Monday, March 28, 2016

What is finished. . .

Sermon for Good Friday evening, preached on March 25, 2016, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (Jn 19:30).

Christ spoke 7 last words as He hung on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34); to the repentant criminal beside Him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43); to Mary, His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” and to John, His beloved disciple, “Behold, your mother!” (Jn 19:26, 27); My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46 & Mk 15:34); “I thirst” (Jn 19:28); “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Lk 23:46); and finally, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). This word, “It is finished,” may be short, literally a single word in the Greek, but this one short word proclaims so much. With this one word, Christ declares the war with Satan, sin, and death finished. With this one word, Jesus announces the work of your salvation finished.

The war with Satan, sin, and death began in the Garden of Eden. In the paradise that God created, Satan shot first. He was crafty in his attack. He came to our first parents and offered them lies. He promised them that they could be like God. He assured them that they wouldn’t die, but guaranteed them life, something that they already had. He convinced them to disobey, to go against God and His Word. He tempted them with the simple. All they had to do was eat a piece of fruit, the fruit from a forbidden tree...and Adam and Eve gave in. They quickly fell to this attack without much of a fight. Satan won that battle. The devil conquered our parents with his lies, and he happily brought sin and death into God’s very good creation...and we’ve been battling with them ever since.

We continue to fight with Satan, sin, and death. Every day they make their advances against us. Satan tempts us just as he did our first father and mother. He offers us sweet sounding lies, promising us things that appear to be good, but aren’t. He attacks us from the outside, with the simple pleasures of the world around us. He convinces us that we can have control of our lives and that we can know everything. He persuades us to turn our backs on God and His Word, making ourselves our own god.

Sin strikes at us from within. It’s made its bunker in our hearts and urges us to wickedness, and we willingly oblige and surrender. We give in to all sorts of evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, covetousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness...and we enjoy it. We find pleasure in our sinful actions, and there are times when even we praise them and call them good.

Death beats us down every day. It takes its toll on our bodies, doling out physical pain with sickness and disease, aches and injuries. Death claims our loved ones, taking them away from us, inflicting hurts that cut us to the soul. Death makes itself commonplace in our life and we give in to it. We accept it as just a natural part of life and even call it good, wanting it to come soon to end suffering.

Every single day Satan, sin, and death battle against us. Every day they continue to fight. This is a war that seems like it will never end...but it will, and the outcome has already been decided. The deciding battle has already been fought. On the hill called Golgotha, from the cross, Christ Jesus claimed His victory. He declared the war finished. Satan, sin, and death are defeated!

When the devil overcame our parents, God responded. He would not lose His creation. He cursed the lying serpent and promised victory over him. With the very first proclamation of the Gospel, He said to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen 3:15, NIV). God put the devil on notice. He would defeat him. He would crush him. Through the woman’s seed, through Jesus Christ His only Son, born of the Virgin Mary, God would win the deciding battle. He would win the war and reverse all the sin and death that Satan brought into this world. But this victory would come at a cost. In the defeating of Satan, sin, and death, the Savior would suffer and die.

This is what the prophet Isaiah sings about in his Suffering Servant Song. Speaking about Christ, the Servant, the Savior, he says, “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Is 53:5). The One who would bring us peace, the One who would heal us of our sin, the One who would save us from our enemies had to be wounded and crushed. Jesus had to die in order to overcome Satan, sin, and death. Christ had to die in order to save us.

As Jesus hung on the cross, Satan must have been giddy, thinking victory was his. He must have thought he delivered the final blow. The Son of God, the seed of the woman who was supposed to defeat him was defeated, He was killed, crucified on a cross. The devil has won...but this can’t be, because Christ from the cross declared His victory.

“It is finished” (Jn 19:30). The war with Satan is done. The fight with sin and death is done. They’ve all been defeated. It’s over. What appeared to be Jesus’ defeat was His victory. Satan, who overcame us with a tree in the Garden, has now been overcome by Christ and the tree of His cross. Jesus has won, the spoils are His. He has won you and gives you the prizes of forgiveness, life, and salvation. This is why we call this Friday Good, because on this day, our Savior has conquered your enemies and earned for you everlasting life.

You are the spoils of this war. God fights with Satan for you, and He has won for you. He has rescued you from your enemies. No longer do they have power of you, you’re free. God has defeated Satan. All the work that Satan has done to try and steal you away from God, Christ Jesus has reversed.

God has defeated your sin. The sin that has bunkered down in your hearts He has overcome and forgiven. Christ’s wounds on the cross have paid for your transgressions. God has redeemed you and freed you with the blood of His only Son and He has created a new heart within you, a heart that wants to follow after God and His Word, a heart that relies on and trusts in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy.

God has defeated your death with His. He has overcome it. Death is never a good thing, it is a sign that there is something wrong within God’s creation. But through Jesus’ death, God creates life, everlasting life. In your baptism, you received this everlasting life because you’re connected to Christ’s victorious life-giving death on the cross. No longer must you fear death, because in faith you have the confident hope of everlasting life.

Christ has defeated Satan, sin, and death with His cross. They have lost the war; however, they still come after us. They still continue to fight. Satan won’t admit defeat. Sin will continue to push us to wickedness; and death will still try to steal our hope in everlasting life. But all their advances are futile, because the war has already been decided, it is finished. Christ Jesus, your Savior has won. He has overcome these three, and gives you the prize of everlasting life. In Jesus’ name...Amen.

1 comment:

Dr.D said...

"takes a tole" ??