Sermon for Good Friday - John 18-19
Thank God it’s Friday. I say that every Good Friday. Thank God it’s Friday. Fridays, weekends, days off, vacation. Times to forget. Times to try and leave your problems at the office, or the house, or your home country, and go somewhere else, even for a moment. Vacation, or holiday, being that time when you should be able to flee. Unfortunately, you always have to come back, and when we discover that the problem is not work or family or the home, but can be us, leaving town doesn’t solve the problem. The problems follow.
Friday, in the tradition of the Jewish world, is the beginning of the Sabbath. Shabbat. Sundown on the Sabbath means the beginning of nothing. Nothing but rest. At least we hope for rest. Shabbat being a day given to man for the sake of refreshing. Of renewal. Of making new things out of old, even for twenty-four hours. Where work would end for a moment. No lighting of fires. No carrying of wood. No mending of clothes or tilling of soil. Rest from labor. Rest from strife. Rest from the burdens of the day, in order to rest unto the Lord. A dual rest. A rest from, and a rest to.
For us, no better picture is offered then Christ on Good Friday. Christ being our eternal rest made manifest for us on that cross. A rest from sin. A rest from the burdens of our past. A rest from all that is used to condemn us. And then a rest unto Jesus. A rest turned towards Jesus. A rest only found in Jesus. The cross becoming the bed for sinners to lie in. To be folded into it. Snuggle up, knowing that with Jesus a new day is dawning.
I wonder if you have ever lived with the question, “what if?” What if I hadn’t said that? What if I had done this? What if we had only left sooner? What if I had stayed in school, or never left that job? What if? What if? What if? The “what if” becoming the junction where our sin meets despair. Where our shame meets delusion. Where our want to wipe the past, struggles with the reality of the present. Nothing to be done. Nothing can be done to get rid of that history. It exists.
“What-if’s” are the currency of American ideology. The “what-if” drives humanity to unobtainable fitness goals. To self-image crafted by sand that will be destroyed by the floods of reality, knowing that every idol you hold up before yourself as some sort of mirror to try to fit in, is never going to be you, yet…”what if”. The “what-if” puts us in that place where we see our children or grandchildren not turning out the way we expected them to, as though we missed out on the magic formula that fixes all people. The “what-if” being the place that never permits the sinner to be a sinner, but always some hunk of clay that we can self-mold or be molded by the culture around us to be cooler, better, prettier, smarter, stronger, richer, more loving, more progressive, more conservative. Bloodying ourselves like the prophets of Baal, slashing and cutting and dancing in the moonlight, hoping every “what-if” will run in fear. Every past mistake be a distant memory.
Even if we delude ourselves into thinking we have fixed the “what if” problems and now are a winner, we can never avoid the “What if” being a sin by itself, thinking that all that has come before us was a mistake, and we’ll do better this time, only to find out that a new day brings new “what-if’s.”
Prior to Jesus, maybe all the striving we do to get rid of the “what if’s” would work. All the racing after perfection and obedience. Probably not. Now, after Jesus, definitely not. The price was paid. The cross final. That you can do nothing to save or purify yourself is solidified by this night. Solidified by Jesus being dead on a cross. You can try other Jesus-es, but they won’t work. Good Friday already happened. There was no other way. A blood sacrifice for a bloody people. An eternal blood given for eternal sin committed.
Until we realize that salvation from sin, reconciliation with God, has nothing to do with what we do or want, we will continually be in search of rest. Always busy. Always running. Running away from our past, or running towards a goal of a better future. But salvation is out of your hands. Salvation is God himself fixing the problem of your relationship with him. Taking care of it so that wherever you go, you live in an eternal Shabbat. An eternal Friday. An eternal rest found in Jesus. For many may condemn you in this life. They may know your sin resume. They may know what you did today, or yesterday, or when you were in high school. They may know the man or woman you are, or have been. But they will never know who you truly are, or will be, in Christ. Because all we see of one another is sin, death, the wrong we wish that wasn’t. So, we spend our days wishing for rest from sin and know we can’t fix it ourselves. We go to sleep, and the memories remain. We go for a walk and are reminded of what we did or have failed to do. Never leaving us. Always there, in the shadows, ready to pounce. And that is actually a good thing. Once sin has flesh and bone on it, then it becomes true and real.
So, Good Friday comes. It always does, every year without fail. Good Friday being a day that if you have not listened to me any other Sunday, then hear me now. In the mercy of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for you, and for his sake God forgives you all your sin. All of it. I mean it. Sin not being just a breaking of the law. A breaking of the ten commandments or doing naughty non-church things, but the actual denial that this Jesus Christ was one who died to free you from all sin. From every need to justify or save yourself. From all the necessity to prove that you are better this year than you were last year. There is no getting better. Sin not being some sort of disease you outlast, but a terminal sentence you are redeemed from.
That is Christ for you. That is Holy Week for you. That is the goodness of this Friday. That is the goodness of the cross. Where all your shame is taken to die. All your burdens buried. All your sin bound to Christ. Then we wait. We impatiently wait for Sunday. For the dawn of it all. For the stone to be rolled from the tomb. The women to find the Savior alive. But that is a sermon for another service. Now we wait. We rest. We hope. For the good of this Friday will be the good made full in Christ come Sunday. All for you. Thanks be to God. Amen.