Saturday, April 19, 2014

Death does not take Him... He takes death!

Sermon for Good Friday Noon, preached on Friday, April 18, 2014.

    In John 10:17-18 Jesus insists that no one takes His life from Him but He lays it down.  In other words, Jesus is not some unwitting victim of forces and powers beyond His control.  He is in charge of His destiny.  Death did not take Him; He took death.  We come here today to marvel at the One who took on the enemy that we run from as fast and far as we can.
    Jesus died.  He died willingly – not as one who loves death but as one who loves us more than death.  Death was His choice.  Death was His mission.  Death was the purpose of His life.  Death was the goal of the mission He was incarnate to undertake.  He faces up to the death we run from and He bears the full burden of the weight of sin none of us wants to carry.
    Dying was His choice.  He died the death that was ours to die.  He chose to redeem us over preserving His life.  He chose to pay the full debt of our sin even when the price of that debt was His own life in suffering on the cross.  This was His choice. Death did not take Him.  He took down death.
    Jesus died and won.  He did not win some moral victory – like the hero who goes down to defeat for His principles.  No, this was not some moral victory over sin but a real victory.  He disarmed the powers of darkness. He silenced the great accuser.  He turned the weapons of the devil back on himself.  He won us from death, from sin, from captivity, from fear...  He did not win to prove something to Himself or to the Father but for us.  He died because we have no choice but to die.  He paid for our sin because we cannot pay the cost of our redemption.
    This was no temporary victory – not some momentary win only to be undone by something later.  His victory is eternal.  So our Lord steals from the devil the power of death by taking up residence in the grave.  He marches into hell itself in order to take from Satan the keys of death and the grave.
    Jesus begs no sympathy from us.  He does not ask from us that marvel at what He has done.  He does not want our pity for the pain He endured for us.  All He asks of us is faith – faith to believe in what He has done, in the power of His victory to set us free, and in the new life we live right now.  All He asks of us is that we believe in His death that gives us life and that we lay aside all attempts to add to or replace what He has done with our own flawed and failed efforts.  All He asks of us is that we trust in this mercy and in this redemption.  Death did not take Jesus.  Jesus took death.  There is no gospel so sweet, no gift so great...  Our Lord is no unwilling or unwitting victim but the Lord of life who became the Lord of death as well – all for us, all to forgive us, and all to give us life stronger than death.  Amen.

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