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Good Friday

Tonight, you’re going to hear something that you don’t want to hear, something that will make you uncomfortable. And if that is what happens, then I have done my due diligence this evening.

When the soldiers arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was all a ruse. He was to stand trial and answer to the crimes of heresy. But this trial was rigged from the very beginning. The verdict was delivered before the trial took place. Jesus was guilty. The trial was just a formality to allow them to execute Jesus.

When you look upon Calvary’s cross, what is you see? You see a man on the cross! You see Jesus. This is His purpose. This is why God is man. This is why the eternal Second Person of the triune God has taken human flesh. This is the reason. Behold the man on the cross, bleeding, gasping, suffering, dying.

Behold His hands, which the night before were washing His disciples’ feet. Now they are pinned with nails to the rough crossbeam of this instrument of torture and execution. Behold the hands that scooped Adam out of the dirt but are now stained with blood and dirt. Behold the fingers with which He touched lepers, stuck into the ears of a deaf man, and picked up bread to declare it to be His body. Now they jerk uncontrollably every time He has to pull Himself up on the nails through His wrists to take a breath.

Behold His feet, nailed to the cross, bearing His weight as He dies. Behold the feet that walked from town to town as He taught His disciples, healed the sick, and preached the good news of man’s release from captivity to sin and death. Behold the feet that Mary anointed with a pound of expensive ointment, washed with her tears, and wiped with her hair. Behold the feet that are now bound in place. Behold the feet that must endure stabbing pain as they push up on the nail pinning them in place. Behold His heel, which in this act of dying is crushing the head of the serpent, destroying the kingdom of Satan, answering for mankind’s sinful rebellion.

It is truly a sight to behold. It’s bloody and gory and downright uncomfortable, and we aren’t even looking at it; we’re just hearing the various accounts of the Evangelists. This was a spectacle to behold, and indeed, that’s what it was. Christ’s hanging upon the cross was the Roman entertainment of the day, and seeing a beaten and bloodied and dying Jesus was exactly what His opponents wanted. And they got exactly what they wanted.

Not only was Christ crucified, but two criminals alongside Him. Luke records for us the railings of one of the criminals: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” What this criminal could not see, what the Pharisees and others could not see is that that was exactly what Christ was doing – saving them. The only way to save them was for Him to die and He was close to death. It was quickly coming. But with His death came life – life for all who believe in Him.

To get to this point, the point of making full atonement for creation came at great cost. We know the cost of Christ – His life. But it also came at cost to the Father. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” God watched as His Son, the Lord of Life, lost His life. He watched as the blood poured out from Him. God watched. He did nothing to intervene. Those that want to say that God is a God of love and it’s not a loving act by letting Christ die, then you don’t understand who God is. God is love so much that He lets Jesus die. God is love so much that He doesn’t do anything except watch because Christ’s death is what redeems creation, it is what redeems you. That is why we sing, “What Thou, my Lord, has suffered/Was all for sinners’ gain….”

It is for your sake, the poor, miserable, wretched sinner that you are, that Christ has died. It is for you that Christ pours out His blood in a lavish washing away of sin. And it’s not just some sins that Jesus forgives. It’s not just the sins of the Jews that Christ forgives. It’s not the sins of the innocent that Christ forgives, for there are none who are innocent of sin. If you think that Good Friday, God’s Friday, isn’t a big deal, then you don’t understand what takes place, who this is for in the first place.

The hymnist right summarizes for us the reality of today’s events: “Ye who think of sin but lightly/Nor suppose the evil great/Here may view its nature rightly,/Here its guilt may estimate./Make the sacrifice appointed,/See who bears the awful load;/’Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,/Son of Man and Son of God.” There is no sin that we think of lightly, for even the smallest of sins earns for us death. But for you, for you, God makes the ultimate sacrifice. This sacrifice isn’t a “forgiven until the next sin” sacrifice like all the sacrifices of old were. This sacrifice is that one and done, once for all, never needing to be sacrificed again, perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, sacrifice. He cries out from the cross, “It is finished.” All that is needed to forgive you your sins, past, present, and future, is accomplished for you on the cross.

For you and for the all of creation, the blood of Jesus is poured out. Behold His blood, which pours from His lifeless body, staining the wooden beams of the cross, spilling onto the dirt, reddening the soil, watering His creation. Behold the blood that He first shed when He was an eight-day-old boy. Behold the blood for which the crowd thirsted and ironically asked for exactly what they needed, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Behold the blood that was foreshadowed on every Day of Atonement when the blood of the sacrifice was splattered on the mercy seat, on the altar, and on the people. Behold the blood He gave to His disciples in the cup the night before, telling them its function: shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Behold the blood that proves that this God was also truly and fully man, a Brother in blood to us sinners. This is the blood by which this eternal High Priest enters once for all into the Most Holy Place, giving sinful men access to a holy God.

Here is your God. Beaten and blooded, hanging lifelessly upon the cross, with His blood washing over you, giving you life. This is why God is man: not to teach you how to be good, not to show you the right way to live, not to set a perfect example, not to impart His wise teaching. God is man so that He can die for men. He has a life so that He can lay it down in exchange for yours. For you, “It is finished.” Amen.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2019 in Good Friday, Lent, Sermons

 

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Good Friday, Hymnody, Music

 

Good Friday – “Scripture Fulfilled” (John 19:17-30)

A-46 Good Friday (Jn 19.23-37)Good Friday and Easter are the climax of our Church Year. As we journeyed through Lent, our eyes looked toward Calvary. Now is the time to stand at the foot of the cross and look up. The mood is somber and so it should be. Yet as we see with eyes of faith, we realize this is a time of victory. Our Lord Jesus experienced death for us that we may share in His triumph over death. Our focus this evening hinges upon words from the prophet Isaiah that point to the cross: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”

On Good Friday, we deal with death up close. We stand not beside a casket of a parent, grandparent, child, or another family member; rather, we stand at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. We experience the reality of death, His death. We realize that death does indeed come close – to each of us. Death is the great enemy. It would be cold and dark and empty, except that Jesus has come close to us and has faced death for us. His death changes our experience of death. Now we stand before His cross and feel the impact of His love for us as He experienced death up close.

We are not immune to death. To live in our world means that we must face it. Death can be frightening. Sometimes it invades our lives with blazing speed. Sometimes it is slow and relentless as it stalks its target. Death comes in many ways, but it comes. It doesn’t always seem fair. It can surprise and shock us. It can pierce like a knife. They sky can be blue, the sunshine bright, the air crisp and clean – and then we receive that phone call of bad news and darkness descends. To be human is to live life that is fragile. Death does indeed come close to us. And death would indeed leave us terrorized and empty except for what took place one Friday, a day that we call Good Friday, a Friday when Jesus experienced death up close for us.

The prophet Isaiah painted a poetic picture of what this Friday would be. He described a Savior, a Suffering Savior, who would stand in our place and experience death up close. For us who are part of fallen humanity, death is justice. It is a verdict that fits the crime. We have disobeyed God and deserve death. But now the Suffering Savior comes near. As Isaiah describes it: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. . . . Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. . . . He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities. . . . The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. . . . He was cut off out of the land of the living. . . . They made His grave with the wicked.” Jesus knew death in a way that we could never know, for He experienced death up close and all that goes with it.

There on the cross, as our Lord hangs for crimes He did not commit, He is mocked and despised. He takes the charge that is put forward by Pilate, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” You have to wonder why He would do something like this. Throughout His Passion, our Lord was mocked by the people regarding His supposedly being the Son of God, that if that fact were true, He could have taken Himself off the cross. The fact of the matter is they were right. As the Son of God, He could have taken Himself off of the cross. But what if He had? Let’s say that Jesus did take Himself off of the cross, what would that mean? It means that you and I would truly be damned. It is because our Lord stayed on the cross that He died. It’s because He stayed on the cross that God’s wrath was poured out upon Him instead of us. It’s because He stayed on the cross that His blood was shed. It’s because He stayed on the cross that His blood washes over you and forgives you all of your sins.

In all His sufferings, He looks so unglorious. Blood pours from every vein. He is kicked and hit and spat upon. He is nailed to wood. Worse than that, He is forsaken in the torture of hell. Divine wrath falls upon Him, greater than the Flood, greater than Sodom and Gomorrah, greater than all the catastrophes of earth put together. All of it, concentrated and foul and heavy, falls on this one Man’s shoulders, crushing Him down as if He was a shameful sinner, deserving of the worst treatment in history. No man seems so abandoned, so lost, so abused, as this Christ upon Golgotha.

But this is not all that is happening. The cross is not only shame. That is the external appearance. The far greater reality is this: the cross is the greatest glory on earth. It is the glory of the Son of God. As He says to Caiaphas, “From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Christ was not speaking of His Second Coming. He said, “from now on.” In other words, the Passion and Death that followed are the very glory of Christ.

For on the cross, Christ sets right all of mankind. On the cross, Christ destroys the power of evil as He crushes the serpent’s head. On the cross, Christ shows us as much of God as we can see in this life, the glory of God’s redemption poured out in bloody streams. His mercy is there, exposed to our eyes as nowhere else. Nowhere in history can you see God so clearly as in the Son of God dying on Calvary.

