Sermon for Good Friday, AD 2021

John 18:1-19:42

King David, from his palace in Jerusalem, heard that his eldest son, Absalom, had betrayed him. Angry with his father, Absalom had raised up many supporters for his own kingship and the people of Israel turned from David. Hearing reports of Absalom coming to Jerusalem, David had no choice but to leave. Leaving the city, David crossed the brook Kidron with his household and loyal foreign troops, and his loyal people wept as he left. He went up the mount of Olives and prayed that the Lord would restore him and turn the counsel of those who betrayed him for Absalom to foolishness. The Lord would vindicate David and return his kingdom to him, at the cost of his son.
           
This was to foreshadow what would happen to David’s descendant, his son and Lord who would reign forever. For Jesus also crossed the brook Kidron, leaving Jerusalem with his disciples. His betrayer, Judas, had already left to gather the forces who will come to arrest Jesus. There, on the Mount of Olives with his disciples, Jesus would pray, and then be arrested. Unlike David, Jesus would not be preserved for an earthly kingdom, but his arrest would lead to the establishment of his kingdom not of this world.
           
The priests should have heard and preached the word of God, fighting by that and not swords and clubs. To do so would mean they would understand who Jesus was, the Suffering Servant we heard about in Isaiah. Yet they bring against Jesus no spiritual charge, but only come as against a robber in the night. When they say they seek Jesus of Nazareth, he responds “I am he,” or truly, “I AM,” the name God gave Moses in the burning bush. This causes all to fall back on their feet as if hit with a thunderclap. Jesus gives a glimpse of His divinity there to reassure, to tell you that these men would have no power over Him if He did not desire it. And He says again, “I AM,” and this time allows them to arrest him to show He is willing to go to his suffering and death.
           
There is nothing that they can bring against Jesus in trial, no witnesses agree. Jesus taught openly, but they refused to arrest him openly. So the Jews bring Jesus to Pilate. See how they act very moral in not entering Pilate’s Gentile house before the Passover, but have to trouble handing over the innocent to be killed. They strain a gnat but swallow a camel. All they want is Jesus to be taken out.
           
Pilate questions Jesus but, being a pagan, has no interest in whatever claims of blasphemy the Jews make. What is that to him? But if Jesus claims to be a king, that falls under his jurisdiction. He can’t have anyone starting rebellions. It is on this line Pilate questions Jesus.
           
When Pilate asks if Jesus is a king, Jesus does not deny it. Jesus is a king, but his kingdom is not of this world. See how he allowed himself to be arrested, when he easily knocked down the thugs in one word. See how he stopped his disciples from defending him. See how he knew what Judas would do, and did nothing to stop him. Jesus goes to His death willingly. He goes following His Father’s plan. Nothing takes Him by surprise. This is the very way in which His kingdom will be established – He will be raised up on the cross.
           
It is for this purpose Jesus was born and has come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. The truth is heard in his voice. Those who are of the truth know his voice. Jesus does not teach secretly. He spoke many times about what his kingdom would be. He spoke clearly about His death and resurrection. Yet men refused to hear the truth. Like Pilate they said, “What is truth?” Truth has no importance here in the governor’s house, Jesus. Truth has no importance in Rome. Only power. Pilate shows the power he has to have Jesus beaten and mocked. He shows the power the Jews have over him, in that He cannot release Jesus, even though he wants to. He has heard pagan stories about mighty sons of the gods, but Jesus doesn’t act like any of them. Jesus doesn’t demonstrate power. Jesus suffers silently, like a lamb before the slaughter.
           
Those Chief Priests appeal to power too, “We have no king but Caesar!” They speak truly for God is not their king. They do not know the scriptures, for if they did they would bow before Jesus, their King. Instead, on the very day when they remember the Lord delivering them from slavery in Egypt, they beat, torment, mock, and crucify His Son. They cannot even stand to see Pilate’s sign “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
           
Yet this sign is the truth. For here on the cross, Jesus is the King. He has been raised up on His throne and come into His kingdom. All the mocking of Jesus’ kingship brought Him closer to His kingdom. For on the cross, mocked by God’s people, condemned by the government of the whole world, Jesus conquered. He fulfilled all scripture. Since Adam and Eve sinned no one could overcome it, overcome death or the devil. Not Abraham, not Moses, not David, not Elijah. All came short. So God had to send His Son to live perfectly, to keep His Word perfectly for you. And in return, you crucified Him.
           
Yes, it is you who crucified Him. You have failed to understand this day if you do not understand this. You cannot only see this as a tragic, innocent death of a noble man. You cannot see this as evil committed by these Jews and Romans, and the weakness of the disciples. No, you are the one, the cause. For every sin you commit caused this torment to Jesus. Your sin caused Judas to betray Him, caused the Jews to shout “crucify him,” and caused Pilate to have him beaten as if you hired them yourself. Jesus suffered and died because the Father sent him to do so, but it was necessary because of your sin.
           
See how sin is not a light matter. See how every time you offend against God it is shown in the bleeding wounds of Jesus. You sin was so great that there was no other way. If that does not prick your conscience, than you are no better than the High Priests. Do not feel justified staying out of a Gentile’s home when you have betrayed innocent blood.
           
On the other hand, a terrified conscience is not bad. In it you share in a small way in Christ’s suffering. Do not let this conscience lead you to despair. Jesus does not come to you as the priest to Judas, saying, “see to it yourself!” Jesus says, load your conscience onto me. I can bear it. No matter how great your sins, in my suffering I have paid for them. Jesus did not die merely as a man, but as man and God. He died in a way that overcame sin, death, the devil, hell, and eternal damnation. No other human could do this, if not also divine. So He has paid everything.
           
In cross and suffering, see the weight of your sin, but also see the payment for your sins. When pride assails you, look on how Christ was mocked and spit on – humiliated for you. When immoral living creeps to you, think of how Jesus’ body was torn by whips. When sickness, sorrow, or poverty comes against you look to the one who never had peace or rest from birth to the cross. See how the sufferings of your master are much greater than any momentary affliction you may have. That suffering is to prepare a place for you in His kingdom, to make you His child.
           
Therefore, when you think on the Lord’s Passion, kill the old Adam, the sinful flesh. It is your great sin which cause this death. Yet also let the new man rise – repent, amend your life, receive forgiveness, grace, and mercy. All these things are won by His death. He does not hold your sin against you. He has paid for it all – for you. Therefore in His death, which we share in baptism, we have been given a blessed death and eternal life.
           
No one on meditating on Our Lord’s death should come out the same. For in the death of Jesus, Law and Gospel come together in one place. All the Scriptures are fulfilled and given full meaning, and the future is secured. Even before Jesus’ resurrection, Jews and Gentiles were confessing at the sight of His death. The centurion declared, “This is the Son of God!” Joseph, Nicodemus, and the women anoint and bury him. Take heart. There is hope for Pharisees, centurions, and regular believers. We serve a God who has died, but we do not serve a dead God. Amen.

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