Saturday, April 16, 2022

Spoken the truth of salvation. . .

Sermon for Good Friday Noonday, preached on Good Friday, April 15, 2022.

    We know the Passion of our Lord.  We hear it every year.  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all give us details about what happened on that Thursday and Friday.  We know the players: Judas and Peter, the priests and religious leaders, Barabbas and the crowd, Herod, Pilate and the Roman soldiers, the two thieves crucified on Jesus’ left and right; and we even know about Simon Cyrene who was enlisted to carry Jesus’ cross.  We know these men and the parts they played.  But there’s one man who I think often gets overlooked: Caiaphas the high priest.

We of course know of Caiaphas.  His name is recognizable, and he along with his father-in-law Annas, who was the former high priest, they obviously had a significant role in Jesus’ Passion.  John tells us that Annas was the high priest who presided over Jesus’ sham trial.  But the whole thing was Caiaphas’ idea.  John tells us, “It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people” (Jn 18:14).  The plot to get rid of Jesus, to have him murdered, it was all Caiaphas’ idea; and he shared that idea seven chapters earlier.  

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead the religious leaders knew they had to do something.  The Jews who came from Jerusalem to comfort Mary and Martha and who saw Jesus call Lazarus out of the tomb, they all came back to the city and were telling everyone what they’d seen; and people started believing in Jesus.  Seeing what was happening, the Pharisees and chief priest started to worry more.  They were worried about their standing and what the Romans might do.  They said to themselves, This man performs many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (Jn 11:47-48).  

The religious leaders were worried that they’d lose their honored place.  They feared that Rome wouldn’t use them anymore to keep the people of Israel in-line.  Seeing Jesus’ popularity growing they feared for their own; and so, Caiaphas had an idea.  He said, “It is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” (Jn 11:50).  It was better for Jesus to die so that they could save face.  It was better for Jesus to be murdered so that they could retain their social status and position.  This plot was a selfish scheme…but it was exactly God’s plan of salvation.  

What’s interesting about what Caiaphas said is that God led him to say it.  When Caiaphas spoke those words, he intended them to be self-serving; but God’s purpose was salvation.  John tells us that when Caiaphas spoke his murderous plot that “he didn’t say [it] of his own accord, but being high priest … he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for [Israel] only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (Jn 11:51-52).  Caiaphas didn’t know it, but he was speaking God’s plan of salvation for all people.  When he said it was expedient that one man should die for the people he unknowingly spoke the truth.  

God’s plan of salvation had always been the death of His Son on the cross for you and for all people.  That was His promise back in the Garden when He cursed Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers, He shall crush your head and you shall strike His heel” (Gn 3:15).  This is what He pointed to and demonstrated when He gave Israel the sacrificial system.  On the Day of Atonement one goat was sacrificed for the sins of all the people; and this is what John the Baptist clearly proclaimed when he pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).  It is good that one man should die for the people, because that is God’s plan of salvation for you.  That is how God rescues you from sin, death, and Satan.  And that’s why we call today “good.”  

Today is Good Friday not because what happened on it is something we’re happy about.  Hearing everything our Lord suffered during His Passion: thinking about the mockery and beatings, the crown of thorns pressed into His brow, the nails driven into His hands and feet, the 6 hours He hung naked on the cross struggling to breathe; these don’t bring smiles to our faces.  No one would call these good.  But with faith, knowing what our Lord was accomplishing, knowing that by His grace we’re saved, knowing that God sacrificed His own Son to atone for our sin, we see the good in Christ’s death.  

Jesus paid the price for your sins.  His innocent suffering and death atoned for it.  He satisfied God’s wrath and righteous judgment with His death so that you wouldn’t suffer that punishment.  He did it all for you.  He willingly sacrificed Himself so that God the Father could have you as His child.  Jesus’ sacrifice fulfills God’s promised salvation and He gives you this salvation through His Word, through His Baptism, and through His Supper.  This is good.  

When Caiaphas spoke those words, when he said it was “expedient that one man should die for the people,” he had no idea how true those words were.  He spoke those words with selfish intent, but God gave them with sacrificial love.  Unknowingly Caiaphas was speaking God’s plan of salvation, but with faith, we hear them and know the saving truth.  Jesus fulfilled these words for us and for all people.  He willingly died upon the cross suffering for our sin.  He is our Savior, sacrificing His life for ours.  All of this is according to God’s plan.  All of this is so that you might be a child of God.  All of this is your salvation.  All of this is good.  In Jesus’ name…Amen. 

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