With His dying breath, our Lord cries out from the cross, “Tetelesti.” “It is finished.” He doesn’t mean that His life is now over and He dies. He means that God’s divine plan of salvation is now complete. That plan of salvation that was set in the motion from the near beginning of time is fulfilled in Christ’s sinless life, death, and resurrection. Everything that is necessary for your sins to be forgiven is made complete by Christ on the cross.

Because of Jesus, we can look into the eyes of death and see not a conquering villain, but an enemy that has been conquered. We can see victory in death. We can find hope in sorrow, for we have a Suffering Savior who experienced death up close and personal and overcame it. Our Lord swallowed death. He tasted it for us, and now we follow Him from death to life. Amen.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Good Friday, Lent, Sermons

 

Good Friday–“Death Up Close” (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

C-50 Good FridayCrucifixes make us uncomfortable—and well they should. We squirm before them, and it has nothing to do with any anti-Catholic bias. It is simply painful to look upon our Lord suffering so and to know the reason for His suffering. We shudder before it. In the darkness of that Good Friday, the totality of human sin—from the first sin of our first parents to the last sin of the last human being alive—all of it was gathered up, pressed together, and then off-loaded onto this Man. He bore the whole weight of it and owned it as His own. Thus He also bore its penalty—both temporal and eternal death.

Look upon His cross. See His wounds, the nails affixing His hands and feet to the beams. See the blood running down His face from the thorns. Behold the quivering mass of His mutilated back as He is forced to rub it against the tree, pushing up against the nails to take in a breath of air. Look, seek, and realize: this wounded Man, dying in agony, is not suffering for a single wrong that He has done. As we have seen, His whole life was only love. He was the only human being who completely loved the Father with His all and His neighbor as Himself. Yet it is because He is love that He is now upon the tree. Love will not leave the sinner in his sin. Love takes that sin upon Himself. Love is wounded to grant us healing. He is offering atonement for all the wrongs that we have done. Yes, it is hard to look a crucifix in the face, but it is necessary, because it is not Christ who deserves to be nailed to the cross, but instead it should be us.

While we should be the ones nailed to the cross, it is impossible for us to be the one to hang upon it. Because of our sinful nature, our death on the cross would mean nothing, for there is nothing about us that can redeem ourselves from the clutches of death. The only way for our sin to be purged is by the death of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And so tonight, we deal with death up close and personal. We do not stand beside a casket of a parent or another family member; instead, we stand at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ, our Savior. We experience the reality of death, His death. We realize that death does indeed come close – to each of us. Death is the enemy. It would be cold and dark and empty, except that Jesus has come close to us and has faced death in our place.

Though Christ has faced death in our place, it does not mean that we are immune to the effects of death. To live in this world means that we must face death. Because of Jesus, the death that we face is merely temporal and not eternal. He has seen fit to lay down His life for us, even though we are born enemies of God, He still goes to the cross on our behalf to shed His blood to make a sacrifice that is pleasing to God, one that will do what no other sacrifice could ever do: make full restitution to God for sins committed and restore creation to its rightful place with God the Father.

The prophet Isaiah painted a poetic picture of what this Friday would be. He described a Savior, a Suffering Savior, who would stand in our place and experience death up close. For us who are part of fallen humanity, death is justice. It is a verdict that fits the crime. We have disobeyed God and deserve death. But now the Suffering Savior comes near. As Isaiah describes it, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities…. The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all…. He was cut off out of the land of the living.”

All of this was done for you, with you in mind. Everything that He bore on the cross, He bore it for you. God the Father forsook our Lord so that you would not be forsaken by God. All of your sins, past, present, and future are nailed to the cross of Christ, because He takes them upon Himself.

Our Suffering Savior knows death up close. He felt the bite of death. He winced at the piercing of the nails. He endured the taunting of the crowd and the unjust accusations. He tasted the thirst of death. He didn’t simply view death from a casual distance. He was no simple spectator. He joined Himself to us and absorbed the blows of the hammer that should have been ours. In His death He carried our sorrows. He came to the scene of our guilt. He stretched out His hands to receive our sins. He looked death in the eye. He left nothing undone. He said, “It is finished.” All was completed; the obligation for sin paid. All was accomplished.

On this Good Friday, we stand at the foot of the cross to view a crucified Jesus. We experience death up close, the death of our Suffering Savior. That is why we train ourselves in life to look upon the crucifix, to behold our Savior’s wounds, to hold them close to our heart, counting them as the most precious treasure we have.

