Sunday, March 23, 2008

Good Friday Sermon

Good Friday 2008

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

This Lententide, we have seen Jesus do it all. Satan comes to tempt Him – Satan defeated. Be gone, Satan, for it is written, “You shall worship the LORD your God and Him only shall you serve.” Sin comes crouching at His door, the disciples desire Him to treat a woman cruelly, send her away. Rather, Jesus helps the woman and sends temptation on its way. Christ shows love, and yet doesn’t demand praise or thanks. He cares for people, even does miracles for them, and yet does not elevate Himself. They want to make Him king by force and He just slides away. No, Christ is centered, He is focused on His battle to win us freedom and salvation. The Devil is defeated. Sin is conquered. And now, only one foe remains. Death.

Death is a frightening foe for us. It is always there, looming in the distance, or maybe it is not so distant any more for some of us. It’s the inevitable – death and taxes, the two things that always seem to be waiting. Sometimes even we Christians wish to ignore death, push it off into a corner and pretend it isn’t there – tell us, O Pastor, about how to beat down sin, tell us how to resist temptation, how to resist Satan! Those are good things to ask, but there is one other aspect of Christianity that we need to look at. You see, dear friends, we ought not forget how to face death – how to stare it down. Indeed, our faith, the Christian life is about conquering over death. That is why we are gathered here tonight, Good Friday. That is why we meditate on our Lord upon the Cross tonight.

How strange it must have been to be there – to see Jesus Christ, the Son of God, maker of all things – to see this Jesus beaten and lashed, to see Him nailed to a tree. How strange, knowing that He not only didn’t deserve any of this – for we see injustice all the time in this world, but knowing that He could have put a stop to it – that at a simple sign from Him legions of Angels would have come and swept Him away to safety. And yet – there He is. The lash falls. The crown of thorns is placed upon His head. The nails are driven. And we know the why – we know why He is there – He is there in our place – He suffers in our stead – by His stripes we are healed – and sin is forgiven. Yet there He is upon the cross, suffering so. To let so many things happen to Him, it is just beyond imagining, what He endures willingly for our sake, truly willingly, for He could have stopped it at any time. And there is one thing yet that Christ had to endure, had to face, had to defeat. When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit. One last thing Christ had to face down, and that is death.

Do you fear death? Does the idea of it make you uncomfortable? It is understandable if it does. Death is wrong, utterly wrong. We were created by God to be alive, to be living beings – body and spirit joined together in harmony and unity. And [God] breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being. That’s how we were made, what we were made to be. Death does away with that – the spirit torn from the body, the body left to decay, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It is fundamentally wrong, death isn’t just a part of life or any of the things we try and tell ourselves, death is the complete opposite of what our lives are to be – and it is frightening. It leads to the unknown. It means we lose control, that we no longer have any say in our fate.

The cry goes out – It is finished! His Spirit departs. And there, upon the cross, Christ Jesus, the very Lord of Life – hangs dead. The soldiers even check – stab Him, just in case He’s putting on a good fake job. No, He is dead. Christ’s Spirit and Body separated – Jesus’ flesh lifeless. Jesus dies.

But we are not to look at this simply with awe or fear or remorse. As in all things, we listen to God’s Word, and when our Lord speaks we give heed to what He says. And did you note what our Lord said right before He died. It is finished. What do you see when you see our Lord crucified, water and blood flowing from His side? Not just another dead human, not just another Body – but you see, dear friends, that it is finished.

Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary. Christ Jesus came down from heaven and took on His Body for a purpose – to win you salvation, to win you life, to free you from your bondage to sin and the Devil. We must remember this when we think of Christ Jesus and why He came down to earth in the first place. Christ’s plan was not to show you how to live – you know the Law. Christ’s plan was to amaze with miracles – oh look, water to wine – that was just the evidence of Who He is. Christ’s plan was not to establish earthly glory or show you how to enrich your pocketbook. He came to free you from death. This is His task, this is His Goal. It is finished. He has done what He set out to do.

But how is that – how is death defeated? We know what death is – it is the wages of sin, our just deserts, what we deserve. Christ didn’t deserve death – and yet death takes Him anyway. Satan cackles with glee and greed seeing the Son of God upon the cross, Satan rejoices that Jesus would suffer so. But Satan over steps His bounds – for Christ Jesus has no sin, deserves no death. And He dies – and He declares out it is finished. And so, Death is finished, dear friends. In claiming the One without sin death forfeited its claim upon you. Death overstepped its bounds, and in so doing lost its power. It has become a temporary thing. When death laid claim to Christ, death lost all claim upon you. And that is the moment – that is what makes this Friday Good. Christ Jesus dies – which means that death is done away with, that it can not hold us forever. Death ends, and we shall be restored to life, body and spirit rejoined – because death bit off more than it could chew when it took on Christ. Death is done.

It is finished. The work that Christ set out to do, to win you, to claim you for eternity is done. And all that remains is the pause – the waiting – for we know that in all things Christ pleased the Father, that God was satisfied with the job that Jesus has done for us. And the Father will show His approval, will demonstrate that what Jesus did was successful, that sin, death, and the devil are defeated. Joseph and Nicodemus hurriedly take the Body to the tomb – but it will not stay there. The women make their plans for proper care on Sunday morning, but it will not be needed. They heard but did not yet understand. It is finished, dear friends – all of Christ’s humiliation, all the things He suffered in our stead – they are all finished – and all that remains for Him is exultation. Wait and see. Amen.

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