Friday, March 25, 2016

Sermon for 3/25/16: Good Friday (Hymns series)

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O Darkest Woe

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

“O darkest woe.” What a dreadful sight. Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, the Messiah promised to Adam and Eve and all their descendants, was hung upon the cross to His death, forsaken by His Father. He was there for you, dying the death which He did not deserve, to pay the debt you owed for your sin. 

O sorrow dread!
Our God is dead,
Upon the cross extended.
There His love enlivened us
As His life was ended.

Never before in history, and never since, has anyone even claiming to be God died for the sake of His people. False god upon false god has promised mighty acts of healing, of feeding, of deliverance, but none of those acts include the death of the deity itself. What kind of God would allow Himself to be forsaken by anyone, much less by His own Father? What kind of God would allow Himself to be sacrificed for anyone? Only Jesus Christ, true Son of the true God and Himself true God, who died for the salvation of His creation. Even the Centurion, likely a polytheistic Roman, could not help but confess, “Truly this was the Son of God.” 

There lies the spotless Lamb of God in a borrowed tomb. The ladies had stood by as Jesus hung on the cross. Even in their grief, they were ready to prepare the body of their beloved Master for burial. Joseph of Arimathea, a believer who had hidden his faith for fear of the Jews, and Nicodemus, who had originally come to Jesus under the cover of darkness, came out of the shadows to request the body of their Lord from Pilate. If the leader was slain, certainly the followers had reason to fear. But Joseph and Nicodemus stepped forward anyway, displaying the faith the Twelve could not. They laid Jesus in Joseph’s unused vault.
O darkest woe!
Ye tears, forth flow!
Has earth so sad a wonder?
God the Father’s only Son
Now is buried yonder.

Matthew writes, “Behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The work for which Jesus had come was finally complete: the evil thoughts, the false words, the misdeeds, all that was done or left undone by the hands and mouths and minds of sinners—all that had separated man from God had been removed. The veil of the temple separated the Holy of Holies, the place where God had promised to be present in the midst of His Old Testament people, from the common man. Only the appointed priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and then only on the one day of the year appointed for that task. But that could no longer be the case. 
The Bridegroom dead!
God’s Lamb has bled
Upon thy sin forever,
Pouring out His sinless self
In this vast endeavor.

Adam no longer has to hide from God as his Father seeks him out; Moses no longer has to shield his face, lest he die. God and sinners are forever reconciled. Now, like Adam before the fall, like Enoch, like Elijah, we walk with God, unafraid, finally restored to full fellowship with our Father. 

 This is the day. The serpent has bruised the heel of the Seed of Eve. What a hollow victory for Satan. For even in taking the life of the Son of God, the devil has lost. Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” The true victory belongs to our Lord, who has crushed the power of death forever! Matthew told us that the tomb had already temporarily opened for some of the faithful who had died. The tomb will open for Jesus on the third day. And every tomb will open on the Last Day; every resting body will rise. St. Paul writes, “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” And it will be gone forever. 

O Jesus Christ,
Who sacrificed
Thy life for lifeless mortals:
Be my life in death and bring
Me to heaven’s portals!

He will do so—indeed, He cannot help but do so, for even in death—and especially in His own death—He is “the Resurrection and the Life.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

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