Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday Sermon

Good Friday, 2016 – The Passion According to John

In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
He could have stopped it. Over and over again, He could have stopped it, stopped His passion. Reading through the Passion, we see so many times and places where Jesus could have escaped. “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which He and His disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place.” It would have been simple enough to put things off – pick a different garden, a different place to pray. But no, since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, Christ would go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Judas knew He would be.

Even there, He could have stopped it. “Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered Him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am He.’ Judas, who betrayed Him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground. So He asked them again, ‘Whom do you seek.’” There’s no trickery, no denial. Jesus doesn’t put on a disguise and a fake mustache, He doesn’t say you have the wrong man. No, instead, He says “I AM!” – and the soldiers fall back in terror. And yet, even then, Jesus doesn’t flee. Of course He doesn’t. He had not created man to live in terror and fear – that’s the effect of a sinful, fallen world, and Christ will relieve fear, even the fears of the soldiers who come to arrest Him. I am the one you are looking for, I will go quietly, do not be afraid.

And even then, He could have stopped it. Peter drew his sword – Peter was ready to fight – and off came an ear. And yet, what does Jesus do? Give a war cry – up and at ‘em, boys? No. “So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given Me?’” No, Jesus had enough of swords in gardens. The flaming sword the angel held to keep man out of Eden was more than enough – no more swords in gardens, not this night Peter.
And so He goes. They bind Him and drag Him off, and then the High Priest and his lackeys question Him. And Jesus won’t debate them. “Jesus answered him, ‘I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.’” He could have stopped it. When Jesus taught openly and in public, He repeatedly put the Scribes and the Pharisees to shame – showed them their foolishness. He could have done the same here, He could have run circles around the High Priest. But that is not why He is here – He isn’t here to show forth His intellectual and theological dominance. And so it continues.

He is taken to Pilate. He could have stopped it. Pilate seemed to like Jesus well enough – Pilate found no guilt in Him, and that’s even without Jesus buttering Pilate up. Pilate would have been a strong ally – I’m no threat to you, in fact, I could be a wedge you could use against the Chief Priests. But Jesus did not come to drive wedges between Jew and Gentile, and so, even though He could have stopped it there, He did not.

Pilate still tries to stop it for Jesus. Pilate beats Jesus bloody, hoping that this will cause the crowds to pity Him. How’s that for Your day – where the kindest thing anyone does for You is to lash You to within an inch of your life, just in the hopes that others might pity You. But it doesn’t work. Crucify Him, Crucify Him – that remains the cry. And as for the crucifixion itself – John doesn’t spend much time focusing on the hours there, but we know it from other gospels. The taunting, the mockery. The cries that Jesus saved others but could not save Himself. And it is ironic, because even there, even on the Cross, Jesus could have stopped it. The angelic legions could have come, the wounds could have melted away and been healed, and Jesus could have come as the terrible avenging Judge, smiting all the mockers. But He doesn’t.

Instead, He thirsts. The One who said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,” hangs there on a tree, fulfilling the Scriptures, thirsting Himself. Why? Because He will be satisfied, He will fulfill all righteousness, even as He told His cousin John at His baptism. He hangs upon the tree, He suffers. And, there upon the tree, He utters the words of wonder and sorrow and joy. It is finished. And He dies.

Jesus did put a stop to it. He put an end to it. The rebellion of mankind that started in the garden – it is finished. The separation that caused Adam and Eve to hide from God because they were naked – that is finished, God Himself hangs naked on a tree. The sin that cast man out of the garden – it is finished. The fear of condemnation – it is finished, for perfect love casts out fear, and on the Cross Christ shows forth perfect love. The flaming sword is extinguished, look, as they pierce Him from His side flow water and blood mixed together – it is finished. The foolish theological speculation, the attempts to prove yourself holy and righteous because of your deeds – that too is finished – John doesn’t show forth wit, he rather says, “I was there, I saw Him die.” The reason for Israel being called apart has been fulfilled, the Messiah has come, and thus now there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile – it is finished. And of course, the threat of doom, the pall of death that is cast over us all – It is finished. The Passover has come, and the Firstborn had been slaughtered so that we might live – it is finished. The Lamb has been slain, and Isaac will live, for it is Finished, and Abraham rejoices to see this Good Friday.

There is a good reason why Christ Jesus doesn’t bring His passion to a stop. With His passion He finishes off sin and death and Satan, and He breaks their power, their domain, their grip on you. And all that remains, the true, highest reality is this – that from the Cross flow water and blood and Spirit to give you life in Christ – the waters of Holy Baptism whereby your sin is washed away and destroyed because of Christ, the blood of the New Testament, whereby your sin is atoned for and you are given new strength and life, the Spirit of Life, who accompanies Christ Word's and makes you a new creation and gives you true life in Christ – these things ever end. These things always come from Christ to you because of His Passion, because of His Good Friday. He would never stop His passion, for His passion is for your good, and He will die so that you will live, He will drink the cup of wrath so you that will drink the fruit of the vine anew with Him eternally in His kingdom. All that separates you from God, from you neighbor – dear friends in Christ – It is finished. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +

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