Monday, April 5, 2010

It is finished.... but it is not over.

Sermon Preached for Good Friday evening, April 2, 2010.

    The name of the city is Jerusalem... Jerushalom – the city of peace.  But today there is no peace in the city.  Just outside its gates a war is being waged in the greatest battle of good and evil. Every where we look what we see is turned upside down.  God’s marvelous creation is fallen, demons dance in the hearts and minds of men, sin has toppled the hopes and dreams of every generation, and death has its strangle hold on every life.  It is named the city of peace but there is no peace, no hope, and no life there.  The sun shines but darkness reigns.  The clouds and sky are supposed to be an image of calm but the tension in the air cannot be denied.  History is being forever changed in this moment.  Even those who have no clue what is going on, know something is going on.
    The center of it all is a paradox... the paradox of an innocent Man condemned for the guilty.  But this is no travesty of justice, no slip up of law and order.  This is what the Father has planned from the beginning of time itself.  The very same Father who once called His Son His beloved, with whom He is well pleased, reveals why this Son was incarnate.  He gave us His Son not for life but for death.  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob... the God of Moses, Aaron, and Joshua... the God of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel... the God of Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna... now delivers upon His promise but at what great cost?!  His Son is stretched in cruel torture, He is pinned to the crossbeams of hate by the sharp nails of all our sin.  His bones ache with guilt not His own. His soul suffers great agony that does not belong to Him. Finally His heart ceases to pump, His side is split open and His life poured out upon the ground.
    Where is your peace, Jerusalem?  Where is the shalom a world longs to know?  Can it be that peace is born of suffering, that peace is the fruit of pain, that peace is born of death?
    Standing in the shadow of Mt. Zion, we behold Him who is Lord of life, but now He is dead. With Him is the Virgin, highly favored of the Lord and the most blessed of all women, who stands with a spear piercing her heart, as she sees Her Son suffer and die.  This is the Son whose birth and life had caused her to ponder and contemplate the Word of the Lord.  This is a great paradox.  Creation heralds the birth of peace and He dies in violence.  A virgin who should not have a Son watches Him die.  The one and only innocent man dies for the guilty.  The Lord of life who created all things is laid in a grave.
    In the shadow you can steal hear the bleating of the Passover lambs which were slaughtered in the Temple.  Though the Passover has been eaten, there is no silence of these lambs and their terrible cries point to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  This is what rebellion costs.  This is the price of sin and selfishness.  This is the marker of death that now demands payment.  The earth quakes.  The Temple veil no longer hides the mercy seat of God.  The graves of the saints are opened.  A centurion soldier says out loud what the faithful dare not whisper, “Surely this was the Son of God.”
    But things are not as they seem.  In this paradox, God is at work in Christ to put the world back together again. He who made it once good now makes it good again.  The Christ of God has finished the work He came to do.  His dead Body is returned to the earth by a broken-hearted Mary, a no-longer-fearful Nicodemus, and an emboldened Joseph of Arimathea. It is finished. The work of redemption that required an all sufficient sacrifice is now complete. God’s justice is satisfied. His wrath is turned away.  God’s love and mercy have triumphed in this awesome image of death.  The fires of hell are quenched. The serpent's head lies crushed in the place of the skull just as He promised.  Now there is no one left to accuse you, no one left to name your sins, no on left to judge you worthy of death.  It is finished.
    Surely this Man is the Son of God... The one who bore the weight of our cross as His own, the one who died our death as if it were His own, the one who willingly exchanged His life for ours as if this were fair.  The one who is laid into the borrowed tomb to await the hope of that glorious day; He is a sleeping lion who will be born again. For things at the cross are not what they seem.  It is finished but it is not over.
    For one long tormented Sabbath whose hours dragged on mercilessly, Mary's heart stayed broken. To all the world what happened on Golgotha has the look of evil’s triumph.  Where is justice?  Where is victory?  It would seem that this was Satan’s finest hour. That is what appears on the surface, but even the devil is not free; he is God's devil, as Luther reminds us.  The good and gracious will of Father is always done no matter how it might appear.  It is finished but it is not over.  No, indeed.  It is not over.  But only faith can see under the surface and call this Friday “Good.” The Lion sleeps tonight but only that He may rise again.
     So in the end, we are not ashamed, not afraid, not victimized... No, we are emboldened by the cross.  We give thanks for the cross of Jesus Christ. We raise it up as our banner of hope, we kneel before it in humble gratitude for all its gift, and we rejoice in the fruit of salvation this tree has born... for us and for the whole world. The cross is our life and our foundation, our security and our peace.  Yes, Jerusalem is the city of peace... But... it is a peace born of suffering, paid for in blood, that passes all understanding, and offers to mortal sinners the victory trophy we could never earn.  Today is a great day.  And you know the rest of the story. The Lion of Judah is not dead. He only sleeps, a sleep from which He will awaken in three days in triumph.  His tomb is only borrowed because His life was willingly surrendered and will be taken up again.  He who opened death, has opened life and heaven to all believers.
    And today happens not because of duty that must be done or destiny that must be faced.  Today is God’s judgment in love saying to each one of you, “You were worth it all to Me, worth every thorn, every lash of the whip, every pound of a nail... You were worth it all.”   Yes, my friends, It is finished. But it is not over...  Amen

No comments: