Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday Tenebrae Vespers

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.
“Behold my Servant,” saith the LORD. That is how the LORD thinks of His Messiah, His Anointed One, His Christ: “My Servant.” And, that is how the LORD’s Son thinks of Himself, as the Servant of the LORD. And, how does the Servant serve the LORD? What does the Servant do? He humbles Himself and becomes obedient unto death, even death upon a cross. For, to be a servant is to be selfless. The servant is not interested in his own interests, but in the interests of His Master. You are the interest of Jesus’ Master. God the Father loves you, and He sent His Servant Son to lay down His life to redeem you, to win you back from your sin and from its just wage, death. God the Father loves you, and He loves His Servant Son also. Therefore, the sacrifice of His Servant Son is His sacrifice as well.
The Father’s Servant “shall act wisely; He shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted,” both in His crucifixion and death, and in His resurrection and life. This is the Theology of the Cross: God has chosen what is foolish in this world to shame the wise, what is weak in this world to shame the strong, what is low and despised in this world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are. From the lowly seed comes the majestic tree, but not without the destruction of the seed. And, “if a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” This is the Theology of the Cross, which is “folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” When they gazed upon Jesus, they saw only weakness and lowliness. They despised Him and considered Him nothing. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son from Nazareth?” “Do we not know His origin, His birth, and His parents?” “He is nothing. We know Him. We have no use for Him.” And, when the LORD struck, and smote, and afflicted Jesus, they thought He was getting His just desserts. Yet, it was our griefs and sorrows Jesus carried. It was for our transgressions that He was wounded. It was for our iniquities that He was crushed. By His chastisement and stripes we are healed and find peace with God. This was the LORD’s will for His Suffering Servant, whom He loves, because He loves you.
Jesus is the LORD’s Suffering Servant. He served His LORD by laying down His life for you. “It was the will of the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; 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.” You are His offspring. Jesus died that you might prosper. He “bore the sin of many, and [made] intercession for the transgressors,” that is, for you. Jesus paid the debt you owed. He suffered the wrath that was justly yours. He was obedient to the Law of the LORD in perfect love, fulfilling it for you and giving you the credit. Truly, the Gospel message of Good Friday is the Word of Jesus from the cross, “Tetelestai,” “It is finished,” It is fulfilled,” the old has passed and the new has come: forgiveness, salvation, and everlasting life.
Jesus is the LORD’s Suffering Servant, and you are the LORD’s servant too. Jesus’ New Commandment to you on Holy Thursday was to love one another as He has loved you. But, it was Jesus’ death on Good Friday that gives you the freedom to do that, the freedom to love as you have been loved, not out of fear and coercion of the Law. Before Jesus’ death, the Law loomed over you like a cruel, unloving, and merciless taskmaster. It demanded perfection of you, and you were literally damned before you started, before you even tried to keep it and to do it. But, now Jesus has tetelestai, Jesus has fulfilled the Law’s demands for you in His perfect and holy obedience and in His suffering and death on the cross. Tetelestai, it is finished, it is fulfilled, for you. The old has been fulfilled and has been made new, and that means you have been made new as well.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” The change that has been wrought in you is servanthood, love. There is a change in which you view your fellow man, be he your brother, your neighbor, your friend, or your enemy. “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.” We regard no one according to the flesh because our flesh has been redeemed in Jesus Christ who died in the flesh fulfilling the Law’s demands for all. Christ has “died for all, therefore all have died.” So also, Christ has been raised for all that all may live in Him. There is a world of advice and exhortation out there for you making demands upon you as to how you should live, what you should do, how you should talk and dress and eat and raise your families and vote and really every other aspect of your life. Not all of those things are bad in and of themselves, but what do the Scriptures say? What does your Lord Jesus say? “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” And, what does Paul say? “The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”
Jesus died for you to set you free from the threatening coercion of the Law, that you might no longer live for yourself, but to Christ and to your neighbor. The Suffering Servant Jesus served and suffered that you might become the LORD’s servant in Him. He has even given you this ministry, this service, the ministry of reconciliation. What does this mean? This means that, as Christ has reconciled us to Himself, so now does He send you as His ambassador to implore others to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
Jesus died so that you might live. The life you live is His life. Jesus lives for you, with you, and through you to the glory of our Father. Tetelestia: It is finished – all that was necessary to make you right with God, all that was necessary to redeem you from sin and death, all that was necessary to free you from slavery and condemnation under the Law is finished, completed, and fulfilled in Jesus’ death on Good Friday. Jesus took all of that upon Himself and He died for you and asyou and was buried. However, He did not remain in that tomb, but He rose from the dead on the third day just as He had said. To remain in sin and worldly, fleshly, and material desires, pleasures, and pursuits is to remain in death and the tomb; it is to return to a rotting, stinking, filthy corpse. But, Jesus has died and has been raised that you might live forHim and as Him. And, while this new life is not always easy, Jesus promises to be with you through it all. When you give to others, you give with His gifts. When you forgive others, you forgive with His forgiveness. When you love others, you love with His love.
You are not the same. In Christ you have been reconciled with God; therefore, be reconciled with your brother, your sister, and your neighbor. You are a new creation in Christ, and so also your brother, your sister, and your neighbor. You are blessed to be a blessing. This is why we call this day good. Jesus’ death is for you and as you. Jesus’ resurrection is foryou and as you. In Christ, you are a new creation. Glory be to God alone.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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