Have a Great Friday
This Friday goes by many names. It's been called Day of the Lord's Passion; Day of Absolution; Day of the Cross; and simply Preparation. In the Western church which we're descendants of it's generally called Good Friday. In the Eastern it's called Great Friday. Is this Friday great to you or is every Friday pretty much great because it's the end of your work week? English writer Dorothy Sayers said that neither Herod, Caiaphas, Judas, nor Pilate insulted Jesus with apathy or boredom. This final indignity was left for pious Christians to inflict. Sayers said, "'[A]n honest writer would be ashamed to treat a nursery tale as you [Christians] have treated the greatest drama of history'" (in Harms, Power From the Pulpit, 47). Just how great is this Friday to you?
This Friday is great because it's God's Friday. Early on in the Western Church today was God's Friday. This is the day where God shows He's absolutely righteous. What happens when a parent passes over one of their child's sins repeatedly? What happens when a politician continually wiggles out from under the law? What happens when a judge lets a repeat offender walk? It's not fair! It's wrong!
God had been passing over sins for centuries. As you say each Sunday, you really do deserve "temporal and eternal punishment" for your sins. You deserve to be born physically even as you are conceived spiritually: blind, dead, an enemy of God's. But that didn't happen. For centuries God bore Satan's accusation that He was unfair, unjust, unrighteous because no one was punished to pay for their sins. To this day, people still fling that accusation in the God's face. If they were God, everyone would get what was coming to them.
Today is God's Friday because today God shows the world that He is righteous. In Psalm 130 we chant, "If Thou Lord should mark iniquities, O Lord who shall stand?" God did mark iniquities; He kept a tally of every sin ever committed, and every mark was against Jesus. God had promised that no sins would be left unpaid for, no sinners left unpunished. Today He keeps His promise. Do you think it strange that God should be so concerned for His Word? Do you really think God could have just forgotten about sins, about their payment? Earthly kings care about their word. King William had promised safe passage to another king; William's grandson violated his promise. King William condemned his own grandson to death in his presence. If a sinful earthly king regarded his word so highly, how much more the holy, heavenly King?
The king's grandson died for his own sin; the Son of the heavenly King died for the sins of the world. On God's Friday, God shows you what He thinks of your sins and sinfulness. It would not be sacrilegious to say He is mad as hell. For centuries God had turned a blind eye to sins. Sin after sin the God who sees all didn't see. Lust after greed after lie after worry God passed over without making anyone pay for it. Not anymore. Today is God's Friday; today God gets His due.
You've all met people who think because of how wretched life is hell must be on earth. For one day, for 3 hours it was. On God's Friday the God who was everywhere could not be found by Jesus. On God's Friday, the God whose mercy endures forever ceased to be merciful to His Son. For 3 hours, the Father orphaned His Son and left Him totally without hope, grace, or mercy. What should happen to us sinners, if the Father is willing to strike His dear Son this brutally, this mercilessly? If you had been present and seen King William kill his own grandson, would you not tremble for your sins against the king? Yet where's the trembling? Where's the fearing? Where's the mourning? Don't you care that your sins caused this?
You ought to go away from God's Friday beating your breast or at least with you head bowed in shame. Your sins, your guilt, your apathy caused the whipping, beating, nailing, suffering and dying of God the Son. God ought to get you for the pain, the agony, the hell you caused Jesus. Today's the day for God to do it because Great Friday is God's Friday, but thanks be to God it's also Good Friday. It's thought that in the Western Church what started out as God's Friday came to be popularly called Good Friday and being Good Friday it really can be considered great for sinners.
In marriage spouses says, "With this ring I thee wed," on Good Friday Jesus says to sinners "with this cross I thee wed." There is a stone crucifix statue that shows Jesus with one arm free from the cross reaching down and putting it around a person. That's what happens on Good Friday. Today is the day that Jesus purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the Devil. He did the purchasing not with gold or silver but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. The reason Jesus could bear and pay for your sins is because He had done of His own. His life was holy and precious; therefore, His suffering and death were innocent.
