Good Friday Sermon
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All Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
The sermon text for Good Friday is the Holy Gospel of St. John, the 19th chapter.
Sermon Text: John 19:17-30
[Jesus] went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
So far the text.
Introduction: Death by crucifixion was the ultimate punishment in the Roman Empire. For the slave who died by crucifixion did not just have his life taken away from him in the most painful and slow way, death by crucifixion took more than that: it took away every last shred of decency and honour the condemned person had. It was the Roman Empire’s way of publicly proclaiming: you are nothing, and we rule over you even in death. Crucifixion was seen as so detestable among the Christians of the Roman Empire that even after the first Christian emperor Constantine outlawed crucifixion in AD 313, our Lord’s death by crucifixion is not found in a drawing by Christians until around the year AD 450, some 130 years after crucifixion was outlawed and almost a half millennium after our Lord was crucified Himself.
1) Jesus’ treatment by the Roman soldiers and His crucifixion played out in the way the Romans desired
After Pontius Pilate weakly gave in to the Jews’ demand to crucify the innocent Jesus, the soldiers treatment of Jesus showed utter contempt of Jesus as a person and as the King of the Jews. Their torturous acts committed on Jesus showed their contempt of Jesus’ person. Their dressing Jesus up as a king and paying false homage to Him showed their utter contempt for the fact that Jesus was the king of the Jews. Their actions portrayed the supremacy of Rome. Jesus’ crucifixion and Pontius Pilate’s inscription, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,” showed from governor down to soldiers their utter contempt for Jesus and the God of the Jews and showed Rome’s earthly reign and power over Jesus.
2) When we sin, whether we know it or not, each of our rebellious acts show utter contempt for our Creator as well as utter contempt for our Redeemer and King and His reign over us
Each time we covet our neighbour’s wardrobe, gossip about someone’s failings, desire our neighbours’ business, take God’s name in vain, or fail to show love to our family or neighbours…in our sin we rail against God’s reign over us and tell Him His rule does not pertain to us. Each time we sin we are telling God: my wishes and my freedoms are what reigns in my life.
3) By His Actions and By His death Jesus shows His reign is not of this world but for us whom He has brought into His kingdom
When speaking to Pontius Pilate Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this world.” (Jn 18:36) In saying this Jesus did not challenge Pilate or Rome’s earthly jurisdiction over Him but showed Pilate that He did not come from this world, He came from His Father’s side in heaven, and hence His rule and reign was a heavenly one.
In the way He died, praying to the Father to forgive those who crucified Him, and telling the apostle John to look after His mother, Jesus showed love and care and concern at a time the Roman system of crucifixion should have left Jesus lost in despair
Christ’s only despair on the cross came in not feeling a connection to His Heavenly Father and experiencing for the hours he was on the cross a real abandonment by the Father while He died.
Christ was feeling the abandonment and despair that we should rightly feel if we were separated by God for eternity in hell for our sins. But Christ tasted hell for us so that we never have to.
By asking for a drink before His death, Jesus gave the crowd a glimpse of His heavenly reign by making a request to fulfil the second-last prophecy that Scripture told of the dying Saviour, that He would thirst and be given bitter wine to drink.
In His final words from the cross, “It is finished,” