Sermon for Good Friday, 2018 - John 18-19; Isaiah 52-53
Thank God it’s Friday. Thank God it’s the weekend. It’s the day we can let down our hair and set ourselves aside for a moment. Slaving away at work, at retirement, at play, Friday is still Friday. Friday Fun-day. Friday being the day when all that is good about life begins.
So today is good. It is good regardless of your view of death or the cross. It is good because of all that we think we need to do has been done. All of which we think we can make good on our own, God does to make this Friday a good day. A good day to die actually.
You see this day is your death sentence as much as it is Christ’s. It is a day in which everything we think so awesome, so worth clinging to, the things that make us, us, actually are rejected. Stricken. Destroyed. It is the day every deity we have created, every god we craft of our own, becomes obsolete and useless. That sin of ours, our attempts to deny the King of glory, to condemn the Son of God, to turn our backs on the Lord who chased us while we ran as fast as we could away from him, that sin is a corpse this night. Dead. It stinks as much as yesterday’s dirty diapers. It is rotting in the grave as we speak.
Unfortunately, we never talk about that. We hear sin or sinner and we think it is a judgement call on your behavior, but there is really not that much wrong with you. You pay your taxes. You don’t smoke too much. You don’t drink too much…maybe. We’ll talk about that later. You don’t steal. You haven’t killed anyone. You have not been unfaithful to your spouse. You have never told a lie worth worrying about. You volunteer your time at church and in the community. As the law goes, the 10 commandments, civil decency, you’re golden.
Then there is this Jesus guy. This God who comes to us because we never come to him. This enfleshenating of the First commandment. You shall not have any other gods, and there is the rub. We have in our mind our god. They look a certain way. Talk a certain way. Do certain things for us. And when that god does not meet our expectations, we move onto the next one. Could be a personal relationship, sports, children, cars, hobbies, good looks, a house, addiction. Anything to keep us from the Creator of the Universe, to keep us from the Maker of all things. Because if we can kill the Creator, if we can put to death the God who has created me and all things, who daily and abundantly gives to me and still preserves my body and soul as the catechism says, then I will become god or can replace him with someone else. That’s what we think anyways.
What is the crime for which Jesus is condemned? John 19:7 - We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God. Claimed to be the second person of the Trinity. He claims to be the one who has been begotten in order to beget children of God. The one who is coming into the world to bring forgiveness, life and salvation. He comes to us as God and dies because we don’t like him. We don’t like his forgiveness. Forgiving people we find unforgivable. Forgiving us for Godlessness, forgiving us for his murder, when we think we are good to go.
Peter at least tries to prevent it. He tries to stop the insurrection against God, but Christ says – It’s ok. John 18:11 - Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? Christ knows that because we hate him, he takes the initiative to bridge the gap. We hear it in Isaiah 53:12 - he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Imagine that. Christ, the servant spoken of in Isaiah, the one here now that is taking the cross for you is interceding on your behalf whether you want it or not. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. While we are completely unworthy, Christ dies for us. Tonight when you might go to bed, thinking tomorrow is Saturday. Sleep in. Not thinking that between now and sunrise on Sunday our Savior lies dead in a tomb because we don’t want a God over us, Christ has interceded for you. In the cross that is his work.
In this cross. In the violence. In death, he becomes our sacrifice to God. Our sacrifice that actually becomes our sin. Isaiah says in 53:7 - he was led like a lamb to the slaughter. This same Lamb that John the Baptist in John 1:29 calls the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. What do we do? We come to him with torches and lanterns and spears. We bind him and we lead him away. Away to what? His death. A sacrifice of the Lamb, who bears sin. Soaks it up. Takes our lack of trust in God upon himself to that cross for us. For you.
Even we, as the enemies of all things holy have the high priest of that day, Caiaphas, speak for us. John 18:14 - Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people. It would be good? No, it is good. God who quite literally used the sin of murder to murder sin. That is what is happening here. Christ becomes your sin. He takes it away from you, plunders it. Goes to the cross willingly in order to show you what kind of God he is. A God who initiates. Who gives to you – forgiveness, life and salvation.
Because Jesus becomes our intercessor, the one who steps in for our idolatry that keeps us from God and bears the cross in order to prove he is the one who can forgive any sin, becoming the sacrifice God offers for the life of the world, he also becomes our peace. First, in the garden of Gethsemane, in John 18:8 - I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, then let these men go. Speaking to the soldiers - Take me, not them. Take me as them, not them themselves. I am here for their rescue. Christ becoming your rescue from forces which are there to take you away. Sin, death.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4
Taking up our pain, our suffering, our burdens, our shame, our godlessness, God bears them. But we consider him not loved by God. Abandoned. Punished by God. Afflicted. Isn’t that how we often feel when suffering comes? Punished by God. Treated unfairly. Yet here, we think the same of Christ and yet it says he bore our suffering and punishment. Good Friday, if you don’t see in it forgiveness, life from God, something good, at least hear this, that you are not afflicted by him. Suffering is not God’s vindictive bashing of you. He bore suffering. He is a suffering God for you. He can understand your anguish and be with you in it because he jumped in headfirst to grant you peace.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
Healed of our pride. Of our frailty. Of the debilitating nature of our sin. Turning to ourselves and other humans for all things rather than trusting in a faithful God. Knowing that in the cross we have our peace. Peace with God. No enmity anymore. Given the righteousness of Christ, God sees us and he sees Christ. The only thing to get in the way of that is for us to give him the finger and say no thanks.
But imagine this. We killed God. Put him to death, and that could not keep him down. How can you ever imagine that you could ever keep away from God. He will get you at some point. He saw your sin worth it. So he finds you worth it. He saw you running the other way and so he runs faster.
The best scene in the passion from John is where the men come to get him. Say that they are looking for Jesus and he says to them “I AM.” Our English usually adds “he” to this response. But he is stating his name to them, “I AM.” That same name of God from Exodus. What do they do? They fall down. Many commentators speak of this as the power of God overpowering the men. Knocking them down. Or they cower in fear realizing that this might be God. I like the picture of the Wicked Witch of the West -
"Which one of you is Jesus of Nazareth?"
As though by the very words of his name, the very power of the words of Christ, our sin fleas. The overpowering work of the Lord Jesus to take from you all that keeps you from him, drawing you to him.
This is what makes this day good. A good day for death. A good day to see our sin, our sin nature, what it is inside us that keeps us from faith, from trust, from rest and peace in Christ, that is what we see dying here tonight. This work of Jesus for you. Know that you have this intercessor, this lamb, this peace laid out for you to be seen by you as the glory of your life in his blood shed for you.
In a little while we will come to bind our sins to the cross. Allow this to be the place in which you tie your sin to Christ. To his cross, that he takes it from you. Already has. Buries it in the deepest darkest pits of hell and leaves it there. So that, come Sunday, your life is no longer yours but his. Wrapped in him. In his glory. In his life. Thanks be to God. Amen.