Good Friday, a wonderful day

Sermon for Good Friday

Isaiah 52:13-53:12  +  John 18:1-19:42

I recently reminded someone that Good Friday was coming up, and she said, “Oh, that’s the sad day—the day Jesus died.” But is that right? Is today a day when we remember with sadness that Jesus died? Would God have you be sad and mournful on this day? I’ll tell you the truth, the only ones who should mourn and be sad on this day are those who still will not repent of their sins, who do not believe in Jesus Christ and Him crucified as the atoning sacrifice for their sins. For them, as long as they remain in unbelief, this day is the harbinger of imminent judgment and condemnation. They should mourn and be sad, because Jesus is the world’s Savior. There is no other. Those who will not be saved by Him will not be saved at all. But for those who believe, this day holds no sadness. What it holds, is wonder. Good Friday is a wonderful day.

What’s not wonderful, what’s not surprising is that Jesus should be so hated and mistreated by His enemies, and so forsaken and abandoned by His friends. None of that should make us wonder in the least. It’s at the heart of the human condition. We see it all around us. And if we’re honest, we see it within ourselves. The hatred of God, disobedience toward God, the mistreatment of God’s servants, the sinful weakness of believers, too—those are ancient attributes of mankind, and all the wickedness and evil we witness in this world, whatever form they take, are symptoms of the same sickness that lies at the bottom of every single heart. Are you shocked, are you amazed, do you wonder at the appalling actions of ISIS or of other Muslim extremists? Do you wonder at the adamant support for homosexuality in our country and at the hatred those supporters display for anyone who expresses a Christian opinion? You shouldn’t wonder at that. Those things are symptoms of the same sickness that lives in you.

Evil comes in many forms. Yes, the Muslim religion is inherently evil. Yes, the whole LGBT movement is inherently evil, and to support it is just as evil. So is all sex outside of marriage. So is all the selfishness or anger displayed within a marriage. So is the lust of the heart that is never acted upon. So is every twisting of God’s Word into false doctrine. So is laziness. So is skipping church on a regular basis. So is snapping at your neighbor in frustration. So is exalting yourself above your neighbor in your heart. All of these are forms of evil, and there are many, many more forms as well. Not all of them destroy a society, but all of them earn God’s wrath and displeasure. All of them earn death for the sinner. And without the new birth that God has given to believers in Christ, without the power of the Holy Spirit to restrain it in believers, the sin that dwells in every human heart would eventually erupt into the same kind of degradation and wickedness and rebellion in everyone.

So when you hear how Judas betrayed Christ, how the Jews raged against Him and called for His crucifixion, when you hear how Pilate abandoned justice for the sake of expedience, when you hear how the religious leaders mocked Jesus, how the soldiers mocked Jesus and twisted together a crown of thorns for Him, when you hear how they tortured Him and nailed Him to a cross and rejoiced to see Him suffer, do not wonder at any of that, and do not imagine that they were any worse than anyone who has lived since. It’s just sin, on full display. This is what sin does. It rages against God and against all that is right and good while often pretending to be godly and religious. This is what sin does. It crucifies the Son of God.

No, the depth of the depravity of man is not the thing to wonder at on Good Friday. Instead, the wonderful thing is the depth of the grace of God, who gave His Son so that sinners like that, so that sinners like us might be saved.

We have to wonder, not that Jesus was despised and rejected by men, but that “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.” God’s reaction to mankind’s rebellion was to punish Jesus for it, to send Jesus to suffer for it, to lay on Him the iniquity of us all. “It pleased the LORD to bruise Him”—Him, the beloved Son of God with whom God was well-pleased. Him it pleased the Lord to bruise on the cross rather than bruising us for all eternity in hell. Wonderful!

We have to wonder that Christ willingly went along with this plan. We wonder at His sincere, genuine love for His Father, at His willingness to drink the cup which His Father gave Him, and at His silence before His accusers, as a sheep before its shearers is silent, because His goal wasn’t to stop His execution, but to allow them to go through with it, according to His Father’s will. Wonderful!

We have to wonder at Jesus’ loving treatment of everyone throughout the Passion History, from His defense of His disciples who would abandon Him, to healing the servant named Malchus whose ear Peter had cut off, to the respect Jesus showed before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate, to His love for His mother, even while dying on the cross—sincere genuine love and willing obedience to the commandments, love for God and love for His neighbor, obedient to the last, no matter how much He Himself was suffering. Wonderful!

We have to wonder at the “It is finished!”, because it means that Jesus completed His mission to earn forgiveness, life and salvation for sinners, all by Himself, all without any help from any of us. His is the suffering, the blood, the death that atones for sin—not anything you or I could ever do. Someone Else has suffered for us. It is finished! It is wonderful!

And still part of the wonder of this day is that, even now, almost 2,000 years later, God continues to hold Christ crucified before the eyes of a thoroughly corrupt and sinful world in the preaching of the Gospel, still calling sinners to repentance, still holding out forgiveness, still urging sinners to believe in Jesus Christ and Him crucified and be saved before the Day of Judgment. The Word of God that you are hearing with believing hearts paints the death of Christ onto you, even as the Baptism with which you were baptized washed the death of Christ onto you. The Sacrament of the Altar puts the death of Christ into your very mouth. And now, wonder of wonders, God considers you to have died with Christ. God considers you to be righteous with the righteousness of Christ. And God has raised up a new-born creature within you, even as He raised Christ from the dead, to live before God in holiness and in obedience to His commandments, to be imitators of God as dearly loved children, to suppress and restrain your sick, sinful flesh so that it doesn’t do whatever it wants, because you have been crucified with Christ, and now you, Christian, no longer live, but Christ lives in you.

So, is today a sad day? Hardly. There were certainly sad things that happened on the first Good Friday. And Good Friday should still work sadness and sorrow in those who sin so securely and impenitently. But for the penitent who flee for refuge to the cross of Christ, God would not have you be sad on this day. He would have you find rest and comfort in the wounds of His Son. He would have you give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures forever. And he would have you sit back and contemplate the cross of Christ in awe and wonder on this wonderful, wonderful day. Amen.

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