Summary: Being cleansed by God’s amazing grace.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 5th Sunday in Lent Psalm 51:1-13 April 6, 2003

Hebrews 5:5-10

John 12:20-33

The Hyssop of God’s Love!

Sin has a terrible way of making us all dirty and giving us feelings of despair! At one time or another, we all experience times of despair. We are sinful people who are in constant need of being cleansed by God’s grace. David says in today’s Psalm, “Cleanse me with Hyssop and I will be clean!” David was in the depths of despair and was in the need of being cleansed from his sins. Psalm 51 refers to David’s illicit affair with Bathsheba and his attempt to try and cover up his sin. He was between the proverbial rock and the hard place. He had committed two sins that were not forgivable by Jewish law. Adultery and Murder! There were no provisions for atoning for those sins through their sacrificial system. Those sins were punishable by death. David had no place to go except to throw himself on the mercy of God. David prayed to be cleansed with Hyssop!

Being cleansed by Hyssop had a rich history with the Jewish people. The Hyssop was a plant with a straight stalk. Its leaves and branches were kind of hairy that made it very easy for liquids to adhere to them. They were used in various types of religious services. The Hyssop branch would be dipped into the sacrificial blood and sprinkled over a person who needed healing. The same procedure was used for the cleansing of mildew. And, it was also used to make people ceremonially clean. The most famous event that occurred in Jewish history using the Hyssop was during the first Passover. The Jewish people were still in bondage in Egypt. God had sent nine plagues against Pharaoh and the tenth plague, the plague of death for all the first-born, was about to begin. God told Moses to tell the people to take a branch of Hyssop, dip it into the blood of the sacrificed lamb, and smear the blood on the top and sides of their doorframe - so the angel of death would “pass-over” the house and not bring death - hence the name Passover!

Being in the depths of despair, David needed his sins to be “passed over.” He needed cleansing! We see David, throughout the reading of our Psalm, seeking, crying out, and praying for - God’s grace and mercy. The only thing that could cleanse him from his sins and restore his broken relationship with God. He sought to hear joy and gladness again and not feel - and have the despair of a broken and crushed spirit. David was seeking to feel - and have the glory he once had - and the joy of his salvation restored.

There were some Greeks who came to see Jesus. Gentiles who had heard God’s word, who may have been converted to Judaism, and had become very interested in Jesus’ teachings. They may have seen Jesus cleansing the temple - and may have come to Jesus to become disciples. The Greek people throughout their history had been a people of great thinkers and seekers of truth. The coming of these people signifies the scope of Jesus’ ministry that would bring God’s hope, truth, and grace to the Gentiles, and to the entire world. People coming to Jesus seeking the truth and the hope - that was missing in their lives - while living their lives constantly searching for hope and truth - and constantly in despair! People who needed to be cleansed of their old ways of thinking, and be given, new hope!

I met a family this week who is seeking some hope, truth, and grace. They are in definite need of being cleansed from living their lives in despair! A former wife, a daughter, and a fiancée struggling with the questions of hope, living in the depths of despair, while living in the aftermath - of a suicide.

In our gospel lesson this morning, Jesus gives us words of comfort, hope, and the words of truth that we seek for - and need - that can and does take away our sin - and - our times of despair. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Jesus will be glorified, and will draw all people to himself, when he is lifted up from the earth. An obvious reference to the Cross and also to the ascension! Both signify Christ’s total and unconditional victory over sin, death, and despair. We also see God - thundering God’s approval - like a proud Father! We see God’s amazing grace that even though the world was in total despair because of sin and continual rebellion against God, God still loved the world, and sent God’s only Son to save the world.

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