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.