I’ve always wondered about it. He saves the planet from alien invaders and super-villain characters. He wears the can’t-miss-it red and blue uniform with the billowing red cape. He flies faster than a speeding bullet. Is more powerful than a locomotive. Saves men, women, and children from certain destruction and then…walks around a corner to put on a shirt and tie and glasses of the unassuming office worker; back bench reporter for the Daily Planet – and nobody catches on. Superman, the epic warrior, is hidden just beneath the normal, everyday of Clark Kent.
Our theme for this Lenten season is about the Son of God going forth to the war that would change the whole world. But Jesus did not look like a warrior any more than Clark Kent does. Jesus as our great warrior walked among the people like anyone else. You could say that he was a Hidden Warrior.
We are told that Jesus was like all of us. He got tired, hungry, and thirsty. When he was a child, he grew up like every other child. “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Of course, I bet if you saw him as a little child you would have noted some oddities after a few interactions. Jesus: always respectful, smart, and obedient, even when Joseph lost his temper for the wrong reasons or Mary was grumpy some day. You wouldn’t have seen any time-outs, no tantrums over Fortnite or Minecraft, never sent to his room without supper. It’s because Jesus had no sinful nature and was completely without sin. Peter tells us that we were redeemed (ransomed, purchased) from sin, death, and the devil “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). He goes on to tell us, “[Jesus] committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).
That’s just an unthinkable thing for us. We can’t get through a single day without sins. It’s why we gather like this in Lent: When perfect Jesus gave himself for us on the cross, we can know for certain that his was the absolutely perfect sacrifice! There has never been a human being like Jesus! But in every other way, he was just like you and me.
Tonight we recall the day when Jesus arrived at the home of friends: Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, in Bethany. Lazarus had died and been buried for four days when Jesus arrived. Mary was crying: “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’” (John 11:33-36). Jesus cried real, human tears when he saw the grave of his very good friend Lazarus. Mary and Martha’s friends saw his grief. They knew that Jesus had spent time with that family—they had eaten, laughed, and now cried together. Jesus felt their pain. It was a completely human thing.
- He wept like one of us!
What a comfort it is to see Jesus this way! Especially because you know what that is like. You have been at funerals of loved ones. Tears are the outflow of a grieving heart. The pain that comes from loss is very real. And we live in a real world, where we cause tears too. Last week on Ash Wednesday, we considered our sins – the guilt we have and the pain we have caused others in our live and the grief we have caused our Savior by what we have done. How many tears have we caused to flow? How many regrets do each of us have because of our sins?
In this season, we grieve over our sin. True repentance begins with sorrow (contrition). And what confidence this Jesus gives us to live that way! When we come to him with our broken situations, with death’s devastation, with sins and their ramifications, in sadness and we say, “Come and see, Lord…” He doesn’t turn away. He doesn’t reject our sorrow. He sheds a sympathetic tear for his disciples and friends. But he also does so much more than that!
- Great unimaginable power lies just beneath the surface of our warrior!
Those in Bethany at the death of Lazarus had questions: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37). Mary and Martha’s friends probably had heard—perhaps even seen—the recent miracle of restoring sight to the blind man in Jerusalem. Those friends were naturally wondering why Jesus had not used some of that healing power on Lazarus, his good friend. It’s the same question that was on Martha’s mind. It’s a good question to ask.
Especially because of the Bible’s claim. The writer of Hebrews says that God “has spoken to us by his Son [Jesus], whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:2) Think of the awesome power Jesus has! Astronomers estimate that there are one hundred trillion galaxies in the universe, a number so big we can’t even imagine it, much less design it. They say there are more than ten million different species of animals on earth! Think of the unlimited creativity, brilliance, and power it took to make all that! None of this was an accident.
And yet, St. Paul writes, “Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:5-7).
This is the astounding truth as we look at Jesus: The eternal Son of God, when he was born in Bethlehem, added a second nature to his perfect, holy, almighty self. God also became a human being! 100% human and 100% God. To do it, the God-man Jesus literally “emptied himself,” or set aside and put on the shelf much of his God power. He hid his glory.
But that divine power is of great importance. Once in a while he peeled back the veil and let it show. This was one of those times. He told Martha that she would see the glory of God (John 11:40) – then he showed it. He called the dead Lazarus out of the grave. And out he walked alive! Jesus showed a glimpse of the power at his disposal. He smacked death in the face and forced it to yield. Like a warrior practicing his skills before a great conflict, Jesus is getting ready for the final battle with Satan just a week or so away. And that we also need to see…
You and I see the damage Satan has done and is still doing. His personal goal is to rob you of your faith, take away your hope, to confine you to hell. He’s bigger than any human being can handle. That’s why God’s plan to save this world was so perfect. We have our sinless human Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. But Jesus is also the all-powerful Son of God. His death was more precious than the death of one human. He is our substitute and the substitute of all humanity. As the writer of Hebrews says, “[Jesus] offered for all time one sacrifice for sins…” His suffering and death was complete for each one of us! Here in Jesus is perfect man; powerful God; God’s perfect salvation plan!
And, just like this, in this hidden way, 3. As both God and man, he fights for us.
Jesus called Lazarus his friend (John 11:11). His friend Lazarus was important to him. He called his closest disciples the same. So too, He calls you who hear his Word and follow his ways. You are his friend. How do you think he feels about you, especially when you are at a weak spot in your life—kids picking on you in school, your coworkers constantly critical of your efforts, your spouse giving you the silent treatment, or your friends abandoning you? Regardless of what you or I think – look at the cross and you can know how he feels… The perfect Son of God put himself there…for you.
You and I will continue to struggle in our lives – physical pains, heartaches. We struggle with doubts about our faith. Sometimes God seems far away, doesn’t he? You pray, but it seems as if he’s not listening. You read the Bible, but it doesn’t seem to speak to you. It’s almost as if he is hiding. More, we know the devil and his evil angels are circling our lives, looking for the right moment to attack. But we know that God has made this promise to each of us: “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Indeed, your hidden warrior is always at work: With one hand the God-man Jesus is controlling our universe, and his other hand is wrapped around you. You can’t see it yet, because our risen Jesus, who fills the entire world with his presence, has chosen to remain hidden from our vision right now. But he’s there—always has been there. He’s working out his plan for you because you matter to him. He’s fighting for you each and every day. He actually is hiding in plain sight in his Word and sacraments. The Bible tells us that he is making all things in our lives work together for our good! Every prayer you have uttered as a believer has been picked up by him and personally delivered to our heavenly Father. He has assigned angels to protect us as the spiritual battles are waged for our souls and as we drive on the freeway to work. And he promises the victory over sin and death is his already – and, as his friends, it’s ours too.
The tears of Jesus over the death of his good friend show that he cares deeply. The cross proves he cares for you. His rising from death assures that it’s true. You’re in the best and most powerful hands in the universe! Right now he remains hidden, but his power remains through all eternity. You are in a mighty warrior’s hands! Live boldly with him! Amen.