Good Friday – April 3rd, 2015
In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
How quickly we will wring our hands. How quickly we will lament how harsh and unfair our lives are, how mean things happen to us. How quickly we will blame our problems upon other people. So often we will assume that our lives would just be so much better if it weren’t for. . .him. . . if she wasn’t like that. If those folks weren’t like that, if they didn’t have power. As children we quickly learn to cry out, “It’s not fair” – and even as we grow, we repeat the refrain on and on. We learn to shout out, “it’s not my fault” when blame gets passed onto us. And sometimes, perhaps, we are right. Many times, we aren’t. We just duck and dive our responsibility. How quickly we will complain and lament what happens to us. And yet, behold your Lord and Savior Christ Jesus this night on His Passion. There He had been in the Garden of Gethsemane, gone to pray. And what happens? His friend, His companion, Judas, betrays Him. Sells Him out to the Romans. Would not Christ be right to complain of this? Would not He have been justified in screaming, “This isn’t fair – I was simply going to pray – and now look at what My friend has done – He has stabbed me in the back!” But He doesn’t. What happens to Him, the unfairness of it no longer concerns Him. Instead, when the servant of the high priest, poor Malchus, gets his ear cut off by a rambunctious Peter – Jesus sees it and heals it. Let me fix the unfair thing you have suffered.
Our Lord is taken off then, arrested, and there He goes. Led in the middle of the night to stand before men who want His blood, want His head. Do His friends come with Him? Do they support Him, encourage Him, defend Him? No, John follows Him in, but we hear nothing from Him – no passionate defense of Christ - no dramatic cries of “You have an innocent man!” And then in the courtyard, even far away from the action, simply out in front of the servants, in front of people who have no power to hurt him, even Peter denies Christ. To have John, the disciple whom You love, stand silent while you are accused, and that’s the kindest thing any of your friends do? Some besmirch you, forsake you. And yet – no complaining from our Lord.
Before the High Priest, Christ says that He has taught publicly, that He has no secret teachings – that they all know what He has proclaimed, and even implies that they know that it is true. For this, He is struck, slapped. Why? He spoke no falsehood. But there is no apology, instead He is bound and herded off like a common criminal. He is taken before Pilate, before the Roman governor. It is hard for us to imagine what this would be like. Rome was an occupying power – it would be like a southerner in the Civil War being dragged by other southerners to a Union General – it would be humiliating and insulting. His accusers couldn’t, wouldn’t even enter Pilate’s home – but they shove Christ in. You take Him, Pilate, and you put Him to death, because that is what we want. And yet, still no complaint.
And then Pilate questions Jesus, grills Him – and Jesus answers calmly and truthfully – shows the governing authority that He is innocent. Pilate says that He finds no guilt in Him. Yet, does Pilate do his job of protecting Christ? No. Pilate caves to pressure – orders Him to be crucified at the whim of the crowd. Releases a murder and a robber – a heinous criminal that everyone knew was rotten gets released – and there is Christ, still set for death. But then Pilate thinks of a plan – maybe if I beat Him, maybe if I brutalize Him, then the people will have pity upon Him, maybe then the mob will no longer want His blood. And so the soldiers come, they place the crown of thorns upon His head, and flog Him. And consider this – this abuse, this flogging at the order of Pilate – this is the kindest thing done to Christ that day. How is that for a day – where literally the kindest thing a person does is beat You bloody so that people might have pity upon You?
To no avail. The crowds, Christ’s own kin, His own people, still call for His blood. And Pilate tries to convince the crowd – but they even go so far as to call out, “We have no king but Caesar.” Rank heresy, there was nothing worse for a Jew to say. God was to be Israel’s King – but the hatred is so enflamed, so impassioned, that they would rather claim Caesar as their own than see Christ go free. It would be as though your entire town joined a terrorist group, or invited ISIS in to take them over, just to see you dead. And yet, Christ doesn’t rail or rave.
And they take Him – hand Him His own cross and tell Him to start walking. This would be like forcing you to tie your own noose, or to run on a giant hamster wheel to generate the electricity that is going to run through the chair that kills you. And then, He is crucified – nailed to the cross as we are told in other accounts. Left to hang naked and exposed and beaten and flayed out in the open air. And what does He see there? Men gambling for His belongings. Crowds that jeer Him. His mother left to watch with horror and revulsion. And yet, Christ does not cry out, “This isn’t fair, this isn’t right!” He doesn’t spew forth hatred. No – He shows forth love. John – care for My mother when I am gone. And then, after a few hours there exposed, Our Lord says, “It is finished” and breathes His last – gives up His Spirit.
It’s not fair. Not in the slightest. The truly innocent Christ Jesus is brutalized and dies, His blood is shed for no legal reason, no moral reason. He has done nothing wrong. So then, why do we gather here today, why do we call this day Good Friday, when we see such horrors inflicted upon Christ? Precisely because it is not fair. You see, what Christ suffered, what Christ endured was what we deserved, what we have earned with our sin. It’s not fair that Christ should be there – it should be us – and not just for a day, but for an eternity. But Christ Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God steps in, and He suffers in our place – He makes a trade with us. Christ says, “Here, I will take your punishment and death – and now, behold the life and salvation I give you.” And note this – But one of His soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. Christ gives to you life. Water flows from His side at death, and now, by the wonder of His gift of Baptism, water gives you life, washes you clean of your sin, wins your redemption. Blood flows from His side at His death, and now, by the wondrous gift of the Supper, that Blood is given to you for the remission of all your sin. Everything that happens to Christ, everything He suffers, it is for your good, for your life, for your salvation.
He takes up the load that you could not bear. He takes up the suffering which you could not endure. He takes up the burden of sin that lies upon you, and He says, “Enough – I will pay for it all, and I will win for you forgiveness.” As Christ is arrested, we are set free from the chains of sin. As Christ is betrayed by His friends, we are made friends again with God. As Christ is harangued by the Chief Priests and condemned by His community, we are welcomed into God’s Heavenly Kingdom. As He is beaten, our sin is purged. As His is mocked, we are praised by God, declared to be Holy and Righteous on account of Christ. As He is given to death, we are given over to life everlasting.
We do not call this day fair Friday. It was not. But it was good – and indeed, the love of God for you is that He willingly suffers every injustice for your own good, for your own life, that you might enjoy life eternal. And come the third day – He will rise and claim that life eternal for you. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +