God’s judgment against sinners, for the salvation of sinners

Sermon for Good Friday 2014

Isaiah 50:6-9  +  Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12  +  John 18-19

There is a day of judgment coming on the earth when God will deal with all sinners and make them answer for their sins and pay out the wages of sin, which is death and eternal condemnation. No one can escape God’s judgment, for all have sinned. As the Psalm says, “There is none righteous, no, not one.”

That unrighteousness of the human race goes back to the beginning of the human race, back to Genesis, back to the creation, back to Adam and Eve. Adam, our forefather, was created to live forever, with his posterity, in communion with God, in love, in paradise. But that man and his wife listened to Satan, rebelled against God and fell into sin, plunging themselves and all their posterity into sin and darkness and death—death that destroys both body and soul, both here on earth, and eternally.

But God promised to send another Man, the Seed of the woman who would defeat Satan, and sin, and death.

His coming wouldn’t be immediate. The human race would grow and spread from Eden, but all still infected with sin, all dying, one after another. All died, because all sinned. Noah’s flood demonstrates how depraved our race had already become as all but eight people were swept away for their sins.

God still had a promise to keep, to send the Seed, the serpent-bruiser. So He divided our one race into many nations, let the nations of the earth all go their own sinful ways, and then focused on one man, Abraham, to make a great nation out of him, and his son Isaac, and his son Jacob—Israel. They were sinful men, too, but they trusted in the Lord God, and that faith was counted to them for righteousness, as Moses tells us. Through their Seed all families of the earth would be blessed.

The law was eventually given to Israel through Moses with fire and billows of smoke on Mt. Sinai, not so that they could save themselves by it, but to reveal the sin that already dwelled in all men, as the Ten Commandments are held up as a mirror showing how far short all men fall of God’s standard of love for God and love for our neighbor.

Israel misused the Law, abused the Law. They broke the Law with idolatry and adultery and trust in man rather than trust in God, but worse, they kept trying to save themselves by means of a broken Law.

Isaiah was one of the prophets whom God sent to Israel to call them to repentance and to point them away from themselves to the great Servant of the Lord, the Messiah, whom the Lord would send, the Servant of the Lord who would save the Lord’s people, not just from captivity in Babylon, but from the captivity of sin, death, and the devil. We heard about that Servant in the first two lessons today, a Servant of the Lord who would come from Israel and to Israel, and yet would be despised and rejected by Israel, wounded, bruised, slaughtered and killed.

The same Isaiah announced how He would come: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and will call His name Emmanuel, God with us.

Finally, some 2,000 years ago, the virgin, a descendant of King David, did conceive. God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

He was Abraham’s Seed, according to the flesh, He was the Son of David according to the flesh, but He was also the eternal Son of God, the very Word of God by whom the heavens were made. He came to His own, but His own received Him not.

Hence, we come to Good Friday, where we see the Servant of the Lord serving right down to His last breath, when He declared in a loud voice, “It is finished.” Jesus came preaching and teaching, healing people and doing miracles. He did not come to disparage the Law of Moses; He was, after all, the author of Law of Moses. He came as the Righteous One, the sinless One, to fulfill the Law, even as He pointed out to the Jews that they hadn’t fulfilled the Law, nor could they. He had come to save them and to give them the Sabbath rest that they never knew, rest from their labor at trying in vain to keep the Law, rest from their work of trying to atone for their own sins, and yet failing miserably every time. He had come to save sinners by calling them to repent of their sin and to trust in Him as their true Rest-Giver. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

The Jews would not have it; they would not have Him. They had their precious Law and their precious heritage from Abraham, even though they didn’t actually keep the Law or imitate the faith of Abraham. So their leaders conspired to put Jesus to death, as we witnessed today in the words of St. John.

And in so doing, they were unwittingly fulfilling every prophecy in their own Scriptures. In so doing, they were unknowingly slaughtering the true Passover Lamb, offering up the one sacrifice that does atone for sin, shedding the one Man’s blood that is holy enough, that is precious enough, that is worth enough to make up for the sins of all mankind. Because this Jesus is not merely a man. He is the only sinless Man, the promised Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Son of David, the Son of God.

And here we come to the reality that each of us must face. The Jews handed Jesus over to be crucified. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, perverted justice and allowed them to do it. But none of us were there. You don’t have to apologize for what people did to Jesus 2,000 years ago. No, whether Jew or Gentile, you have to answer for your own sins, and they are just as real and just as damning, because Adam is your father, too, and you, like he, are guilty.

The Law still cries out condemnation from Mt. Sinai, and each one will have to answer on the Day of Judgment for his own sins. But see what God has done on Good Friday: He has set up another mountain, Mt. Calvary, another place of judgment where the only one who is condemned, where the only one whose blood is shed is Jesus, the Christ, the Righteous One. But He isn’t condemned for His sins; He’s condemned for ours. His blood doesn’t atone for His sins, but for ours. As Isaiah said, We esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Here on Mt. Calvary stands God’s own answer to sin. He hates it. He punishes it. He destroys the sinner and condemns him to death. On this mountain the Righteous One dies so that the sinners can go free. It’s love that caused God to send His Son, His Servant, to this mountain, to this cross, that by His suffering and death, the Law might lose its power to condemn us, because God’s Son has already been condemned for us.

And, as we will celebrate on Sunday, God has also raised this Jesus from the dead, and Jesus has sent His Holy Spirit in this Gospel to proclaim to the world what the Apostle Peter proclaimed to his fellow Jews in Antioch about the crucified and risen Jesus: Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest what has been spoken in the prophets come upon you: ‘Behold, you despisers, Marvel and perish! For I work a work in your days, A work which you will by no means believe, Though one were to declare it to you.’

Beware, lest you fail to believe in this Messiah, for then you will have to answer for your own sins. But God doesn’t want you to answer for your own sins. He only wants to see Christ. He only wants you to plead the blood of His Son. In this Gospel that you hear again today, you hear the voice of God calling you to abandon Sinai, to flee in faith to Calvary, to the Mercy Seat, to the Throne of Grace that is Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us. And if God is for us, who can be against us?

On Good Friday, of all days, there can be no doubt that God is for us. Here we see the depth of His love for the world in His willingness to give His Son for our redemption. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. Amen.


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