Sermon for Good Friday based on John 18 & 19
Dear guilty ones who are set free: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Good Friday is about God’s wrath, whether you like it or not. Perhaps that is why people skip the Good Friday service but come to church on Easter. Good Friday is too dark, too bloody, too gruesome. But on Good Friday we hear in detail how God poured out His wrath onto His Son, Jesus, instead of us.
The scourging Jesus received was supposed to be for us. It is we who should have been mocked and insulted, spit upon, beaten, and whipped. All our sins should have been dragged up in front of the whole world and we should have been accused of every single wrongdoing and fault of ours, every secret sin and misdeed. We should have then been punished eternally in the fires of hell.
In Jesus’ suffering and death, God the Father poured out His anger over our sin. Jesus was scourged unjustly so that we would not receive the scourging we deserve and have merited. Jesus suffered unjustly, so that we will not suffer justly in hell.
Here we see God’s love for us. He watches us day and night as we make bad decision after bad decision. He sees the unnecessary sadness and pain we inflict on ourselves and those around us. He sees our rebellious hearts that have desires that are opposed to His good and gracious will.
Yet, instead of pouring out His wrath and anger on us as we justly deserve, He poured it out on Jesus who never thought, said, or did anything that was opposed to His Father’s will.
The Master dies instead of the servant. The creditor dies for the debtor. The Physician dies for the good of the patient. The Shepherd dies for His sheep. The King dies for the sins of His subjects; the Peacemaker for quarrelsome rebels. The Creator dies for His creation. In this we see God’s love for us.
God’s love for us doesn’t fill Him with happy thoughts or make Him glad to see us. His love for us does not make Him happy. His love for us hurts Him. His love towards us does not serve itself, but us, His beloved. His love serves us to the point of death on a cross. God’s love hurts Him, causes His heart to break, and water and blood to pour out. God loves the world so that He gave His only Son into death for rebels who hated Him and killed Him and who chose Satan and Barabbas over Him.
This is true love. God has compassion on us in our sin to the point of suffering and death.
No one had compassion on Jesus when He suffered and died. Pilate tried to get the crowds to have compassion on Jesus by scourging Him unjustly and allowing the crowd of soldiers to insult Him, put a crown of thorns on His head, put a purple robe on Him, beat Him with their hands, and dishonour Him. Pilate allowed all this even while he kept saying that Jesus is innocent and has done nothing wrong. He tried to shame the Jews into having compassion on an innocent man who was free from guilt and was suffering without cause and unjustly.
The crowds would not have compassion on Jesus, but demanded His crucifixion. Pilate offered to release Him, but they instead wanted Barabbas to be released, a man imprisoned for insurrection and murder. The release of Barabbas highlights the injustice of Good Friday: the guilty goes free while the innocent is crucified.
You are the guilty, and you have been set free. You are free from the accusations of the Law. You are free from punishment and the wrath of God.
God has given Himself over to death in order to give us Himself, His crucified and risen body and blood in Holy Communion. If He had not died, there could be no testament. If His blood had not poured forth, it could not fill our chalice. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, the book of Hebrews tells us (9:22).
When the Old Testament faithful went to the tabernacle or Temple, they went there for the sacrificial blood, that their sins might be forgiven. So we also come to church. We come for blood so that our sins might be forgiven. Jesus gives us His life-giving blood into our mouths, so that we might offer sacrifices not of blood, for that is offered to us, but that we might offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise.
Indeed, how can we not? How can we servants, debtors, patients, sheep, subjects, rebels, and creatures not thank and praise our Master, creditor, Physician, Shepherd, King, Peacemaker, and Creator for dying for our sins, for freeing us from eternal damnation, for giving us eternal life?
How can we not renounce every sin that would vex or grieve the Holy Spirit, and quench with holy thoughts and prayers all fires unholy? How can we not turn away from earth’s vain joys to do God’s holy will?
In these endeavours, we will still find that our strength will not suffice to crucify desires that still entice us. We need the Holy Spirit to strengthen us to do God’s will, and we continually need forgiveness of sins when we fail. We continually need the blood of Jesus to cover our sin.
God will never withhold forgiveness from a penitent sinner. His wrath is not for you. His wrath was poured out on Jesus on Good Friday and He gives His never ending forgiveness from the font, through Absolution, and from the altar. God loves you. He died for you and now lives and reigns for you, and will return and take you to Himself, so that where He is, you may be also.
Good Friday is about God’s wrath – how God poured out His burning anger onto Jesus the innocent one, so that we, the guilty ones, walk away free. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
(Portions of this sermon were adapted from writings by Cyril of Alexandria, J. Heermann, J. Gerhard, and D. Petersen).