Sermon for Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13-53:12 + John 18:1-19:42
It always strikes me, reading from St. John’s Passion account, how Jesus responded to Peter after Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. After praying so earnestly those three times in the garden, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will,” what does Jesus now say to Peter? Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me? Jesus’ prayers had been heard. His request had been granted. Not His request that the cup would pass from Him, but His even more urgent request that His Father’s will be done. And now that His betrayer and the soldiers and guards have arrived, He knows exactly what that will is: He is to drink the cup which His Father has given Him.
What was in that cup? You heard what was in it. About 15 hours of hell was in the cup, 15 hours of the powers of darkness having their way with Jesus: betrayal, arrest, injustice, false accusations, mockery, ridicule, spitting, beating, a crown of thorns, a purple robe, scourging, rejection by His own people, condemnation, shame, nailing, hanging, slowly suffocating, thirsting, and dying. 15 hours of a Father, with all the power in the universe to stop it, standing by and doing nothing as He watches His beloved Son be abused, tormented, and killed.
What was the cause? Isaiah told us. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet 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.
Our anger toward our enemies, and also toward our brothers. Our laziness. Our lust. Our greed. Our idolatry. Our hateful words. Our careless words. Our apathy toward God and man. Our distrust of God. Our misplaced trust in man. Our disobedience. Our desire to run the universe, to be like God. Those were our sins being laid upon the Lamb of God. Those were the punishments we were supposed to bear for ourselves.
Instead, the Father made a sacrifice, and the Son of God agreed to be that sacrifice, agreed to drink that cup, the innocent God-Man suffering for the sins of sinful man, so that we might go free.
What now—now that Christ has drunk the cup His Father gave Him? It is finished. Death and hell have been tasted by the Son of God as the substitute for all the sons of men. The blood of Christ has been shed, once for all.
What good is that blood for you, if it is never sprinkled on you? So the Holy Spirit does sprinkle it in the three forms which St. John witnessed at the foot of the cross, as the spirit went forth from Jesus’ mouth, and as blood and water flowed from Jesus’ pierced side. The blood of Christ is present, spiritually, in this Gospel that enters your ears. It is mixed, spiritually, with the water of Holy Baptism. The blood of Christ is there, spiritually and also truly, in the cup of Holy Communion.
But what good is that blood, if you will not be sprinkled by it, if you will not receive it in faith, to use it for its intended purpose—to hold it up before God the Father and say, “Judge me by this alone, by this sacrifice! Receive me on this account! Don’t look upon my sins! Don’t judge me by my works! I take refuge in Christ crucified, in His blood. Forgive me because of this!”
And He does. And He will. There is safety for sinners in the blood of Christ. There is peace. There is life. So take the blood of Christ. Take it and use it. Trust in Him and rejoice in Him. Let Good Friday be your thanksgiving day, a day to praise the Lamb of God for drinking His Father’s cup so that, by His death, He might undo your death. Eat His crucified body. Drink His blood outpoured. And be free from sin’s curse forever. Amen.