You have to make a turn here. Turn from lamenting that your sins caused Jesus' grief. It's true; the first work of the cross is to bring torment to your conscience because of your sins even as Jesus was tormented in body and soul by your sins. But if you stop there, you have in effect climbed up on the cross with Jesus; you are saying that when Jesus declared today, "It is finished," it really wasn't. You've gone from being apathetic about His suffering and death to thinking His suffering and death are inadequate unless your suffering is added.
No that makes God's Friday bad not good. God from eternity willed His Son to go to the cross for the sins of the world. Isaiah says He was pleased to crush Him in order to redeem it. So tell me; when you've purchased something for a large price do you normally resent what you've bought? Don't you normally treasure it? And so God treasures each and every sinner His Son died, suffered, and cried for. If Psalm 56 says that God puts each tear we cry in a bottle and records why it fell in His book, how much more does the Father treasure the tears His Son cried to redeem you not to mention the drops of sweat and blood?
On this Good Friday hear not just the Law that each one of your sins caused a drop of blood or sweat, or teardrop to fall. No, hear the Gospel that this holy tear of Jesus right here washed away that particular sin that stained you; that bead of sweat right there popped out of Jesus' brow to carry away those disgusting lusts that pollute your head; and this drop of blood right here; this tiny drop which is more than enough to pay for the sins of the whole world because it's the blood of God, this tiny drop paid off your debt of sin that the Devil, others, and your conscience say can never be paid.
Today is Good Friday because with this cross Jesus weds us for good. He claims our sins and sinfulness as His own, and He wills to us His blood and righteousness. It's not for nothing that the Holy Spirit tells you that out of the dead body of Jesus the spear brought a sudden flow of blood and water. It's not for nothing that St. John comes back to the water, the blood and the Spirit in I John. He says that the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood all testify that " God has given us eternal life in his Son.
The first part of the sermon pointed out that this was God's Friday because God showed Himself righteous by punishing Jesus for your sins. In short, the first part of the sermon focused you on the fact that you caused Jesus to be stabbed with that spear. The second part of this sermon focuses on what came out of Jesus' Body: Water and Blood. This Friday that is God's is also Good because this is where Baptismal fonts and Communion cups are filled for good; i.e. both for your good and for good meaning once and for all.
To assure you, to prove to you, to testify to you that your sins are certainly all paid for the Holy Spirit points you to something physical and tangible: the Water and the Blood that flowed from Jesus' open side. That Water and Blood went somewhere. They didn't just fall to the ground wasted, never to be seen again. No, Jesus instituted Sacraments so this Water and Blood of His can be in, with, and under you for good even to the end of the ages.
Baptism is where the Water that flowed from Jesus' side is sprinkled on your body and soul washing away what your body has done and your soul feels guilty of. Communion is where the Blood that flowed from Jesus' side is given to the dying bodies and sick souls of sinners to give them not just forgiveness but life and salvation. As often as you remember your Baptism, as often as you eat this Body-Bread and drink this Blood-Wine the Good benefits of God's Friday are given to you not begrudgingly but with great gladness.
But before you can go to the Font or Altar for the Water or the Blood you have to go to Calvary and this Great Friday called not only God's but Good. It's Good because this is where guilty men like Barabbas are changed for good. We don't know what happened to Barabbas, the guilty man who went completely free because Jesus took his place. There is no reliable church history to tell us. The 1951 novel titled Barabbas left what happened to him up in the air. But he has Barabbas, quite naturally I think, going out to Calvary to see what should have happened to him. He sees the innocent Jesus nailed to the cross in his place and thinks, "If a man set foot in this potent and accursed place part of him would surely remain and he could be forced back there, never to leave it again" (Barabbas, 2).
Yes! you set foot here, and you will forever be marked by the Water and the Blood that flowed from Jesus' side, and you will forever be drawn to return to this cross by means of that Water and Blood. Why? because here is the final answer to the sins and sinfulness that relentlessly hound you. Here at the cross all promises to do better and all excuses for having done worse are drowned in Water and swept away in Blood. This is very good; it's God's idea, and it makes this a great Friday for you. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Good Friday (20100402); John 19: 31-34