Good Friday

Sermon for Good Friday based on John 18 & 19

Dear guilty ones who are set free: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Good Friday is about God’s wrath, whether you like it or not. Perhaps that is why people skip the Good Friday service but come to church on Easter. Good Friday is too dark, too bloody, too gruesome. But on Good Friday we hear in detail how God poured out His wrath onto His Son, Jesus, instead of us.

The scourging Jesus received was supposed to be for us. It is we who should have been mocked and insulted, spit upon, beaten, and whipped. All our sins should have been dragged up in front of the whole world and we should have been accused of every single wrongdoing and fault of ours, every secret sin and misdeed. We should have then been punished eternally in the fires of hell.

In Jesus’ suffering and death, God the Father poured out His anger over our sin. Jesus was scourged unjustly so that we would not receive the scourging we deserve and have merited. Jesus suffered unjustly, so that we will not suffer justly in hell.

Here we see God’s love for us. He watches us day and night as we make bad decision after bad decision. He sees the unnecessary sadness and pain we inflict on ourselves and those around us. He sees our rebellious hearts that have desires that are opposed to His good and gracious will.

Yet, instead of pouring out His wrath and anger on us as we justly deserve, He poured it out on Jesus who never thought, said, or did anything that was opposed to His Father’s will.

The Master dies instead of the servant. The creditor dies for the debtor. The Physician dies for the good of the patient. The Shepherd dies for His sheep. The King dies for the sins of His subjects; the Peacemaker for quarrelsome rebels. The Creator dies for His creation. In this we see God’s love for us.

God’s love for us doesn’t fill Him with happy thoughts or make Him glad to see us. His love for us does not make Him happy. His love for us hurts Him. His love towards us does not serve itself, but us, His beloved. His love serves us to the point of death on a cross. God’s love hurts Him, causes His heart to break, and water and blood to pour out. God loves the world so that He gave His only Son into death for rebels who hated Him and killed Him and who chose Satan and Barabbas over Him.

This is true love. God has compassion on us in our sin to the point of suffering and death.

No one had compassion on Jesus when He suffered and died. Pilate tried to get the crowds to have compassion on Jesus by scourging Him unjustly and allowing the crowd of soldiers to insult Him, put a crown of thorns on His head, put a purple robe on Him, beat Him with their hands, and dishonour Him. Pilate allowed all this even while he kept saying that Jesus is innocent and has done nothing wrong. He tried to shame the Jews into having compassion on an innocent man who was free from guilt and was suffering without cause and unjustly.

The crowds would not have compassion on Jesus, but demanded His crucifixion. Pilate offered to release Him, but they instead wanted Barabbas to be released, a man imprisoned for insurrection and murder. The release of Barabbas highlights the injustice of Good Friday: the guilty goes free while the innocent is crucified.

You are the guilty, and you have been set free. You are free from the accusations of the Law. You are free from punishment and the wrath of God.

God has given Himself over to death in order to give us Himself, His crucified and risen body and blood in Holy Communion. If He had not died, there could be no testament. If His blood had not poured forth, it could not fill our chalice. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, the book of Hebrews tells us (9:22).

When the Old Testament faithful went to the tabernacle or Temple, they went there for the sacrificial blood, that their sins might be forgiven. So we also come to church. We come for blood so that our sins might be forgiven. Jesus gives us His life-giving blood into our mouths, so that we might offer sacrifices not of blood, for that is offered to us, but that we might offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise.

Indeed, how can we not? How can we servants, debtors, patients, sheep, subjects, rebels, and creatures not thank and praise our Master, creditor, Physician, Shepherd, King, Peacemaker, and Creator for dying for our sins, for freeing us from eternal damnation, for giving us eternal life?

How can we not renounce every sin that would vex or grieve the Holy Spirit, and quench with holy thoughts and prayers all fires unholy? How can we not turn away from earth’s vain joys to do God’s holy will?

In these endeavours, we will still find that our strength will not suffice to crucify desires that still entice us. We need the Holy Spirit to strengthen us to do God’s will, and we continually need forgiveness of sins when we fail. We continually need the blood of Jesus to cover our sin.

God will never withhold forgiveness from a penitent sinner. His wrath is not for you. His wrath was poured out on Jesus on Good Friday and He gives His never ending forgiveness from the font, through Absolution, and from the altar. God loves you. He died for you and now lives and reigns for you, and will return and take you to Himself, so that where He is, you may be also.

Good Friday is about God’s wrath – how God poured out His burning anger onto Jesus the innocent one, so that we, the guilty ones, walk away free. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

(Portions of this sermon were adapted from writings by Cyril of Alexandria, J. Heermann, J. Gerhard, and D. Petersen).


Good Friday

Sermon for Good Friday based on John 18:1-19:42

Dear people declared innocent: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“I find no guilt in Him,” said Pilate, pronouncing his judgment. Indeed, three times Pilate the governor declared Jesus innocent, finding no cause worthy of death in Him.

After his first declaration of innocence, Pilate had Jesus, the innocent one, flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head and arrayed Him in a purple robe. They mocked Him and beat Him – the man Pilate declared innocent.

Seemingly, Pilate tried to get sympathy for Jesus from the bloodthirst mob, and brought Him before them in such a state, and said, “Behold the man!” This was as if to say, “Do you not think He has been punished enough? I have found Him guilty of nothing but have nevertheless severely punished Him to satisfy you. Let that injustice be enough.”

The Jews accused Jesus of being a king who wanted to overthrow Caesar, so Pilate presented Him as a miserably lashed, smitten, beaten, and lacerated man with a scourged and torn robe and a crown of thorns. “Behold the man!” He is not a king you have to worry about. Look at His miserable state. He hardly looks like a threat to overthrown Caesar.

The Jews, however, had no compassion on Jesus. Pilate’s appeals for sympathy and compassion fell on stopped ears and hardened hearts. Pilate’s declarations of innocence meant nothing to the mob. They wanted Jesus dead in the cruellest way possible – hung on a cross with nails until dead. To every declaration of innocence, the crowd responded with shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

Thus, Jesus was crucified. Innocent though He was, He was punished as if guilty.

If you think Jesus suffered unjustly at that hands of Pilate, you haven’t heard anything yet. Jesus suffered unjustly at the hands of God the Father.

We heard from Isaiah, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief.” (53:10) God the Father did this, as He had planned from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8; cf. Acts 2:23; I Peter 1:20); as He had foretold by the mouth of His servants the prophets for thousands of years.

God the Father foresaw the birth of Judas and his betrayal of Jesus. Indeed, He foretold it in Scripture. God created trees that would be fashioned into a cross for Jesus to hang. He created iron ore that would be smelted into nails that pierced Jesus’ flesh. God orchestrated world empires and the government affairs that led Pilate to Judea, Caiaphas to Jerusalem, and the crowds to repeatedly cry out, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” (partially from Reed Lessing’s Isaiah commentary)

That’s why, in every step of the Passion account, we hear, “This was to fulfil the Scripture.” When arrested, Jesus said, “‘If you seek me, let these men go.’ This was to fulfil the word that He had spoken, ‘Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.’” The Jews’ insistence to Pilate that Roman law deal with Jesus instead of Jewish law, “was to fulfil the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death He was going to die.” The soldiers dividing Jesus’ garments and casting lots for His tunic “was to fulfil the Scripture which says, ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’” Jesus, to fulfil Scripture, said, “I thirst.” Jesus’ legs were not broken but instead His side was pierced, to fulfil the Scripture, “Not one of His bones will be broken,” and another which says, “They will look on Him whom they have pierced.”

Jesus suffered unjustly at the hands of Pilate, yet even more unjustly at the hands of His Father. Though perfectly innocent of any sin, Scripture tells us, “For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Cor. 5:21) God the Father declared Jesus guilty of all the sin and evil in this world. God piled your sins onto Him. God piled my sins onto Him. Every sin of everyone.

And God the Father did not have compassion on Jesus. No, after piling all the sins of the world on Him, God the Father abandoned Him to die, so that Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”

All this, so that God the Father would have compassion on us. God has compassion on us, even though the Law finds us guilty. We are far from innocent. We have broken God’s Law and are accountable for all of it. The Law finds us guilty and pronounces judgment on us. Cause is easily found in us that makes us worthy of death – both temporal and eternal death.

Yet, it is time for another sentence of justice. You are declared innocent. Every Absolution you hear is the pronouncement of God Himself forgiving your sin. God wants you to hear His Absolution often, so that you would trust His Word that you will hear the same declaration on Judgment Day.

This seems like injustice, but it is not. It seems unjust that we sinners should be declared innocent, but Jesus willingly took your punishment for you. He willingly suffered and died for you. He willingly paid the price of your sins. It is God’s justice.

Think of it this way. If you owed a million gold coins to someone, a debt that you could never pay, and then someone stepped forward and willingly paid the debt you owed, what would be left for you to pay? The creditor got what he was owed. He can’t come after you for anything anymore. There is nothing for you to pay any longer.

So it is with Christ’s payment of your sins. He’s paid the debt in full. Not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death. Since your debt has been paid, there is no blood, or suffering and death for you to pay for your sins. You are declared debt free, forgiven, innocent, righteous.

On Judgment Day, Christ, who is the Judge of the living and the dead will declare concerning you, “I find no guilt in him.” Unlike Pilate who sentenced an innocent man to suffering and death, Christ will open up the gates of eternal life for you because He suffered in your place. He had compassion on you and gave His life to save yours eternally. If Christ finds no guilt in you, neither can anyone else. If Christ finds no guilt in you, you are indeed guiltless and innocent, and will live with Christ forever. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Good Friday

Sermon for Good Friday based on Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Dear people for whom Jesus died: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

God responds to sin with anger, wrath, and punishment. Sin makes God angry enough to destroy the whole earth with a flood, to rain sulphur and fire out of heaven destroying cities, and to bring plague, famine, war, bloodshed, and exile, even on His own people who have turned away from Him. God responds to sin in His wrath, saying, “Your dead bodies shall fall in the wilderness… not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell,” and “I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath.” God responds to sin with punishment; punishment that He pours out upon the children in the street, the young and the old, as their houses and fields are taken by others, along with their wives; punishment that is so horrible that people will wish for death by mountains falling on them and hills covering them.

This is no exaggeration or hyperbole. This is what God tells us in His own Word. The wrath of God is no trivial or small thing. God hates sin and threatens to punish the sinner to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him.

We can pretend He’s not threatening us, but He is. We can pretend our sin is not such a big deal, but it is. We can pretend God is not angry over our sin, but He is. Our sin deserves the anger of God to be unleashed on us. Our sin deserves the wrath of God to be poured upon us. Our sin deserves the punishment of God both here in time, and eternally in hell.

It does us no good to make excuses. It does us no good to point at others who we think are worse than we are. It does us no good to point out what we think we have done well. “All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned – every one – to his own way.” The only thing we can do is confess our sin and plead to God for forgiveness. “Have mercy on me O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your mercy blot out my transgressions.”

God responds to sin with anger, wrath, and punishment. Sin made God angry enough to forsake His only Son and give Him up to death. Good Friday reveals the wrath of God, as God the Father cast His righteous wrath and His just punishment upon Jesus on our behalf. Jesus suffered to the point that He was so marred that He was beyond human semblance. He was despised and rejected by men and by God the Father. He was stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. It was the will of the Lord to crush Him and put Him to grief. The Lord laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all.

This was not God showing love to people that are pretty good and needing just a little bit of help. This was God showing love to people who are by nature children of wrath and His enemies. This was God giving His Son unto death for rebels who hated Him and killed Him, choosing the murderer and insurrectionist Barabbas over Him. This was God sacrificing His own perfect Son for those who have chosen darkness over light, death over life, and Satan over Jesus.

Good Friday is God punishing Jesus for our sins instead of punishing us. Good Friday is God pouring His anger, wrath, and punishment on Jesus, who did not deserve it, instead of on us, who do deserve it.

As much as you might love someone, you would never sacrifice your son to die for them. Neither would I. This is even more true if it is someone who has shown you nothing but hatred and contempt, and done everything possible to hurt you and harm your family and possessions, and no matter what they’ve done against you they say they haven’t done anything wrong.

Yet, it was exactly for such people full of hatred and contempt that God sent His only Son to die; such people blind to their own sin and full of self-righteousness.

God has no desire to punish the wicked. Rather, He wants the wicked to turn from his evil ways and live. That is why God punished His own Son, so that we would be spared eternal punishment.

Good Friday was for us. Christ has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace. With His stripes we are healed. It was all for us and our salvation. Christ suffered everything for us and in our place, so that we would receive eternal life.

Christ still does everything for us. He makes intercession for us transgressors, praying for us. He sprinkles many nations with the Baptismal waters of forgiveness, that blessed flood and lavish washing away of sin. He fills our chalice with His blood which flowed forth for our sins. Every Sunday He gives us the medicine of eternal life.

This is no exaggeration or hyperbole. The love of God is no trivial or small thing. The love of God is so great that it covers His anger. Not because sin is a trivial or small thing, but because He has already punished all sin in Jesus. Jesus’ payment of His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death have turned away God’s anger, wrath, and punishment from us. Not so that we would return to our rebellious ways of darkness and death, taking His Word and gifts for granted, but rather so that we would live like His children, read and hear His Word, and continuously receive His gifts.

Good Friday is about the wrath of God, and how Jesus’ death has turned it away from us. As we anticipate the great joys of Easter and the resurrection of our Lord, we can anticipate the great joys of our own resurrection, when we will rise from the dead and live eternally. We will live eternally because God’s anger has been turned away from us, so we have no punishment to fear. On Good Friday, Jesus took all the anger, wrath, and punishment that we deserve, so we receive all that is His and share in His inheritance of eternal life. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

It Is Finished

Sermon for Good Friday based on John 19:30

Dear brothers and sisters who have gathered to remember the death of our Lord: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father, and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“It is finished.” Jesus said these three words from the cross before He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. It is finished.

But what was finished? Hours of torture, scorn, and mocking were finished. Jesus’ earthly ministry of healing the sick and raising the dead was finished. Jesus’ teaching and preaching to the crowds was finished. Jesus’ life was finished. But there is something even more here; something that directly and personally affects you.

You see, you had a debt to pay; an accumulated debt of sin from every thought, word, and deed that breaks God’s Law. We are not talking about something insignificant. Even if you kept the whole Law and failed only in one point, you are guilty and accountable for all of it [James 2:10]. There’s no such thing as “pretty good” when it comes to the Law. You either keep all of the Law perfectly, or you are completely accountable for breaking all of it. Sin severs you from God [Is. 59:2] and there is nothing you can do to bridge that gap. There’s nothing you can do to pay the debt of your sins.

But God knew your situation. He knew the situation of the whole world. Instead of allowing us all to end up in hell as we deserve, God had a plan of salvation. He sent His own Son to take our place. Here we see the cost of our sins. Here we see how significant our sins are, in the punishment that Jesus took. God in the flesh came to earth and took the burden and guilt of our sins on Himself. He was betrayed, denied, and abandoned by those closest to Him. He was bound, flogged, crowned with thorns, mocked, and beaten although He was found guilty of nothing. He was then nailed to a cross and hung there for hours until He died. He was even abandoned by God the Father, left all alone to pay the great price of our sins.

Why such a horrific death? Was there no other way? In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to the Father that He would not have to drink this cup of wrath if it were possible [Mt. 26:39 – 42]. This would have been possible if we were to be condemned instead. But in order to pay for our sins, Jesus’ horrific death was necessary. It was necessary to save us from hell. God’s love for you compelled Him to pay such a high price for you.

When Jesus said, “It is finished,” He spoke this to His Father. Jesus makes His report, that He has fulfilled the will of the Father who sent Him. The plan of salvation is finished.

But Jesus spoke audibly with the intent that all people would hear. Recorded in Scripture, you can still hear the voice of Jesus say, “It is finished,” and so Jesus speaks also to you.

Jesus tells you it is finished. Through His obedience to the Law of God throughout His life, Jesus fulfilled the Law for you. The Law that you are unable to keep was fulfilled by Jesus on your behalf. Thus, it is finished. The Law is finished. The Law no longer reigns over you. You have died to the Law through the body of Christ [Rom. 7:4]. The Law can no longer accuse you. All of the accusations of the Law were directed at Jesus, so now there is no condemnation for those in Jesus Christ [Rom. 8:1]. Therefore, for those who believe in Christ, the Law is finished.

Through Jesus’ death, He defeated death. So death is finished. Death for us is now nothing more than a slumber. As Jesus rose from the dead, so we will also rise from the dead. Death no longer has dominion over us. Therefore, for those who believe in Christ, death is finished.

And the reign of Satan is over. Jesus’ death may have seemed like Satan triumphed, but in fact, Jesus overthrew the devil’s reign of tyranny with His death [Jn. 12:31]. The Great Accuser can accuse you no more [Rev. 12:10]. Therefore, for those who believe in Christ, Satan is finished.

But the devil is busily trying to rob you of your freedom that cost Christ so much. He wants to use your freedom to your detriment by tempting you to sin and fall into the slavery of sin. Satan wants you to lose grace by tempting you to remain in your sins and not turn away from them. He wants you to be secure in your sins and let your sins reign over you, so that you will not believe that in Jesus the reign of sin is over, that the reign of sin is finished.

Or, the evil one wants to deceive you to believe in Jesus but also look to your works. He wants you to say that yes Jesus died for me, but I also must do my part in order to be saved. For those that believes this, Christ is of no advantage for them [Gal. 5:2], because the Law is finished for those who are in Christ. If you do not believe that the Law is finished for you, if you do not accept Christ’s words, “It is finished,” you nullify His death and victory for you. You say that Christ’s death is not enough and the victory over the Law is not finished. Thus you fall under the judgment of the Law again, since you cannot fulfil it yourself.

On the other side of these first two tricks, the father of lies wants to accuse you of your past sins as if their guilt was not taken away from you by Jesus’ death. He wants you to look at your past sins and feel guilt, anxiety, fear, and false terrors. He wants you to think of Christ as your judge.

Instead of falling for these traps and wiles of the devil, of allowing sin to rule our lives, of looking to our good works, or looking at our sins, we should instead look only to Jesus. He fulfilled the Law for us. He performed the good work that saves us. He took the debt of our sins and paid it with His blood. He took the punishment for our sins and said, “It is finished.” Your good works do not save you, and in Christ, your sins do not condemn you. The reign of sin is over – it is finished. The reign of the Law is over – it is finished. And there is no condemnation for those in Jesus Christ – condemnation is finished. Christ was condemned for you, and now He is not your judge, but your Intercessor and Mediator. He did not come “into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him [Jn. 3:17].”

With all that Jesus accomplished, we can indeed say that it is a good day that we remember. Good Friday is the day that we remember the suffering and death of Jesus. It was a day that darkness appeared to have won. But when we understand what Jesus accomplished through His death, we see the power of God at work to save us; to redeem us; to pay the price of our debts. It is finished. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.