S-1387-22SAP/C 10/20/2013 Hymns: (O) #350; (S) #341; (C) #50
Texts: Genesis 32:22-30; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8
Theme: “A Face to Behold!” (Genesis 32:30)
Question: “What face do you like to look at?” Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the O. T. lesson: “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered’” (Genesis 32:30).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Most precious people of God, just recently I was reading through the Scripture in a year and I was in the book of Ester. The narrator tells of the plight of the Jewish people who were about to be destroyed by Haman the Persian. Haman was a high ranking official in the King’s court. As much power he had, he wasn’t satisfied because, at the door of the palace, sat a Jewish man—Mordecai who would not bow before Haman. Haman hated Mordecai and wanted more than anything else that he would honor him and bow before him.
One day, as the king told Haman he is the most important man in the province and had given him signet ring to do as he pleases with anyone—namely has enough power to destroy the Jews. He was so happy, until he walked out the palace and saw Mordecai and he was beside himself. That is what happens when you hate someone, you can’t stand to look at their face.
Jacob, the grandson of father Abraham and the son of Isaac knows all too well what it means not to look at your enemy face to face—his brother Esau. Perhaps you remember what Jacob had done to his brother. Jacob had stolen his brother’s birthright. He had walked away with the big time blessing of his father that had been intended for Esau. But that was then, and this is now.
It had been twenty years since they last saw one another. At that time Esau was livid with his brother. Last time he saw Esau was a bad news kind of day. But now, Jacob was going to be seeing his twin brother in less than 12 hours. He was nervous! He was afraid! And He was in a dilemma!
Being afraid was nothing unusual for this patriarch. What was different was that Jacob was different. After being dealt with shrewdly by his Uncle Laban, Jacob had learned his lesson. Jacob would rely on God and not himself. So he divides his family and herds and sent them ahead of him and sent a big gift to his brother. And he stayed behind for a time of prayer and reflection about seeing the man he has been running away from for the last 20 years. PAUSE.
Alone in the darkness of night, Jacob paced, pondered, pleaded and prayed. Judgment day was upon him. He needed Divine help. Then something strange took place. Out of nowhere a mysterious Man, utterly unlike anyone he ever met, appeared. Likely he remembered how the Lord appeared to his grandpa Abraham, mysteriously, out of nowhere, prophesying the miracle birth of his father—Isaac.
It would be a pattern. It would be how He appeared to Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and others—out of nowhere. It would be how He appeared to the disciples post Easter—out of nowhere. But this visit was no social call. It would be a night of struggle. This Man started to wrestle with Jacob.
This wrestling match would be the most unusual wrestling match in the history of mankind. The two men wrestled throughout the night in even-steven fashion. This, in itself was a miracle. Anyone who has done serious wrestling knows that after 8 minutes a person enters into a physical state of feeling like a wet noodle, even if you are in excellent shape. But Jacob and the mystery Man keep on wrestling.
Agony, fatigue, sweat, blood, almost like the Garden of Gethsemane ensue as the two men rolled in the dust in the most symmetrical chaotic match one could imagine. The mystery Man wrestling Jacob could not get the upper hand of Esau’s brother, even though in reality He was upholding the universe at the same time in the palm of His hands.
Binding Himself to the same rules of mortals, the Stranger from outside of time and space had humbled himself to wrestle with the rascal called Jacob. Holiness was wrestling with unholiness. This mystery Man would one day come into the world as a baby. In a most unusual way, He enters our world, putting on flesh and blood. Oh how strange that the Divine would take on humanity.
He who would come into the world in the fullness of time, likely during seasons when lambs were born, dying likely in the season when lambs die, on a Passover Friday as the Passover Lamb, willing to die at the exact second the high priest sacrificed the Passover Lamb in the holy of holies.
The point is: He has things in full control even when it does not seem so, down to the exact second. This Man touched the socket of Jacob’s hip. Jacob screamed. Jacob felt like he needed a hip replacement that very moment. Worse yet, by grace, despite the pain, he realized this was no mere mortal with whom he wrestled. Something cosmic was going on. The Man who bound Himself to the rules of men and mortals said, “Let go of Me; because the darkness is lifting.”
Jacob said something akin to what Peter would say 1800 years later, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus would respond and say, “Blessed are you son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you.” Jacob cried out, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” Until you bless me. PAUSE.
The mystery Man blesses Jacob in spite of the all night wrestling match. This Man’s face is masked in the darkness. But as the darkness is lifted Jacob sees the face, and couldn’t take his eyes off Him and shouts aloud, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” Wrestling that intimately, he couldn’t help but see the Masked Man, the Mystery Man as none-other, than the Pre-incarnate Christ.
Like Jacob, you and I wrestle with God daily. We wrestle with sin, pain, and anguish and question God. We want Him to bless us but on our terms. We don’t realize that Jesus is in total control of our lives. Even in our trials and pain He reminds us that everything will work out for our good. And so we pray, Lord, when I forget and turn from your face bring me back to see the radiant glory.
Today, in this place, you, too, see the Masked Man face to face. You see Him bloodied and bruised. You see Him in His full glory. You see Him as One who has wrestled with the evil forces and won the victory for all the son’s of Adam and the daughter’s of Eve.
Here is this place once again He delivers the sweet truth that the devil will not win the battle. In His mercy, He will lift the darkness of death, gravity of the grave and the stench of sin. All this is gone from us again this day because of this Not-so-mystery God-Man Jesus!
This Jesus we see is the One who wrestled on yet another occasion on our behalf. In the midday darkness of a Friday we call Good, the same God-Man wrestled on the cross of Calvary and won. We behold in the face of Christ a glory that pierces the darkness of Good Friday so that we can see Him today face to face. And like Jacob, we live! We live in the blessings He has in store for us. We live in Him eternally. We live with Him both now and in eternity!
Oh, that we would by the power of the Holy Spirit, continue to behold the face of God and live. Amen and Amen.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA