Sermon for Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 + John 18:1-19:42
Today we celebrate the death of Christ our Lord, our Redeemer from start to finish. To celebrate something is to praise it and to make it famous. So, yes, we celebrate Jesus’ death, as we sang last night, The death of Jesus Christ, our Lord, We celebrate with one accord; It is our comfort in distress, Our heart’s sweet joy and happiness.
The Christian Church celebrates something else today, too. March 25th is the Feast of the Annunciation, exactly 9 months before Christmas, the time required for the gestation of a human child. It celebrates the incarnation of Jesus, the start of our Lord’s human life, the day of our Lord’s conception by the Holy Spirit in the virgin’s womb. It’s said that the early Church recognized March 25th as the actual date of Christ’s crucifixion, and so they figured that other important events must have happened on that day, too, including Christ’s conception, Israel’s passage through the Red Sea, and even the creation of Adam.
Maybe. The dates are irrelevant. What matters is that everything truly comes full circle on Good Friday, and it’s truly worth celebrating.
God said to Adam, in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. Adam ate from the forbidden tree, and in so doing, he earned death and condemnation for himself, and he became the father of an infected race—thoroughly infected with sin and corruption, so that all who are naturally born are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with the inclination to sin (Augsburg Confession: II). You weren’t born into this world innocent, or sinless, or neutral. God wasn’t waiting to see what you would do with your life, whether you would earn for yourself His condemnation or His praise. You started out life condemned and unable to do a single thing about it. Everyone does. That’s one of the most basic facts of the Christian faith.
But from the moment that Adam sinned—actually, from before the foundations of the world were laid—God set a plan of salvation in motion, a plan to redeem our fallen race—to buy us back, to rescue us from our slavery to sin, death, and the devil. And it all revolved around one Man who would be born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those who were under the law.
That redemption was pictured with the Passover Lamb, and with God miraculously parting the waters of the Red Sea, so that Israel could pass through, safe from the enemy army, crossing over from slavery to freedom, from death to life.
But the real redemption would not come through the blood of an animal, but through the blood of a spotless, sinless Man. Not one who was “naturally born,” of a father and a mother, as we are, for then He would have been born “with sin,” as we are. But a Man conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary. True God and true Man, conceived to be our Redeemer from sin.
Christ had many opportunities to turn back from being our Redeemer, to turn back from the cross, many opportunities to set aside the cup of suffering His Father gave Him to drink. But doing the will of God and becoming the Redeemer of the race He had chosen to make His own—that was His greatest desire.
So Jesus went through with it, every day of His life, from His conception by the Holy Spirit, to His birth of the virgin Mary, including the last day of His mortal life, when He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
And now, what? We sang it last night. He blotted out with His own blood The judgment that against us stood; He full atonement for us made, And all our debt He fully paid.
This is what we celebrate today, the perfect sacrifice that Jesus the Christ offered up to God to atone for our sins, and not only ours, but for the sins of the whole world, so that all people—from every nation, tribe, language and people—might plead the blood of Christ before the judgment of God, might flee in faith to Him, the Lamb of God, be baptized in His name, and thus cross over from death to life, forgiven, justified, and having a Father in heaven who is gracious and kind to us poor sinners for the sake of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
It is this Jesus whose conception and whose death we celebrate today, and, really, every time we gather together around His Word and Sacrament. And as we remember this week in our review of the Small Catechism, it is this Jesus Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. Christ Jesus, our Redeemer, from start to “it is finished.” Amen.