St. Matthew 27:45-50
Good Friday, April 18, 2014
In the Name X of Jesus. AMEN!
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 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?” And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. (Matthew 27:45-50 ESV)
Beloved in the Lord,
There’s nothing darker than the darkness of death. Darker than the casket we must fill, darker than the ground we must enter, is the darkness of sin’s wages as breath is exhausted and the flesh is embraced by its divine sentence. Such darkness is a darkness we must all enter for there is no one righteous, no not one. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is therefore a veil hovering over us, a pall awaiting the day it adorns the keeper of our remains. We see the shadow approaching. We feel its steely breath. Our bodies suffer frailty. Our souls grow weary of the journey. The burden seems at times to be too much. Death’s growl is heard in the voice of the doctor. The grave’s invitation reminds us of the inevitable. Oft times we feel like we are not only alone, but that we are forsaken. Where is the bearer of good news? Where is the sojourner along the way? Where is the victory, if there is any victory? Where is the hope, if there is any hope? Where is God, if there is any god? The tempter is quick to raise these questions as the heart faces its demise and the ever darkening landscape we must traverse.
St. Matthew tells of the darkness on Good Friday. Oh, and how dark it was that day beloved. From the 6th hour to the 9th hour darkness covered the land. This was no eclipse – no eclipse last three hours. From noon to 3 PM, when the glory of the sun usually reached its zenith, there was nothing but shadow on the earth. Was creation in mourning? Was the sun paying homage to its creator, bowing before the one hanging on the tree? Were the heavens humbled as their Lord surrendered Himself to the sting of death and the victory of the grave? Yes! Yes! And again I say, Yes! All this and more! “Oh, darkest Woe! Ye, tears, forth flow! Has earth so sad a wonder?”
Yes, beloved all this and more. The darkness is not only a lack of sunlight. The darkness is not only the encroaching shadow of death. It is also the forsakenness of His Father. The darkness is deepened by the shadow of God’s back. The Father’s face is hidden from His only-begotten son. His ears are stopped up. He does not see. He does not listen. He does not act to save His son, His only Son whom He loves. “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” cries the Lord. And there is no response, no word, nothing. “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit.” “O sorrow dread! Our God is dead, upon the cross extended.”
“O child of woe: Who struck the blow That killed our gracious Master? It was I, thy conscience cries, I have wrought disaster.” Beloved, bow with the heavens before the One who has taken your place in the darkness. Bend your knee and your heart to Him who knew no sin but became sin that you might become the righteousness of God. He is crucified for you. He is cursed in your place. He enters the darkness on your behalf. And He is forsaken so that you are not, EVER forsaken! The death Jesus dies He dies to sin, once and for all, once and for you because You and I are sinners. The shadows which creep upon us we have earned. The frailty we suffer is warranted. The darkness we enter stems from the works of the flesh. SIN merits death! And rather than have you die in your sin the Father gives His Son, His only Son whom He loves. He gives Jesus totally and completely to suffer sin, to bear sin, to be sin so that in His body Jesus receives the wages of your sin. And through His suffering, death, and passion Jesus wins the victory.
Where is the bearer of good news? Listen to the centurion below: “Truly this man is the Son of God? Where is the sojourner along the way? Behold God in the flesh for you. He goes for you to the cross that He may bear you up today. Where is the victory? The victory hangs between two thieves on a hill. There is the victory! For in suffering Jesus atones for your sins. In dying Jesus kills your death. Being buried He hallows your graves. Where is the hope? The shadow is overcome by the light of the world. The darkness is defeated by One who rises on the third day. Victory has been snatched from the jaws of death through the death of our God. The grave’s invitation has been returned to sender as he stepped out of the tomb. Sin’s wages have been paid in full, tetelesthai! It is finished! Finished for you. Finished for me. Finished for the world.
Therefore beloved, when the tempter approaches in the darkness asking, “Where is you God?” you may be certain of God’s deliverance. Though our Lord was forsaken on the tree and bore the shadow of God’s back, Jesus is risen! The Father has received Him into glory and promises eternal life to all who believe on His Name. You have been baptized into Christ. Baptized into Christ you are united with Christ. United with Christ you share, participate in, and partake of His death and most certainly also His resurrection. You have been crucified with Christ. You are clothed with Christ, you are covered with Christ, you are marked with the cross of Christ. Christ is in you and on you. Where is your God? On Good Friday your God is crucified, dead and buried for you. On Easter morning your God is risen from the grave for you. Forty days later your God is ascended to the Father’s right hand for you. Today your God is in the midst of you as you hear His Word and He is in your life as you feast on His body and His blood. Your God has not and will not EVER forsake you, turn His back on you, cover His ears or stop His mouth. He has given everything for you. He has given Jesus for you.
Thus, when the darkness advances upon us, we have this hope, that Christ has entered the darkness for us and Christ has conquered the darkness for us and Christ is risen for us. And upon this mountain Christ Jesus has swallowed the pall that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He has swallowed up death forever; [swallowed up death for you.] and the reproach of his people he has taken away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. (paraphrase of Isa 25:7-8 ESV). Therefore we sing,
“O Jesus Christ, Who sacrificed
Thy life for lifeless mortals:
Be my life in death and bring
Me to heaven’s portals!” AMEN!