now the chief priests began to accuse Him of many things and Pilate again questioned Him, "You do not give any answer. See how many things they are accusing you of." But Jesus no longer gave any answer so that Pilate was truly amazed.
Now it was Pilate's custom at each Passover feast that he would release one prisoner whom the people requested, and there was the man Barabbas, Bar-abbas, which means "son of the father," who was bound up with the bandits in prison who had all committed murder during the uprising. And the crowd came to pilot to ask him to do what he normally did, and Pilate said to them, "Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?" For Pilate knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over. But the chief priest stirred up the crowd to have them ask for Barabbas instead, and Pilate said to them, "Then what shall I do with the Man that you call the King of the Jews?" "Crucify Him," they said. And Pilate said, "Why, what crime has He committed?" But they kept shouting all the more, "Crucify Him." So Pilate wishing to satisfy the crowd released for them Bar-abbas, the son of the father. And he had Jesus flogged in order to be crucified.
They led Jesus out into the courtyard, that is the governor's headquarters. And they called together the whole Roman battalion. They clothed Him with a purple robe, and twisting together a crown of thorns they placed it on His head. And they began to salute Him saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they spit on Him and they struck Him again and again on the head with a reed. And bowing down before Him, they proceeded to worship Him. And after they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the purple robe, put His own clothes back on Him and led Him out to crucify Him.
And they forced into service Simon from Cyrene, one who was just coming in from the countryside, the father of Alexander and Rufus. They forced him to take up Jesus' cross, and they proceed to bring Him to the Golgotha location, which means "place of the skull." And they tried to give Him the wine mixed with spices, but He did not take it. And they crucify Him, and they began to divide for themselves His clothing by casting a lot to see who would get what. And it was the third hour, and they crucify Him and the written notice of the charge against Him read "The King of the Jews."
And with Him they crucified two bandits, one on His right and one on His left. And those who were passing by began to hurl insults at Him, "The One who was going to tear down the temple and raise it again in three days, save Yourself by dismounting from the cross." And the chief priests in the same way mocking to one another with the scribes were saying, "Others He saved, Himself—not able to save. Let the Messiah, the Christ, the King of Israel dismount now from the cross so that we may see and believe." And even those who were being crucified with Him began to insult Him.
And in the sixth hour, noontime, darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour. And in the ninth hour, Jesus shouted with a great voice "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani" which means, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" And some of those standing by when they heard this started to say, "Look, He's calling for Elijah." And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine and put it on a reed and tried to make Him drink it saying, "Let's see if Elijah's going to come and take Him down." And Jesus upon sending out a great shout expired, He breathed out the spirit, and the curtain of the temple sanctuary split in two from top to bottom. And the centurion, the sergeant who was standing there facing Him, upon seeing that in this way He breathed out the spirit said, "Truly, this Man was the Son of God."
When you're in a pinch and you're out of options and someone says to you, "I've got you covered," it's good news. It's like the time I got stuck off base without my military ID. If you served in the military or you've been in a military family you know how important your military identification is. I got my first military ID card when I was ten years old. It was a badge of honor for all of us military kids. It's the card that shows you belong. It gives you access; it gets you in. And when I got my first one, they told me, "Don't lose it." But I did.
And I'm not a kid anymore, I'm a military officer with nearly 20 years' experience. And I should know better especially since military IDs aren't just badges to get you in the gate anymore; they're micro-chipped, and you've got to plug them into your computer to log into the system and that's where I had left mine—in the computer on base.
And I thought for a moment about how I might be able to cover this problem on my own. Was there a way that I could get on base and retrieve my lost identification without the humiliation of being found out? No. Because the military takes identification seriously. And so, out of options, I call up the sergeant who works with me, and I fess up to my mistake, and he says to me, "Don't worry about it, Sir. I've got you covered." And it was good news because I was not in the position to solve my problem, but the sergeant was and he made my problem his problem.
And as for this other sergeant, the centurion who was there in charge of the crucifixion that day, he saw something similar in Jesus. Now we can't be sure what he understood about what he said, but the fact is he is the first human being recorded in the Gospel of Mark to get Jesus' identification right. And this matters for us because the source of our problems—it's not weapons, it's not punishments, it's not even a lack of peace; those are all just symptoms. The root of our problem is lost identification. See, you and I we were created to be identified as sons and daughters of God. That's what makes each of us so wondrous, so mysterious, so promising.
And from the beginning, God promised to be a Father to us. He promised to always have us covered. But early on humankind said, "No, no, thank you. I can cover myself." And that's what we've been trying to do ever since. But there is no access to true peace outside of identification as the children of God. When we try to cover ourselves, we get eternal shame and pain and death. We get the cross. But Jesus took it from us. He kept His promise—not by inflicting the punishment but by taking it upon Himself. God put our guilt on Him. He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.
