Monday, April 25, 2011

Good Friday (John 18:1-19:42)

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished,’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this Good Friday evening comes from the passion narrative according to Saint John, specifically chapter nineteen, verses sixteen through thirty. Dear friends in Christ, last night, as the altar was stripped, God’s gathered people spoke Psalm twenty-two. Even for those who have encountered this psalm before, the details are astonishing. Jesus spoke at least the first verse of this psalm on the cross, and some scholars believe that He prayed the entire psalm there. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” It is no surprise that Jesus prayed this psalm on the cross, for in it David speaks of his own sufferings in terms that point forward to the sufferings of his descendent, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. Jesus suffered in accordance with
the Scriptures, in each and every excruciating detail.

John emphasizes this for us by telling us of how the soldiers divided the clothing of Jesus. “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took His garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also His tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.’” John is quick to tell us that this seemingly unimportant detail fulfilled a part of Psalm twenty-two: “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” The psalm describes a man who is still alive, yet treated as if he were dead, at the whim of his executioners. Psalm twenty-two also describes the verbal abuse heaped upon Jesus: “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads. ‘He trusts in the Lord; let Him deliver him; let Him rescue him, for He delights in him!’” Not only that, but even the method of Jesus’ execution is prophesied. “They have pierced my hands and feet- I can count all my bones.” Not a bone of Jesus would be broken, but His hands and feet would be pierced by the nails.

Psalm twenty-two describes the suffering of Jesus in graphic terms. “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” John pays special attention to the fulfillment of this detail. “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’” Jesus was thirsty on the cross. This is not just a throwaway comment, but a window into His suffering. Jesus’ last drink was probably right before they departed for the Garden of Gethsemane the night before. He was severely dehydrated, and had lost much more fluid during the beatings that led to the cross. His body literally screamed out for water. However, it seems that more is going on here than simply a graphic image of His suffering. John tells us that Jesus said this “knowing that all was now finished.” Immediately after He takes His drink, Jesus dies, saying, “It is finished.” The thirst of Jesus is a seemingly minor detail, but it has much greater significance.

Jesus has fulfilled every detail of His suffering prophesied beforehand in the Scriptures, but He has done much more than that. The thirsting of Jesus in accordance with Psalm twenty-two is a sign that He has completed all of the Scriptures; He has finished the plan of salvation according to those Scriptures. Jesus dies to fulfill all that the Scriptures said of Him. Psalm twenty-two tells us the details, while our Old Testament lesson from Isaiah fifty-two and fifty-three tells us the significance of those details. God’s prophet tells us why Jesus suffered and died.

Isaiah teaches us in our Old Testament lesson two important truths: Jesus died because of us, and Jesus died for us. Conjunctions and prepositions may seem to be small and insignificant words, but as you see here, they are vitally important.
When Isaiah tells us that Jesus died because of us, He means that we are the reason that He hangs upon the cross. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned- every one- to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus is on that cross because of you and your sin. Those nails were driven through His hands because you sinned, because you rebelled against God. Jesus suffered because you disobeyed your parents, because you had lustful thoughts, because you cheated your neighbor. His flesh was torn by the scourge because you took God’s name in vain, because you harbored hatred toward your neighbor. As Isaiah says, “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities.” This is a night of repentance, of sorrow over our sin, our rebellion that placed Him on the cross. Look to the cross and see the wrath of God over sin! Look to the cross and see the results of your rebellion! Tonight we will read, as the Church has for centuries on Good Friday, the Reproaches. These are Old Testament passages put into the mouth of Jesus, in which our Lord cries out to us, asking us why we have rebelled against Him. The Reproaches are difficult to hear, but they reinforce the teaching of Isaiah, that Jesus suffered because of our sin.

After we speak each of the three Reproaches, we will say a prayer to our heavenly Father, asking for mercy. Then we will sing a verse of the hymn Lamb of God, Pure and Holy. “Lamb of God, pure and holy, who on the cross didst suffer, ever patient and lowly, Thyself to scorn didst offer. All sins Thou borest for us, else had despair reigned o’er us: Have mercy on us, O Jesus!” Jesus bore all sins for you; He died for you. He died because of your sin, but He died for that sin, to take it away. Isaiah doesn’t leave us in despair, but teaches us that Jesus hung on that cross for you and me, for our salvation. “But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.”

His wounds bring us healing; healing that is eternal, healing from the deep wounds inflicted by sin, the healing that we so desperately need. Forgiveness won by His blood is poured onto your wounds, and you are healed and made whole every time that you hear the Absolution, every time that you are reminded of your Baptism, every time that you receive Christ’s Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper. Through His death for you, you will spend eternity no longer wounded by sin, no longer wounding your neighbor, but healed and finally whole, for your relationship with God is restored. His chastisement brings us peace; peace between God and man, peace that this world cannot give, peace forever. The violence of those who afflicted Him results in eternal peace. This was God’s plan from the beginning, as Isaiah teaches us. “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief.” We see the love and mercy of God when we look to our crucified Savior. Look to the cross and see the love of God for you! Look to the cross and see your forgiveness, your salvation, your life! God planned this all for you!

It was this plan and will that Jesus completed upon the cross. “When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished,’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” No one takes Jesus’ life from Him, but He gives it up willingly into death for you and for your salvation. He doesn’t bow His head and give up His spirit until all is completed. “It is finished,” He says. Jesus has drunk the cup of God’s wrath down to the dregs, and He has done so for you and for me. He has completed His suffering; the price has been paid in full, there is nothing yet to do for our salvation. He has left nothing undone- there is nothing we must add; it is all finished! The Scriptures have been completed, not just the details, but the meaning and purpose of His death. Jesus is the righteous sufferer of Psalm twenty-two, and He is also the Suffering Servant of Isaiah fifty-three. And there is one more detail in Isaiah yet to be fulfilled: “When His soul makes an offering for guilt, He shall see His offspring, He shall prolong His days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” In three short days we will see this verse completed as well, for Jesus truly shall see His offspring, you and me, He shall surely prolong His days; God will not let His Son remain in the tomb. In the Name of the righteous sufferer, the Suffering Servant, who gave up His life for our salvation, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, Amen.

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