Good Friday — April 3, 2015
In the Name of Jesus. Amen!
Beloved in the Lord,
The hour of darkness is at hand. The sun has surrendered its glory and bows before its creator. For three hours deep shadows rule over creation. Men loved the darkness for their deeds are evil. To the delight of many Jesus is crucified, hanging between two criminals, hanging between heaven and earth, hanging as one of them, as one of us.
He is naked – bearing the shame of sinful humanity, unable to hide, nailed in place, firmly set on the tree in the earth. Soldiers divide His clothes like plunder on the battle field ignorant of the eternal battle being fought just above their heads while they cast lots for His robe. The crowds join the chief priests and mock Him. Their words pummel his heart. The voices of those whom He came to save strike greater blows than the fists of His Roman executors.
Rejected by humanity Jesus is accursed by God. Cursed is the man who hangs upon the tree. He is forsaken by His Father, abused by His brothers, and abandoned by His disciples. The sheep have scattered while the shepherd endures the wolves’ attack. Sin, death, and Hell wrestle Him into death, pin Him in the grave and seek to curse humanity forever. The earth shakes as He gives up the ghost. The temple veil is torn from top to bottom. The rocks are rent asunder and the graves of many righteous people are opened. Mary’s heart is pierced. Israel’s bridegroom has breathed His last. God’s Son is dead.
Rejecting the Cross
We love our Works
The story of the cross is a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles. Even we struggle to behold this image with love for Christ. When we think on the love of God this is not usually the first picture that comes to mind. We may think on Jesus, but not Jesus crucified, maybe Jesus feeding the 5000, touching lepers, healing the lame or sitting with children on His lap. We think on the kind things He’s done rather than the horrible things He suffered.
This is the way of a fallen people. We prefer to think on works instead of suffering. If we can think on the good things Jesus has done for others then we can think on the good things we have done. We love our works. And if there’s one place where there is no room for our works its right there – on the cross. The cross is a testimony against our works. Our old sinful nature doesn’t want to be reminded of such things, because such things remind us that our works deserve death. The wages of sin is death.
This is why Jesus is crucified. He is put to death for what we have done. And the cross reminds us of such things. As long as we hold on to the hope that what we have done is good enough in God’s eyes we will be conflicted by the sign of the cross, the image of Jesus’ suffering and death. As long as we trust in ourselves we will be uncomfortable in a pew where preaching Christ crucified happens. As long as we believe that humanity possesses the moral capability of determining our own eternal destiny we will shun the cross, and in particular the crucifix, and lend our ears to the preacher who affirms our lifestyles. We must come to realize that not only is there no room for our works, but our works have put Jesus there. The cross shatters every illusion that you can save yourself. And the cross sets before you the One who loved you enough to die for your sins in your place.
Look Upon the Cross
And so beloved you are given this day to cast your eyes and your heart toward the cross of Christ. Recall the cost of your salvation. It was no easy price to pay. The wages of sin is death. Jesus dies for you. He is numbered with transgressors because you and I are transgressors. He is punished because we are guilty. He is stripped because we have clothed ourselves with filthy garments. He is wounded because by His stripes we are healed. The chastisement for our peace is upon Him. The bruises are for you. The nails, spear, and crown are for your transgressions. His wounds have become your refuge. Within them you can hide, as in a cleft in the rock, you can hide and behold God for you.
Thus the One who has been wrestled into death and pinned in the grave, has not left behind a curse but instead offers a blessing. He does not mark iniquity or keep a record of wrongs. That is not the nature of Love. This is love that while we were still sinners Christ Jesus died. God loved us first by sending His Son, Jesus, to be a propitiation, a blood covering for our sins. Through His death, this death, this death on the cross God is both just – in that He punishes sin, and justifier – in that all sin has been atoned for by His blood. Like the angel of the Lord pinned by Jacob in a wrestling match, Jesus suffers Himself the pangs of the cross at the hands of Israel, in order to leave behind a blessing, a blessing that endures unto eternity, a blessing that rends the veil in two and opens the way to God through His blood.
Reception by grace through faith
This blessing is not acquired by our piety, our devotion, nor our contemplation. It is not something given because it is earned or deserved, in fact quite the opposite. It is a gift given by grace and to be received by faith. You are given believe that Jesus died and rose again for you. Believing the promise you receive the gift for we are saved by grace through faith and this not your own doing it is the gift of God, not by works, lest any man should boast. Faith is not even your own doing but is the gift of God given you through His Word.
Thus everything this day centers on the story of the cross, the Word of the cross, because the Word of the cross is the power of God unto salvation. The Word of the cross is the object of your faith, not the cross itself. The Word is given in order to give you Jesus – and everything He’s done for you. The Word applies the Work of Christ – His life, death, resurrection and ascension to the Father’s right hand – to you. The Word brings what happened so long ago to you here today.
Holding the Word in the Darkness
Therefore beloved, lend your ears to the Word of the Cross, bow your heart to the glories of His passion. Believe and it shall be so for you. The hour of darkness has passed. Though sin, death, and hell still press heavy upon us, though our conscience often accuses us. Though it seems and feels like the darkness is advancing, what we see and feel is not an accurate assessment of reality. We Christians do not press on by sight but by faith. Faith’s object is the Word and the Word has revealed the victory of our God through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Word has revealed and delivers the free forgiveness of our sins. The Word is our guiding light, the lone object for our hearts to cling to in the darkness. Thus we hold the Word and revel in the story of the cross. We are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not embarrassed by the sign of our salvation. We are not so easily given to surrender the liberty He has purchased for us with His blood. We are not intimidated by the children of this age. We will not allow bullies to compromise us, nor even the sword to sway us otherwise. We have been redeemed by Christ the crucified One, the One who died and rose from the dead on the third day. Truly this man is the Son of God!
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!