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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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Good Friday–“Guilty” (John 19:17-30)

B-49 Good Friday (Jn 19.23-37)“Has the jury reached a verdict?”

“We have, your honor. On the charge of impersonating the Son of God, we find the defendant guilty. On the charge of heresy with regard to tearing down the temple and rebuilding it, we find the defendant guilty. On the charge of claiming to be the King of the Jews, we find the defendant guilty.”

“Having reviewed all of the evidence presented, it is the court’s verdict to sentence the defendant to death. Court is dismissed.”

And with that, the mock trial of Jesus is over. The court has spoken and it wasn’t hard to figure out what the verdict was going to be. The Pharisees and Sadducees and the Jewish leadership has been trying to find some way, anyway, to trap Jesus in His words. As far as Pilate was concerned, he could “find no guilt in him.” Jesus was innocent of every trumped-up charge, everything that they had tried to pin on Him. However, the will of the people won out and Jesus was sentenced to death. Pilate again tried to reason with the people but the people spoke out all the more, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” Pilate tried a final time to get the people to repent of their decision to crucify Jesus: “Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.”

Those words, “to be crucified,” must have had a terrible sound even to Pilate. Knowing that you’re sentencing an innocent man to His death must be woefully troubling to the conscience, if Pilate had one. He still must have had at least a semblance of one, for he ordered the inscription placed on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Everything that took place that day, while we acknowledge it as being extremely cruel and unusual punishment, was according to the plan of God. From start to finish, this was the will of God. While God did not desire that His Son die, it was necessary so that you would be forgiven of all your sins.

There is good news for all of us. We are not the ones who are being crucified; though we are the ones who deserve it. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has gone before us to Golgotha to accept our punishment. Just as the prophet Isaiah writes, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” He took your punishment and He took mine. He did this out of love for you and for me.

So much for Christ being a king. What kind of king would willfully allow himself to be betrayed by his friends and then beaten, scourged and tried, all with no evidence of wrong doing?

Jesus, the King of the Jews, was led to be crucified, for the sins of the people, including Pilate and the two criminals who were hanging on either side. He was dying for the sins of people who had beaten Him, mocked Him, hurled insults at Him, who utterly emasculated Him.

Jesus went to the cross because He loved us. He gave His life as a ransom for many. He gave His body to be whipped, to be spit upon, to be punched, cut with thorns, to be nailed through and crucified, all of it for you and me. We can find rest here in the wounds of Jesus.

His precious blood, which He freely shed in His bitter sufferings and cruel death, is what cleanses us from all our sins. His blood is our help. When we are hurting, we can look to the human body of Jesus, which didn’t make use of its glorious divine power when the mystery of our redemption was being worked out. In the bleeding wounds of Jesus is our only remedy.

Jesus went to the cross for us. St. Paul says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” We weren’t worthy of Christ’s heroic death for us. He went anyway because He loved us before we were born. It was glory for Him to love us and take our burden upon Himself.

It’s a hard thing to send a son or daughter off to war to fight for a noble cause. One can only imagine what that must be like, not knowing if they will return or not, just holding on to hope and prayer. But imagine the Father, sending his Son, knowing exactly what’s going to happen, and knowing that millions of people will never understand why you did it or know that you did it for them.

Jesus bore the wrath of God against our sins. Simple pain and death was not the essence of what He endured. He bore the wrath of God in His soul, the agonies of Hell. He who is God was forsaken by God on the cross. He became a curse, for He Himself had spoken through the prophet that “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” We cannot imagine what He endured. And, thanks be to God, we who believe will never know first-hand. He suffered for us and in our place on the cross on Calvary.

And when He had done all that the Scriptures said He would do, and when He had suffered all that was prophesied that the Messiah would suffer, He spoke the most precious word in the history of man, τετέλεσται, which takes three words in English to translate, “It is finished!” It may sound like a word of resignation, of relief, that the suffering was coming to an end. But it had to be more than that. Remember how John had reminded us that this was Jesus’ hour, that Jesus went to the cross voluntarily, that Jesus was there to complete God’s plan of salvation. Jesus was not saying that the wicked plot against him was finished. He was declaring that His task as the one and only Son of the heavenly Father was finished. When He declared, “It is finished,” He declared your sins to be forgiven on account of His blood shed for you. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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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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Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
‘Tis the long-expected Prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
‘Tis the true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting His distress;
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation;
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ, the Rock of our salvation,
His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Church Year, Hymnody, Lent

 

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