Sermon for Good Friday Tenebrae

Just in case you wanted to spend a few more minutes meditating on the death of our Lord:

Thus says the Lord: What have I done to you, O My people, and wherein have I offended you? Answer Me. For I have raised you up out of the prison house of sin and death, and you have delivered up your Redeemer to be scourged. For I have redeemed you from the house of bondage, and you have nailed your Savior to the cross. For I have conquered all your foes, and you have given Me over and delivered Me to those who persecute Me. For I have fed you with My Word and refreshed You with living water, and you have given Me gall and vinegar to drink. What more could have been done for My vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? My people, is this how you thank your God?  O My people.

The Good Friday reproaches. Used to rebuke the very people who have come to church to hear of the suffering and death of the savior. And yet, such vile pronouncements against even the faithful are meet right and salutary on this day, because the faithful are still sinners. Those who come on Good Friday to hear of the suffering and death of the Lord do so knowing that he died for their sins. The response to the reproaches is a verse also used for funerals, as the casket is carried to the open grave, “Holy Lord God, holy and mighty God, holy and most merciful Redeemer; God eternal, leave us not to bitter death. O Lord, have mercy.”

On a day like today, what more is there for us to say, but Lord have mercy. Your punishment was visited upon the sinless son of God. Your sins placed on his shoulders, your death accounted as paid in his death.

Oh All ye that pass by, behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto his sorrow. Today is seen as a day of law and of judgment. And yet, it is more than that, for it is GOOD Friday. It is the day when the penalty you owe is paid. When the death you face is done away with, when the condemnation you deserve is put on another.

We preach Christ crucified. Today we remember Christ crucified as on no other day. The altar stripped, the church unadorned. The few remaining things veiled, covered in funeral black. This is not the day for wild celebrating, but it is the day for somber solemn, and yes, joyful reflection.

We misuse Good Friday if we make it all about sin and suffering. There is a place for that, and that is certainly a part of today. But if that is all there is, then such meditations, as laudable as they are, actually lead us away from Christ. Such reflection, if taken too far, attempts can negate the great gift given you in Jesus death.

Today isn’t just the horror show of blood and brutality. It’s not just a day to celebrate mankind’s brilliance at keeping our humanity repressed in our quest to destroy any of the good things God gives to us.

The Gospels, as frankly as they record the account of Jesus death, don’t spend a lot of time detailing those things. For them it is not the gore or the pain that is the glory of the cross, it is the shame endured by Christ. Crucifixion was a shameful way to die. Exposed, hung between heaven and earth, your crimes placed on a placard for all to see. And yet Jesus scorned the shame of the cross.  He was not ashamed to be killed in this way, because the foolishness of God is wiser than mans wisdom, the weakness of God is stronger than mans strength, and the shame of God is more glorious and honorable than man’s glory and honor.

Jesus was crucified, it is true. But he was crucified for the forgiveness of your sins. If you only meditate and wail about the suffering and injustice, then you are like the women who lined the way, and to whom Jesus said, “Weep not for me, but for yourselves.” For if we only weep and wail and mourn, then we are like the disciples whom Jesus had to set straight on the Road to Emaus. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Today we hear of the death of our Lord. But not for the sake of weeping. These things are written so that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. So that you would believe that in his death you have forgiveness of sins. So that you would believe that you are no longer Satan’s child, but you belong to God. You are his by virtue of the suffering and death of Christ, who went in your place to the judgment. Not out of compulsion, but in love for you.

Jesus last word on the cross in Greek “Tetelestai”  It is finished. Not just Jesus saying, “My life is over” Jesus announces that his death has done it. The sacrifice is complete. The blood sprinkled on the altar has atoned for your sin. It is done. Once and for all. There is nothing more that is needed to save you. Jesus has done it all, he has given all that can be given, all that needs to be given for you and for your salvation.

God created the world and called it good.  That good was lost in the fall of man. Today, that good is restored. Jesus has recreated the world. He has redeemed it. He has taken the sin away. And now he goes to his Sabbath rest. We see him again on the first day of the week. That, in and of itself, shows how very different Christ’s death is from every other. Not long to wait until the resurrection. Not long at all. On the third day death will be over. The cross always leads to the tomb. Not in the sense that “The paths of glory lead but to the grave”. In this case, the tomb was full, but it is empty. Tonight we leave off at the tomb, in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.  Today is the day of your redemption. It is also the day of your death, the day of your burial. His body goes into the grave but will not stay. So also your body will be placed in the grave, but death will not hold you.  You’ve seen the power of death working on others. You know it will come to you. And yet, tonight you hear of Jesus death, and you are comforted, because he has already blazed the trail, he has taken the path you must take. He has promised that where he has gone you will go. Through death into life. Tonight we stop at the burial. Just as we do for any of our loved ones. But the story does not end there, for Jesus, or for your loved ones, or for you. We wait, in hope. We wait. In the name of Jesus, we wait.

Amen.

 

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