Because of Jesus, we can look into the eyes of death and see not a conquering villain, but an enemy that has been conquered. We can see victory in death. We can find hope in sorrow, for we have a Suffering Savior who experienced death up close and personal and overcame it. Our Lord swallowed death. He tasted it for us, and now we follow Him from death to life. Amen.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2013 in Good Friday, Lent, Sermons

 

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O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Good Friday, Hymnody, Video

 

Good Friday-Hands That Are Pierced (Luke 23:32-46)

A-46 Good Friday (Jn 19.23-37)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon this evening comes from Luke 23:32-46.

Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Here ends our text.

It’s been a long day so far and it’s only noon. Here, at the place of The Skull, stands Jesus, along with two criminals waiting to be crucified. It has been a kangaroo court trial from the very beginning, and Jesus is on the losing end of it, or at least that’s how it appears. From the cross, Jesus cries out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But who does Jesus mean when He says “them” and “they”? Is He talking about the criminals? Is He talking about the Romans who are crucifying Him? Is there someone else Jesus is referring to? Jesus prayed for all those blind to their actions. That means Jesus was praying for the criminals. That means Jesus was praying for the Romans. That means Jesus was even praying for His disciples who scattered following Jesus being arrested. The forgiveness that Christ extends is not just for the soldiers, but for Pilate, Herod, the Sanhedrin, the chief priests, the rulers, and indeed all people.

After our Lord speaks words of forgiveness for the people, they react just as we think they would: uncaringly and ungrateful. There are two responses following Jesus’ invocation of the Father’s absolution. The soldiers who will mock Jesus completely disregard Jesus’ absolution and instead cast lots for His clothes and offer up sour wine and the people standing there just watching as the events take place. There is no concern shown from them; there is no emotion at all – just standing and watching.

How ungrateful this scene is! Jesus asks for God to forgive them one moment and the next moment they’re gambling away His clothing and watching Him die. These are the people that Jesus came to live and die for? People who want nothing more than to see Him die? People who want nothing more than to make a public mockery of justice for their own gain? People who stand around doing nothing? Yes, that is exactly who Jesus came to live and die for. What is even more amazing is that Jesus came to live and die for more people than that. He came to live and die for the people that don’t believe in Him. He came to live and die for the people that want nothing to do with Him. He came to live and die for the people that are self-righteous and can do everything on their own. He came to live and die for the people who recognize their sins and their need for a Savior. He came to live and die for the people who just a few days earlier cried out, “Hosanna!”, “Lord, save us!” He came to live and die for you.

The rulers of the day were correct, they just didn’t know it. When they shouted, “He saved others, let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his chosen one!”, they couldn’t have been more right. He had saved others. He had saved others from disease and death. Surely there was more that this King of the Jews was going to do. Jesus was not going to disappoint.

With outstretched arms, hands that were pierced and nailed to this tree of death, He was going to save the people in a way that the Romans, the chief priests, the rulers and all the people could not understand: He was going to die. He was going to sacrifice His life for the life of the people. Christ was delivered up to death; He was delivered for the sins of the people. That means that He died for you and for your sins. What He says to the one criminal, He says to you and to me: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The events about to unfold are events that are for you and for me.

Darkness has fallen. For the next three hours, it’s as dark as night and it is the middle of the day. Having been at this since the previous day, here is where everything reaches the climax. Here, around 3:00, the light of the sun has failed. There is no explanation to what has just taken place. It is too early for sunset. In fact, there is no sun at all, just darkness. The darkness signals the imminent conclusion of God’s work of redemption.

While there is darkness, another sign occurs that no one at the cross could witness. Some fifteen hundred feet away in the temple, the curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. This is significant because the curtain separated the people from the Holy of Holies of the temple, the place where God resided, the place where the high priest would enter once a year to make a sacrifice on behalf of the people. It was the one place of the temple that was off limits to the people. Now, there is nothing that separates the people from God because a sacrifice has been made that surpasses and exceeds every other sacrifice that has been made, from the times of the Old Testament, to that time, and forever more. This open access to God is represented by the temple curtain torn asunder. God’s presence no longer resides in the temple; now God’s presence is wherever Jesus is, for Jesus is the new temple!

With His hands pierced and nailed to the cross, “Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last.” Jesus did this for you. He did this for you before you were born, before you were ever thought of. He did this for your sins. His pierced hands are hands that saved you from what you deserve: death and damnation, eternal separation from God.

This is truly a Good Friday, because Christ’s death has given to you everlasting life. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Good Friday, Lent, Sermons

 

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