Friday, April 14, 2017
John 18:1 – 19:42; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“If a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God.” Such was the Law of the LORD given in Deuteronomy 21:23. And, such was the death that Jesus died for you. The charge against Him, nailed atop His cross, read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Though it was the truth, and though Jesus was truly innocent, the Jews considered His claim to be the Son of God and the great “I AM” to be blasphemy. They had been building their case against Him for some time. They challenged Him when He absolved the sins of the paralytic saying, “Only God can forgive sins.” They accused Him of casting out demons by the power of the devil. And, later, they accused Him of being possessed by the devil. The charge they leveled against Jesus was blasphemy, a crime punishable by death. And, because of this, they considered Him cursed by God, stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God, for His sins. For, “cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” However, Jesus was precisely whom He claimed to be. Jesus cast out demons and healed the sick, not by the power of the devil, but by the authority of the Holy Spirit. And so, it was the scribes and the Pharisees who were the blasphemers, because Jesus was innocent of their charges, and because Jesus is the holy, righteous, Son of God, the great “I AM,” and the true King of the Jews.
The scribes and the Pharisees were cursed by God. The children of Israel were cursed by God. You and I, and all humanity were cursed by God for our sins and guilt, rebellion, and blasphemy. “Because you have done this,” said the LORD, because “you have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat,” “cursed are you;” You shall “return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” You were reminded of that curse forty days ago on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our Lenten pilgrimage this year, when ashes and dust marked your foreheads as the words of the curse were uttered, “Remember, O Man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” You are a sinner, the child of sinners, and the wages of your sin, what you earn and merit for your sin, is only and always death. However, remember that those ashes which marked your foreheads were not merely a smudge, but those ashes were in the shape of the cross. They were in the shape of the cross because, while the curse was not abolished or taken away, it was paid for, satisfied, and thereby broken in Jesus’ death upon the cross for you and for all humankind.
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” We were all under the curse. There was no escape. Everyone who dies dies because of the curse in his own flesh, for his own sins, both inherited and actual. Therefore, no man’s death could atone for his own sins and break the curse, let alone for the sins of others. Thus, it was necessary, it was the only way, that God Himself must die, the sinless for the sinful, the righteous for the guilty. God the Father sent His only-begotten Son into our flesh to suffer and die for you and me and for all humankind. Jesus “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Jesus “was wounded for our transgressions,” “crushed for our iniquities.” “The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” “Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” “One has died for all, therefore all have died.” For as by the one man Adam’s disobedience all men were made to be sinners, so by the one man Jesus’ obedience, even unto death upon the cross, all men have been declared to be righteous. “It is finished.” “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Fixed upon the tree of the cross, Jesus was raised up the accursed one for all the world. The fullness of God’s righteous wrath against your sin, my sin, and the sin of all humankind, was poured out upon the sinless One, His Son, until there was nothing left. All we, bitten by the poisonous Satanic serpent, cursed to die, have been redeemed by Jesus as Satan sunk his venomous fangs into His heel. Now, all who gaze upon Him, high and lifted up, in faith and trust, receive in Him forgiveness, righteousness, holiness, and life that cannot die. Do not search inside yourself for this redemption and righteousness. Do not trust in your reasoned decision or choice, your pious feelings and emotions, or even your faith itself, but trust only in Jesus who died upon the cross for you, the objective standard, wholly outside of you, who died for you and your redemption whether you believe it or not, whether you exist or not. This is the LORD’s work, and it is glorious in our eyes.
“Behold! The life-giving cross on which was hung the salvation of the world.” That is why we can call this terrible, cursed, black Friday good. This day is good for you. This day is good for me. This day is good for all the world. Jesus’ death is your death, for you and for all the world, but He did not remain dead. Death could not hold Him, because He was innocent, sinless, and righteous. Therefore it was death that died this day. Whoever believes in Jesus, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Jesus shall never die. For, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!” “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself.”
Therefore, from now on, “we regard no one according to the flesh.” That is to say, how can we regard anyone as unforgiveable, forsaken by God, undeserving of love, mercy, grace, and charity? For, we were no better, we were cursed, and likewise we and all have been forgiven by Jesus who became the curse for us to set us free. Truly, no man is our enemy, for we all share but one and the same enemy, Satan and his demonic horde. What we have received from the LORD in forgiveness and redemption, let us not withhold from others and all for whom Jesus also died. For, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation, the Gospel proclamation that, in Christ, God has reconciled the world to Himself. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.” Let our attitude and message to our friends, our neighbors, our enemies, and the world be thus: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
If not even death can hold you, then of what have you to be afraid? Oh, your enemy, Satan, tempts you with many temptations to rob you of your confidence and trust in Jesus. What do you fear not having? What do you fear losing? What is it that the devil has convinced you is more important to have than Jesus? Is it wealth and possessions and creature comforts? Is it the success of your children in sport, college, career, comfort, and worldly security? Does your fear of loss, or not having, does your fear of suffering and death, tempt you put your trust in men or money, the government, or yourself? Do you, in your mad striving to get, to have, and to keep the things of this world, sell your Lord Jesus and your salvation for a pot of stew? Do you fear and hate your neighbor, no matter who he or she is, because you fear not having, or losing, what you have? If so, repent. Such fears and emotions and motivations are the curse from which you have been freed. To permit them to rule you is to sell yourself back into slavery once again, and to make Jesus’ suffering and death in your place foolishness. Jesus “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”
No, but you are a new creation in Christ, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died. […] From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. […] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” All those born again and made new in the blood of Christ in holy baptism are nourished and sustained by His Word, His body, and His blood. These are the life-giving fruits of Jesus’ crucifixion upon the tree of the cross, become for us now the Tree of Life. Jesus became accursed for we who were cursed that we might become the blessed of the LORD once again. He, who knew no sin, the LORD made to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God. Truly, this Friday is good for you, for me, and for all humanity. Don’t keep it to yourself.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.