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THE CHURCH IS MISSIONARY BY ITS VERY NATURE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Sunday, the 29th Sunday of the Year (World Mission Sunday), October 21, 2018
Isaiah 53:10-11, Psalm 32, Hebrews 4:14-16, Mark 10:35-45


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

"And Jesus called them [the apostles] to him and said to them, ‘You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many'" (Mark 10:42-45).


Today is World Mission Sunday. Christianity is by in its very nature missionary. Mission begins with the mission or sending of the Son from the Father into the world. The Son redeems us by his death on the cross, rises from the dead, and sends fourth the Holy Spirit from the Father into the world to draw people to the Son and to his redeeming death, which in turn reconciles them with the Father, when they put their faith in the Son. The whole purpose of mission is to bring us alienated ungodly sinners back to the Father so that we might be reconciled with him.


But where does the Church come in? The Church is the community of those who have heard the preaching of the gospel and have put their faith in it and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as their Lord that they promise to obey and their Savior that redeems them from their sins and enables the Father to reckon Christ's own perfect righteousness to them. So the Church is the community of the redeemed.


But what does the Church then do? It becomes the agent of the Father's mission to the world, which is the mission of reconciliation, the Father reconciling the world to himself through the redeeming work of his Son.


It is not the power of the Church that reconciles people with the Father, but rather the redeeming death of Jesus Christ on the cross that reconciles us with our Creator. But the Church, as the community of the redeemed, is sent by Christ into the whole world to preach to it the saving message of the gospel, the good news that all who put their faith in Jesus Christ and genuinely repent of their sins will be reconciled with God, their sins will be atoned for by Christ's vicarious death, and Christ's own perfect righteousness will be reckoned to them.


How is it that Christ redeems us and so reconciles us alienated ungodly sinners with God? Our first reading and today's gospel reading explain how this takes place.


The first reading is from Isaiah 53, a striking prophecy of how God will save the world through his Servant who is put to death for our sins. Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophecy.


Isaiah prophesies:


"Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand" (Isaiah 53:10).


God's will was to bruise his Servant to put him to great grief. God does this to him in order to make him a sin offering. A sin offering is an animal that a sinner kills as his representative to vicariously suffer his penalty for his sins for him so that the sinner doesn't have to suffer this penalty.


So this Servant becomes a human sin offering. There shall be done to him what is usually done to a sacrificed animal. The Servant will be designated as our representative and our substitute to suffer our death penalty for our sins for us, in our place, to thereby atone for them.


This Servant's suffering will make due reparation for our sins. That is why the Lord will bruise his Servant and "put him to grief" (Isaiah 53:10). The Lord does this to his Servant to make him an offering for sin, and when this is done, "He shall see his offspring" (Isaiah 53:10). The Servant will see the good fruit that his grief shall produce, because he will have spiritual offspring, people who are freed from their sins through his redemptive suffering that God himself will put him through. Indeed, "the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand" (Isaiah 53:10). The Lord's will is our redemption through his Servant's suffering.


Then Isaiah says:


"He [the Servant] shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:11).


This Servant's suffering will produce great fruit and in the end he shall be satisfied, when he sees the fruit of his suffering.


This Servant is himself righteous, and he will "make many to be accounted righteous" (Isaiah 53:11). The King James Version translates this phrase: "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:11 KJV). This is a key line. By his suffering as a human sin offering for our sins the Servant will cause us to be considered righteous (he will justify us), because he will vicariously suffer what we should suffer for our sins. Because of his suffering, our debt with God for our sins is paid, and so we are acquitted and henceforth accounted by God as righteous.


Why? Because "he shall bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:11).


The Servant bears our sins and suffers for them and so makes us to be accounted righteous (he justifies us).


Then, in the next verse, Isaiah prophesies:


"Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12).


This Servant, when he has finished his sacrifice, will become very great. Why? "Because he poured out his soul to death" (Isaiah 53:12). He was treated and killed as a criminal. He "was numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12).


This Servant was executed as a criminal, but he was righteous. It was for our sins that he is put to death; not for his own sins, for he himself was righteous.


"He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12).


The Servant's form of intercession is substitutionary vicarious satisfaction. He substitutes for us by suffering what we should have suffered for our sins, and by his suffering makes satisfaction to the Father for our sins, in our place. His suffering of death for our sins is his intercession with God on our behalf to pay our debt for our sins for us to make us righteous. By paying our debt with the Father for our sins, he is effectively interceding for us with his Father and reconciling us with him.


The amazing thing is that this detailed prophecy is an incredibly accurate description of what Jesus Christ actually did many centuries later, as Jesus says in today's gospel:


"For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).


Jesus came to serve, not to be served, and his service was to actually do in fact, in history, many centuries later, what this Servant of the Lord, this literary prophetic figure, did. Jesus gave his life to ransom or redeem many, by bearing our sins and suffering for them what we owed God for them to enable God to justly set us free from our sins and account us righteous (justify us).


To preach this saving message to the world is the mission of the Church. We are sent to all nations to proclaim what God has done for us to free us from our sins and reconcile us with him. We are then to invite our listeners to genuinely repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ so that his saving work might be personally applied to them.

 

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