Now I get it. You might have more than 20 years' experience at being an adult human. You might feel like you can carry this cross, that you've got it covered, and I feel that way sometimes, too. Being in the military has taught me a lot about personal responsibility, but the most important thing it's taught me is that I am not enough to cover for myself. I have learned this lesson in a thousand different ways. And that day getting a ride back on base, back where I belonged, under the escort of a brother who says, "I've got you covered," that was just the latest. And I'm grateful for that sergeant because he makes me think of this one—the centurion who saw Jesus for who He really is there on the cross.
And if you're there with us, pray with me. Jesus, You truly are the Son of God. On the cross You made my problem Your problem, and from the cross You breathed out Your spirit. You gave me Your identification as a child of God. And I trust that You've got me covered because You live and You reign with the Father and the same Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.
Reflections for March 28, 2021
Title: Got You Covered
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. For FREE online resources, archived audio, our mobile app, and more, go to lutheranhour.org. Now back to our Speaker, Dr. Michael Zeigler.
Mike Zeigler: Thank you, Mark. Again, I'm joined by Dr. James Voelz, a long-time teacher, preacher, pastor in our church body, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, also the author of a commentary on the Gospel according to Mark, which we've been listening to. Dr. Voelz, thanks for coming back.
James Voelz: Oh yeah, that's great. Thank you.
Mike Zeigler: We've been talking about reading the Gospel of Mark, or even better, hearing it, sitting down, hearing it from start to finish, and doing this again and again and again. And something that you've mentioned that as you've done this, something that I've noticed as I've done it is that the story can be hard to follow at times, and Jesus can be difficult to understand. But that seems deliberate on Mark's presentation of Jesus. Is that right?
James Voelz: I think so, and this plays into this major theme of Mark, which is that seeing is not believing. What you have to do is listen to His word of promise. So that's so key for the Gospel of Mark, is Jesus' words of promise. I don't know if your listeners can get any greater value out of a session like this than to embrace this concept of listening to Jesus' words of promise, because in this Gospel, whenever Jesus says something, it comes true.
So Jesus, for example, has the three Passion and resurrection predictions. He says that the Son of man is going to be betrayed and He's going to be handed over and He's going to endure abuse and He's going to die and on the third day He's going to rise again. And it's all true. The entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He says, "Go in there. You're going to find a colt tied." They find it. It's true. Then in chapter 14, when He sends two disciples to prepare the Passover, and He says, "You will see, this man will confront you, carrying a water jar." And it's true. And then what's really important is in 14:28, when He says, "After I arise, I am going before you into Galilee." And there is no reason to believe that that is untrue.
The surety of the words of promise of Jesus is a huge theme, probably the theme of the Gospel of Mark. Seeing is not believing. Believing is seeing, as we said before. And you believe because you embrace the gracious promissory word of Jesus. I mean, in some ways I have to smile when I say that, because in some of our previous sessions, you've asked me about maybe an application. Well, there is no application. That is it. This is what you're talking about, is embracing. The disciples should be embracing the words of Jesus, the promissory words of Jesus. We should be embracing them.
And why? Because what you see with your eyes will always be ambiguous. And that's so true in the Gospel of Mark. It will always be ambiguous. Now we can tease out little things that help us here. I already made a reference in one of our earlier sessions to Psalm 22. At the cross He cried out, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani," that is interpreted, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" All these quotations, you've got to take the context along with it. And when you do, on the cross, what do you see? You see Jesus yelling out with a big voice a psalm that ends in triumph, and then dying with a loud voice, expiring the spirit. But if you're just thinking that this Guy is being put on there by the Romans, and He's dying and He's quoting a verse of desperation, you're not going to see anything. Seeing is not believing in that sense.
Mike Zeigler: But if you take His word for it, that this is the atonement, the reconciliation of God and humanity, ending in triumph of restored creation, restored relationships between God and humanity, then that Psalm 22 tells the rest of the story.
James Voelz: That's right.
Mike Zeigler: You've got to believe in order to see. And Jesus' words of promise are always true. They are more reliable than what we perceive with our eyes.
James Voelz: That's right. That's what we live by, the promise. Chuck Arand, my colleague, often makes this point that Philip Melanchthon, in the apology to the Augsburg Confession, generally speaking, doesn't speak as much about Law and Gospel as he does about Law and promise. That's so important, because promise, it's not just good news. Gospel is good news. But it's not just good news. It's good news for you. It's good news for you that Jesus has taken upon Himself the sins of the world, including your sins.
Mike Zeigler: Thank you again for joining us, Dr. Voelz.
James Voelz: You bet.
Mike Zeigler: And for all your service to God's people and the study of His word of promise.
James Voelz: Good. Thanks.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)