Friday, March 29, 2013

Sermon -- Good Friday (March 29, 2013)

JOHN 19:30

In the name + of Jesus.

     The last words of Jesus that St. John records from the cross are these: “It is finished.”  We might get the impression that this is the last, dying gasp of a man conceding defeat to death.  And who would blame Jesus if it were?  Here is a man who was abandoned by his closest friends.  Here was a man who was betrayed to his enemies by a trusted companion.  Here was a man who was denied by his boldest confessor.  He was reviled and rejected by the religious leaders of the day.  They did not sing his praises; they trumped up charges.  They condemned him and threatened excommunication to any who would follow him.  They plotted his arrest.  They staged his trial.  They riled up the crowds and badgered Pilate into sentencing his crucifixion.  Along the way, Jesus was scourged and flogged.  He was punched and spit upon.  He was mocked as king, as Messiah, as Savior, and as God.  Though already close to beaten to death, he was forced to carry his own cross.  Finally, he was nailed to it—only to endure more mockery and hatred by priests and soldiers and bystanders.  After six hours of crucifixion where his body was racked with pain and his soul suffered the wrath and rejection of the Father, Jesus was ready to give up his life into death.  So if he said, in a spirit of defeat or even relief, “It is finished,” could you blame him?
     When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)  It was no last gasp of defeat.  It was a firm and final statement that we can take to heart.  It is the undeniable verdict of one who is undeniably king and Messiah and Savior and God.
     It is finished.  All that Jesus had come to do was now completed.  He had fulfilled the mission for which he was sent.  That mission began when he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.  That is, he became man.  He was made man to do what man had not done.  Man was created by God so that God would love and care for him and so that man, in turn, would love and serve God.  But Adam did not keep God’s commands.  No man has kept God’s commands.  Every person in the history of mankind has been under a curse because they have not kept God’s commands.  So God was made man.  And the man, Jesus Christ, fulfilled God’s commands.  Man has obeyed the Law.  A righteous life was finally lived.  The Law cannot condemn him; for Jesus has done all its works.  Nothing more can be added.  Nothing more needs to be done.  It is finished.
     But the Law also says that the guilty must be punished.  If the guilty were not condemned, God would not be just.  His word would not be true.  God need not be taken seriously.  But God’s commandments stand, along their threats and judgment.  That is why mankind stands under God’s curse.  A death sentence is the just verdict, and hell welcomes all its prisoners.  But a Savior has come.  God the Son makes the exchange—himself for you and for all mankind. 
     Jesus has taken up all the sin of all the ages of all the world.  God has become man so that man would take the punishment due him.  Jesus stood on trial before spiritual leaders, in the court of worldly powers, and under the judgment of divine sentence.  And before each court, Jesus assumed all guilt.  He accepted all responsibility.  He absorbed all judgment.  He was convicted for all.  He was condemned for all.  He was banished for all.  And he died for all.  He has assumed all of the wrath and judgment and damnation and death that can be had.  There is nothing left.  It is finished.
     Jesus’ statement is not just for him.  It is for you, too.  You know that all Jesus had come to do is, finally, for you.  And so his statement, “It is finished,” puts an end to grief and guilt and doubt and fear and even death.
     Being tormented by guilt is finished.  It is not hard to figure out why you are.  Your conscience testifies against you.  And in case you ever forget, Satan is all too happy to remind you, to accuse you, and to taunt you.  You have not done the good you ought.  You have not forsaken the evil you should.  You know better.  You even desire better.  But you have not done better.  You are plagued by your guilt especially when you have quiet, alone moments to ponder life and death.  You are appalled at your own behavior.  How can God love you?  How could possibly reward you?  You want to think you are a good person, but in your honest moments, even you don’t believe it. 
     Jesus puts an end to all of your guilt.  His righteous life answers for you.  He loved his friends, his neighbors, and even his enemies.  His selfless love and his perfect submission atone for you.  You do not have to make spiritual deals or go through mental contortions to prove that you have done enough.  Jesus’ righteousness is yours.  Jesus has made you his saints.  You cannot do better than that, and you don’t need to.  The Law has been fulfilled.  The works are done.  It is finished.
     You do not have to fear.  Fear comes because of judgment.  But Jesus has declared about your judgment: “It is finished!”  Your sin—all your sin—has been taken from you.  Jesus took the guilt of everyone—from the beloved disciple who watched at the foot of the cross to the felon who was dying on the cross next to him.  He has not forgotten you, either.  Your guilt has been transferred to the Lamb who was slain for you.  Your judgment, your death, and your hell were put to death with Jesus.  There is nothing left—no curse, no wrath, no judgment, no punishment.  It is finished.
     Even death has become powerless.  Satan had hoped to devour the whole world by devouring Jesus.  If he could destroy the Savior, then Jesus could save no one.  But it was Satan who was taken by Jesus.  For, in going to death, Jesus has saved you.  He has gone into death and into the grave on your behalf.  And then Jesus rose from the grave.  He left death in the dust.  Satan had hoped to seize Jesus by death, but Satan was left empty-handed.  By his death, Jesus has put an end to sin.  By his resurrection, Jesus has put an end to Satan.  The grave is an empty threat.  Death is conquered.  It may still put a claim on all people, but Jesus has put his claim on you.  The grave must give you up.  Death is done.  It is finished.
     Jesus’ words from the cross were not a dying gasp.  They are certainly not defeat or concession.  Jesus’ words are a solid declaration.  They are words which comfort and sustain you.  They are words which give you an answer to silence the devil.  They are words to thwart every accusation.  They are words to alleviate fears.  They are words to banish guilt.  They even let you face death with confidence and die in peace.  Your righteousness has been achieved.  Your sins are forgiven.  Your salvation is sure.  
     When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)  Jesus bowed his head and began his Sabbath rest.  At the same, he has given you yours.  You have rest for your souls.  Your place in eternity is certain.  Jesus has fulfilled all things.  His work is done.  Your salvation is complete.
     It is finished.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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