Friday, April 18, 2014

Sermon for 4/18/14--Good Friday (midweek series)



Signed, Sealed, Delivered
John 19:30/Seventh Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

On Good Friday we delve into the darkest hour of human history. A fearful fight is going on between God and Satan. Obviously, the climax is close at hand. Finally, the air of suspense is pierced with the cry of the Victor: “It is finished!” Satan is overcome; his reign of terror is done. We Christians treasure the victory of Christ on the cross; it lies at the very heart and center of our faith. But it’s so easy to overlook the fact that our salvation did not come easily. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was waging war for us. Satan was the fearful foe. He had done everything possible to turn the whole world against Jesus. But he lost! Jesus won! And He won for us. And this is why we can pray with complete confidence this last petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father…deliver us from evil.” “Father, let evil be ended, the devil be done” in our lives also!
Evil is ended; the devil is done! How we need to hear this over and over. Satan’s power and dominion has been crushed. And yet, our Lord permits him to prowl about this earth, as Peter said, “…like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” We have the freedom to choose his wiles and his ways. But thanks to Christ’s victory, we need never do that! The name “Satan” is derived from the Hebrew verb that means “to lie in wait, to oppose.” The word “devil” comes from the Greek word meaning “one who slanders.” These two names make his character and his role quite clear. He opposes everything good, because everything that is truly good comes from God. This he has done from the beginning, from the moment God finished His creation and called it “very good.
From the beginning, Satan opposed the Father in heaven. At some point, the idea was born in Satan’s mind to oppose God openly, to fight it out with Him, and he managed to take some of the other angels with him into his evil plot. God has not chosen to reveal to us what happened, but we know that Satan lost. He and his horder were banished from heaven. His opposition to God had failed miserably and completely. He then opposed God’s creatures, the man and woman God had created. Though He could not get at God directly, perhaps He could do so indirectly by getting at God’s creatures. This time, Satan won the battle, and God was forced to curse those fallen creatures with death—one of Satan’s favorite words! At the same time, God promised Adam and Eve that One who would be born of a woman would crush Satan’s head. Centuries passed, and no doubt Satan felt that he was the winner. Men were born and died; hatred ran rampant on the earth; century after century was filled with hopeless futility. But then God sent His Son into the fray; the third and decisive battle was about to begin.
Satan stirred up King Herod to try and kill Him as an infant, but could not succeed. Later, as a full-grown Man, people flocked to hear Jesus speak about the Kingdom of God, and that He was the only way by which one could enter that kingdom. Finally, Satan found a usable tool in one of Jesus’ own disciples, a man named Judas, into whom he entered and whom he persuaded to betray his Master to the enemy. But that plan backfired, as well. Jesus, untouched by sin, refused to yield to Satan’s will. Jesus proclaimed the greatest victory the world has ever known, when He said, “It is finished!” And it was finished. Satan was finished. The problem of sin was settled. Death was doomed. Jesus took the initiative away from Satan by allowing all of this to happen. And even while the devil was nursing his wounds, Jesus descended into hell to proclaim His victory. And then He rose triumphantly from the grave. No longer would Satan have power over human life and death. Evil is ended; the devil is done!

What a cozy way to end the Lord’s Prayer and even our contemplation of Good Friday. But there is a danger here, too. We can become unconcerned about evil. Sin lies in wait at our doorstep, and we stumble over it again and again. Occasionally we spring to our feet, alert to the danger. Suddenly, out of the depths, we cry out “O Lord, deliver us from this evil!” Was it this our Savior had in mind when He taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil”? Was it for these isolated instances that our Savior cried out, “It is finished”? Surely we know better than that.

We must rise from our knees and face a few realities. Evil is still very much with us; the devil still stalks his prey. And so, while thanks to our Savior’s victory, evil is ended and the devil is done, we still have a fight on our hands. As we come near the conclusion of this great prayer our Lord has taught us, we join with each other, and with our Savior Himself, to make this fervent plea, that our heavenly Father would deliver us from evil and from the devil who continues to attack our lives. Thanks to Jesus, our lives do not have to be controlled by evil and Satan. These mighty words, “deliver us from evil,” will topple Satan and His kingdom. And then, knowing that Jesus has won the victory, knowing that our Father has heard our prayer, with confidence we can pray, “Amen. It shall be so.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

No comments: