Friday, March 30, 2018

Sermon: Good Friday - 2018

30 March 2018

Text: John 18:1-19:42

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Hearing the biblical texts on Good Friday is a bit like walking into a heated discussion in the middle.  You have to figure out how we got here, and you don’t know how this is going to end.

But the fact of the matter is, for us Christians, we already know how it ends.  It’s next to impossible to preach a Good Friday sermon without “spoilers.”  So I’m going to “spoil” Good Friday for you right now.  Our Gospel lesson began with Jesus and His disciples in a garden, and ended with His burial in a tomb in a garden.  We heard anew of the betrayal, arrest, denial, trial, flogging, condemnation, the march to Golgotha, the crucifixion, the controversies involving the wording of the accusation and the confiscation of His garments, the meeting with Mary and John, our Lord’s death, and His entombment.

All of this happens before Sundown, before the high holy Sabbath, on that first and greatest Good Friday of all.  As our narrative ends, Jesus lies sleeping in the garden tomb.  And this is where we all go home at the end of the service.

But of course, the greatest spoiler of all is our Blessed Lord’s spoiling of Satan’s plan to rule the universe by stealth and spite.  For we all know that after Good Friday comes Easter Sunday, the Sunday of the Resurrection.  This is why our sadness and our grief are tempered with joy – even as we meditate upon our Lord’s agony and suffering, even as we ponder our own mortality and things to come upon us in this fallen world. 

It is because of this “spoiler” that we have the audacity to call this Friday “good.”  For we know what came before the end of this Holy Week, this week of redemption.  In the beginning, we began with another Holy Week, the Week of Creation.  There was another Good Friday in that first Holy Week of Creation – the sixth day when man was created from the dust of the ground, when life was breathed into him, and when his wife was crafted of the man’s own flesh, and the two of them lived in a garden.  “And it was very good,” declares the Lord.

But we know that the tempter, Satan, operating in the form of a serpentine liar, was to lead Adam and Eve astray, and bring corruption into the good garden.  The garden was no longer a place of abundant life, but a place where life competes for scarce resources, and where life struggles and dies.  Our good creation has become corrupted – and death is the greatest corruption of all.

And it is here where we step into the conversation after thousands of years of God’s meticulous plan to redeem mankind and to save the world through a New and Greater Adam.  On this Good Friday, the New Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, would surrender His breath of life and would be laid back into the dust of the earthen tomb, resting on the Sabbath day, having defeated Satan and death at the cross, and now awaiting the triumph of Easter morning’s garden discovery of the empty tomb.

Sin, death, and Satan have been spoiled by the ultimate spoiler of all, our Lord Jesus Christ.  And as Eve was created out of the flesh of her bridegroom that original Good Friday, so is the Church created out of the flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ when His flesh was nailed to the cross, and when His blood was shed upon the earth to renew its goodness. 

And just as Eve was the mother of all living, the New and Greater Eve, our mother that is the Church, has given us a new and eternal birth from the matrix of the baptismal font.  We are Eve’s children, and we are the Church’s children.  God has become our Father.  The Lord Jesus Christ has become our redeemer.  Satan has become our defeated enemy.

Yes, we know how it all ends.

And yet, we are still faced with many unknowns.  For we cannot see into our own immediate future.  Though our Lord has redeemed us by the cross, we still live, for the time being, in the corrupted world in our fallen flesh.  Even as our Lord endured the cross on His way to the resurrection, so do we, as followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our own crosses will come upon us in ways that are both expected and unexpected, and crosses are horrific.  The only way that we can endure them is by faith – the very faith that is a gift of God delivered to us in Word and Sacrament, the faith of Jesus as He endured the cross and the tomb, the faith given to us by His grace, mercy, and love.  It is the faith that grasps the Lord by the hand and refuses to let go, come what may.

For just as sure as the sun sets and rises again, so too does Sunday follow Friday.  So too does joy follow sadness.  So too does eternity follow time.  So too does life follow death.

And so we follow Jesus – from the garden to the garden.  We too are betrayed by people we trusted.  We too are bullied by the world, in some cases arrested for the sake of the Gospel.  We too are denied by friends who flee from us in times of trial.  We too are physically beaten down and condemned to die.  Along the march of this life, we are subjected to humiliations and degradations.  We bear the crosses laid upon our own shoulders, including false accusations and being deprived of things that are rightfully ours.  We struggle with family issues, and we too breathe our last and are buried back into the earth from which our human race came on the original Good Friday.

Enduring these struggles and bearing these crosses are not easy.  They are not trifles.  Our suffering is very real.  Even though we know how the narrative ends, we live in the present, and not in the future.  It is only by faith that we can endure what we must in this no-man’s land between the gardens.

And so even though we know Easter is coming, we still pause and meditate on the journey from the Garden of Eden to the Garden Tomb.  Though we anticipate the resurrection, we nevertheless meditate upon the cross.  For the cross of Jesus is what redeems us; the blood of Jesus is what cleanses us; the flesh of Jesus is what restores us; the death of Jesus is what revivifies us.  Our debt is paid.  Our sins are atoned for.  Our lives have been bought back.  Our narrative has been rewritten.  And we can live our lives under the cross with a knowing smile that sin, death, and the devil have been defeated.  We can go to our own tombs in the garden knowing that a New and Greater Garden awaits us.

So here we are once again, dear friends, here we are pondering the cross and being strengthened by the Word.  Here we are literally eating and drinking life, delivered to us by our Lord upon the cross, looking forward in faith to the resurrection.

We know how we got here, and we know how this ends.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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