Saturday, April 15, 2017

Where He came from. . . Where He was going. . .

Sermon preached for Good Friday Noon by the Rev. Larry A. Peters

In John 13, not part of the Passion, but rather, part of the Maundy Thursday foot washing, a line stuck out at me.  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hand, that He had come from God and was going back to God. . . It is exactly this confidence that emboldened Jesus to do what no flesh and blood person would do without fear – suffer and die in our place upon the cross.

What love is this that our Lord should suffer in our place and die the death that was ours to die and then freely give us all the fruits of His righteous living, righteous dying, and righteous eternity?  That is the question that plagues us.  Here on earth we do not know this kind of love except in books and dreams.  That is, until Jesus gives this love a face, a shape, and a heart. 

But underneath this love is what Jesus knew as He was preparing to be betrayed into the hands of sinners, suffer, and die for us.  He knew the Father had given Him all things and that He came from God the Father and would return to the right hand of the Father.  This was His confidence and it led Him to the obedient suffering that gave us new and everlasting life, freed from the guilt and shame of our sins, and clothed in the gift of a righteousness that belongs to another.

But even as we acknowledge this about Jesus, we who sit here at noon on the Friday we call Good, cannot help but see the parallel for our own lives.  For we are not as the spectators who did not know or understand what was happening.  The Spirit has taught us to see Jesus, to trust in Him, to have faith.  The same Spirit has led us to repentance and given us grace to release our sins to the blood that cleanses us.  And with this has come new knowledge to sustain us in a topsy turvy world where wickedness wins and righteousness loses. 

The Father has given all things to us.  Did you hear that?  Because of Christ, we have been given all things in Christ.  This is the fruitful suffering that paid the price of sin, that delivered us from its punishment, that set us free from our captivity to the devil, and that released us from the weight of guilt that held us down.

The Father has given us all things in Christ.  We did not earn it or merit it or deserve it but this love born of the cross delivers the unworthy and undeserving, who have only their sins and no righteousness of their own.  We have been gifted into salvation, gifted with the forgiveness of sins, and gifted with the life death cannot undo.

We knew we came from God.  Everyone knows this – from the denying atheist to the indifferent agnostic.  Our souls were created to know God from whom we come.
And those souls will not rest until we invent a fake god to satisfy us for a time or until we know the real God who bestows upon us eternity.  Man is doomed to invent fake religions to satisfy the heart created to know God until God revealed Himself fully and finally to us.  That is the fruit of this Friday we call Good.  We knew we came from God and now the God from whom we come reveals His face to us – the face of mercy for those who do not deserve it and grace to those too shamed to ask for it.  This is the power of the cross.  It shows us the face of the God who made us and this face is love.

And we know we are going back to God.  Now we do.  Because of Good Friday we do.  Before the sacrifice was paid, the debt of sin erased, and the path of salvation paved in blood, we might hope for an eternal home for God but we could not know it for sure.  Now in Christ we know it.  Sin cannot separate us from the love of God and neither can death.  That is what Christ has done.  He has given us the assurance we longed for and the confidence of that we do not see.  We came from God and now, in the wake of the cross, we are going back to God.

Christ is the author and pioneer, who has cut the trail through life and death into the presence of the Father.  That is what Good Friday tells us.  Christ knew that the Father had given Him all things, that He came from the Father and that He would return to the right hand of the Father.  And for the joy set before Him He endured the cross and scorned its shame.  He knew the outcome, the end.

Well, dear friends in Christ, the Father has given all things to YOU in Christ.  You came from the Father and now Christ has paved the way for you to return to the Father.  And for the joy set before you, what are YOU willing to endure?  We are not the weak who must be placated nor are we the fragile who must be sheltered.  We belong to Christ.  In His weakness we are strong.  His righteousness covers us.  He shows us who we are and who we will be.  He is with us now in this life and forever in the life to come.

So do not cower in fear or surrender to the power of terror.  Do not give into the temptation of doubt or the despair of sorrow.  You belong to the Lord.  For that is also the message of Good Friday.  The God who has moved heaven and earth for you will not now surrender you to your enemies or abandon you in the face of trouble.  Even in the hour of your death, God is with you, bringing you to be with Jesus and delivering to you the fulfillment of His promise of today, of eternity, of joy, and of perfect peace.

Christian, do not be afraid.  The Father has given you all things in Christ.
He has assured you that you were made in His image and created for His glory.  When sin deprived you of this gift, He sent His one and only Son to suffer and die to pay for your sin and to give you life that death cannot steal.  You are His and He will take you to be where He is that you may be His own forever.

Just last Sunday the Coptic Christians in Egypt has their Palm Sunday shattered by the violence of terrorists who destroyed churches and killed more than 50.  Do you know where those Copts are today and and where they will be tomorrow, and Easter Sunday?  They will be in Church.  They will leave their homes in the face of the threats against them and they will gather in the name of the crucified Lord to rejoice in what His death has accomplished.

So you who live in so much better circumstances, do not let threats steal your confidence, fears steal your hope, or troubles dampen your joy.  The Father has given you all things in Christ.  You came from Him and He brings you through sin to forgiveness, covers you with Christ’s own righteousness, and in Him you will pass through death to everlasting life.  This is why we are here.  May this hope not only inform our hearts and strengthen our faith but instill in us courage for the journey.  Our comfort lies not in feelings but in blood shed and death killed.  This is what Christ has done for us.  Amen.

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