Sermon for Good Friday, Chief Service
Today, as we peer into the past through the Good Friday Gospel, those bloody, deathly images of Jesus jolt our sensibilities, and the words of the Apostles’ Creed ring in our ears, “I believe in Jesus Christ.” So many people recite those words without having the slightest idea what they mean, but you know what they mean, today of all days. That’s no empty phrase to you who recite the Apostles’ Creed with conviction, to you who are betting your very lives, to you who stake your eternal existence – and that of your children – on the truth of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed: 1) Who Jesus is, 2) What Jesus has done, and 3) Why he has done it.
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. In one of our hymns, we sing, “O sorrow dread, God’s Son is dead.” The original German of that hymn is even more jarring, “O sorrow dread, God himself is dead.”
It’s a remarkable irony. Every other human being who has ever been born was born to live, but sentenced to death by that inborn sin that infects us all. But this man – this sinless Son of God was born only to die, although the sentence he had coming to him was life. Notice the leap in the Apostles’ Creed. When it describes the work of Christ, what Jesus has done, it jumps from his conception and birth straight to his suffering under Pontius Pilate, his crucifixion, death and burial. This is why God and Man united in the Person of Christ – born to suffer, born to die, born to be buried.
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 the only way to redeem, 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, and mankind is redeemed – even those who don’t know or believe it, even those who stood at the cross and mocked, even those who reject the Christ and will spend eternity in hell were most certainly bought, redeemed by the holy, precious blood of Christ and with his innocent suffering and death.
Why? 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, a world that would still for the most part not believe in him, a world that will for the most part still stand condemned by God in the Judgment, unforgiven, and join God’s enemy, the devil, locked out of God’s kingdom forever in hell? 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 few (relatively speaking, at least), 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.
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 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. You who, by faith, are saved from sin, death and hell – you are the ones who turn that terrible day of death into a Good Friday for Jesus, just as he has made this day a Good Friday for you.
This is most certainly true. Amen.