Friday, April 6, 2012

Homily for Good Friday


John 18:1 – 19:42; Hebrews4:14-16; 5:7-9; Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

This is the day that Abraham saw on Mount Moriah, and He was glad. Jesus is the Lamb, of God’s offering, caught in the thicket of your sins, even as you remember this day the thorns that crowned His sacred head and pierced His holy flesh. Jesus is your unblemished Passover Lamb who willingly lays down His life for you. Like the fiery serpent in the wilderness, Jesus is made to be the symbol and token of your poisonous sin and death, raised up for you on a tree that you may look to Him and live. Jesus is your Great High Priest who has entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

For generations, the Patriarchs and the Prophets had told of His coming, but you have not believed their word. Because He comes in lowliness and humility and poverty you do not receive Him, while those from afar, and those who cannot see, hear the Word and believe. And, because He preaches, not works, but forgiveness, you reject Him, insisting, “Just tell me what I have to do, and I’ll do it, if it seems good to me.” And, because He receives sinners and the unclean, even gentiles to Himself, and because He eats with them and drinks with them, you despise Him, and esteem Him not. And, when He is marred and disfigured, without majesty or beauty, a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief, hanging upon the cursed tree of the cross, you hide your face from Him and consider Him justly stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God.

And you are right. It was the will of the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief. But, He did not suffer because He deserved it, but, rather, He Suffered because you deserve it. Jesus did not suffer for His own sins and guilt, but it was your griefs and sorrows that He bore. It was for your transgressions that He was wounded. It was for your iniquities that He was crushed. It was for your peace that He was chastised. And it was for your healing that He bore the stripes. For, the LORD has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. And so, you do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with your weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as you are, yet without sin.

Yet, all this He does willingly for you. No one forced Him to go to the cross and no one took His life from Him – Not the Sanhedrin, not Herod, not even Pontius Pilate, Satan, or even the LORD Himself – but Jesus went willingly, like a lamb to slaughter, silent, opening not His mouth. And, in death, He gave His soul as a guilt offering and He suffered the excruciating loneliness of abandonment by His Father. But, as a seed planted in soil, the Seed promised to Eve, reiterated to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, He saw His offspring, as countless as the stars in the heavens. And, for this, He gladly suffered.

Therefore, because your Great High Priest Jesus has redeemed your flesh from death and has atoned for your sins and guilt, you may in confidence draw near to the throne of grace and receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. That throne of grace is the cross of your crucified Lord and King Jesus from whence mercy comes and grace is offered. It is the mercy seat where the sacrificial blood is sprinkled on behalf of all nations. Do not hide your face from Jesus’ crucified body on the cross, for the crucifix is the image of God’s love for you. In His wounds and stripes you have healing; and, in His death you receive life. For, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Jesus is that holy grain and Seed; you are His abundant fruit.

“This is the day that the Lord has made,” sings the Christ in Psalm 118, “let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Though that day is the day of resurrection properly, it cannot be separated from this Friday which we also call good and in which we rejoice. As your substitute, Jesus prayed, “Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The LORD is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.” As Jesus faced His Passion and death for you, He trusted in the LORD and in His Word for strength, deliverance, and for salvation. He prayed, “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. The LORD has disciplined me severely, but He has not given me over to death.” Now, the crucified Christ has become the very Gate of Heaven that the righteous may enter through it. And so, we sing with Christ, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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