Sermon for Good Friday
Isaiah 50:6-9 + Isaiah 52:13-53:12 + John 18:1-19:42
Today, the Good Friday Gospel holds up to our faces those graphic, bloody, deathly images of Jesus, and we are confronted with the question, “Is this really the one in whom you believe?” So many people have this vague image of Jesus in their heads, they don’t really have a clue what it means to believe in Him. But Good Friday doesn’t allow anyone to fudge on their faith. Christians stake their very lives, their eternal existence, their health and their wealth and their future—and the future of their children—on this confession: “I believe in Jesus Christ.” And of all days, Good Friday fleshes out that confession for us.
It’s summarized in the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. What does this mean? I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord.
At Christmas we recall this amazing truth, that the baby conceived and born of the Virgin Mary, was every bit as human as you and I, but that He is also every bit as divine as God, the Father Almighty. True man and true God. When you consider that truth in the context of Christmas, it’s wonderful; it brings a smile to your face. True man and true God, lying in a manger…It’s an awesome reality.
When you consider that truth in the context of Good Friday, true man and true God being spit upon, punched, slapped, flogged, and mocked – true man who cringed at every blow, true God who suffered like this at the hand of His creatures, true man and true God hanging on a cross…it’s an awesome, but awful reality.
And what did it all accomplish?
He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, 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.
It was part of God’s plan before the world was made to redeem and reconcile the human race that would rebel against God and ruin itself with sin, as God knew full well in His foreknowledge. There was only one way to do it, only one way “redeem” or to “buy back” the world of lost and condemned creatures from our well-deserved condemnation. God and Man had to unite in the Person of Jesus, the Christ. The Son of God had to assume into His divine nature—a nature inherited from His Father from eternity—a human nature inherited from His mother Mary some 2,015 years ago. It’s what made Him a perfect Mediator between God and man; it’s what gave Him blood to shed and made His blood holy and precious; it’s what gave His blood the cleansing power to cover the sins of the world. Anything less than true Man, and man has no Substitutionary sacrifice. Anything less than true God, and His sacrifice is not enough. But as true God and true Man, His sacrifice is enough to turn God’s wrath away from our sins; it’s enough to turn God’s wrath away from every sinner. This truth remains unchanged for all eternity: Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, suffered and died for the sins of the world. No one living can ever say, “Jesus didn’t die for me.” With His suffering and death He has merited—He has earned righteousness, forgiveness, and eternal life for all men, so that if the whole world were to believe in Jesus, then the whole world would be justified. So unbelievers, those who have never been and never will be justified by the blood of Christ through faith, have only themselves to blame. Because Jesus died for all. And in the Gospel, God holds out the sufferings and death of Christ to all men, and truly wants all men to be saved through faith in the holy, precious blood of Christ—even those who betrayed Him, even those who stood at His cross and mocked, even you and me.
Why? Why would He do it? Why would the Son of God submit Himself to suffering and death for a world of sinners who had already sided with Satan? Why would He shed His blood to redeem a world that would still reject Him by the billions, even after hearing of His loving sacrifice, so that the majority of men will never enter the kingdom of God? Why?!?
All this He did that I should be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as He has risen from death and lives and rules eternally.
You see, it’s not as if Jesus is disappointed by the results of His sacrifice, as if His sacrifice would only be worth it if enough people were saved by faith in Him. Jesus, true God and true Man, knew full well that His sacrifice made for all would only end up saving a remnant, a precious few who would receive Him in faith, who would hear of His death and rely on Him for life. All this He did that you should be His own. You are the reason why Jesus came into the world and suffered under Pontius Pilate and stayed on the cross until He breathed His last, so that He could call you His, and you could call Him your God. If you are hearing this Gospel, then know for certain that it is meant for you.
Jesus had you in view when He volunteered for this suicide mission—all for you, so that you might belong to Him now and no longer to the devil, so that you might live now in fullness of life, a life that is no longer lived in fear of God’s wrath, a life that will never be snuffed out by death. All this He did for you, so that you may no longer live as a slave to sin, but as a servant of the Most High God, free now to offer your bodies as living sacrifices to Him whose dying sacrifice purchased a place in heaven for you, and whose resurrection from the dead guarantees His ability to raise you as well, and to rule over all things so that you may spend a blessed eternity with Him.
“I believe in Jesus Christ.” So Christians have confessed for millennia in the Apostles’ Creed. So you confess and stake your very life on it, because today of all days, you know who He is and what He has done, and why He did it all. He did it all for you, and He’d do it again a hundred times if He had to. But He doesn’t. Because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy—that’s you, who believe in Jesus Christ. “Is this really the one in whom you believe?” Today of all days, we answer with a resounding, “Yes!” Amen.