Sermon for Good Friday Noon, March 30, 2018.
John put the cleansing of the temple early in his Gospel record. It was and is the shape of things to come. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them. He did not come to do away with temple worship but to become the temple and the lamb. By turning over the tables of the moneychangers and by setting free the animals penned up to be used in the sacrifices of the Temple, Jesus was intentionally preventing anything from competing with His own sacrifice. The charge laid against Jesus was that He claimed He could rebuild the temple in three days. Jesus was intentionally turning the attention from a building of stone to His own flesh given for the life of the world.
So no more would the bleating of the Passover lambs be heard as they were slaughtered in the Temple. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and He stands silent before His accusers. No more would the temple be served by priests who had to cleanse themselves before they could cleanse the people from their sin. Christ is the priest whose perfect righteousness is big enough to cover every sinner. No more would a veil hide the altar from view. Torn from top to bottom, Christ is exposed, the altar of the cross is laid bare – in full view of a whole world. Jerusalem, the city of shalom, the city of peace, is the location of the worst violence the world ever saw – the innocent dies for the guilty and the holy one for sinners. Christ has come to establish peace and that peace comes at the cost of His own blood.
The old is undone by Him who comes to fulfill it and to establish a new order, a new covenant in His blood. How strange this is!! Here on the Friday of death we have named “Good” Friday, the great paradox is laid before us. It is not as we had expected. It is radically new. It does not conform to reason nor does it ask from us that we comprehend it. Simply that we believe. A virgin can conceive and bear a son. The innocent has come to pay for the sins of the guilty. The God who cannot die, lies mortally wounded and dying before you on the cross.
“Behold the man,” said Pilate. For that is all Pilate saw. He was a man, a man who did not deserve the death that the Jews cried out for but still just a man. He was a man, a man strange and different from other men who would have sold their souls to the devil to escape death but still a man. “Behold the man,” said Pilate when they brought Jesus to him. In a strange twist, Pilate becomes more than judge and executioner. He becomes truth teller and prophet. “Behold your king,” he says. Crowned with thorns, wounded for the transgressions of His people, and marked for death. “Behold your king.” But they will have none of it. “We have no king but Caesar,” they answered. But Pilate got them. On the cross it said “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” He meant the charge as insult but it is the truest of words. Jesus is the King of the Jews.
What a day it is! Israel’s King hangs lifeless upon a cross. From His side blood and water flows. And it washes Jew and Gentile alike clean. It fills the cup that we are to drink. It was the mark of death but it becomes the means of life. What a day it is!
Mary was foretold. A sword would pierce her, heart and soul. “Woman behold your son,” He says. And the words went clear through her. Jesus was no longer simply her Son but now her Lord. She pondered everything from the first visit of the angel and his mind numbing word. The pondering did not end. For scarcely had she begun to think what this word meant when it was finished and her son gave up His spirit.
A cross becomes the symbol of life. A cemetery becomes the garden of hope. And God has raised up sons and daughters from stones. Everything He said He did. Everything He did was said before He did it. Here is glory more than the world has ever seen. Here is the dawn of a day that will not end in night, of life that triumphed in death so that the dead might live, of the heel bruised so that the serpent’s head might be forever crushed. Here is the Friday we dare to call good. Here is the death that beckons us to look and see. Here is the seed planted into the soil of the earth that it might bear us up as fruit for eternity.
Behold the man. Behold your king. The man of sorrows acquainted with grief. He does for us what we should have done for ourselves but could not. He seems the weak victim who is powerless to stop it all but He is strong enough so that it will not be stopped until His blood cleanses us from all our sin and His death ends the reign of death and His life is lived in the dead whom death can no more claim.
We mark poison with the skull and cross bones. Here is Calvary, Golgotha, the place of the skull. But it not poison. It is medicine. And you are called her to drink in what Christ has done so that it may fill your sin-sick body and heal you. It is medicine that we would pay for with our lives but God gives freely and without charge.
So, dear friends, do not pass this cross unheeding. Do not count other things greater than the glory that shines from it. It is not over. It is just begun. He has drunk of the cup the Father gave Him and drunk it down to the end. He has been baptized into the baptism the Father gave Him and its bitterness is done. Your salvation is complete and the sacrifice is paid. And your life has just begun. Amen.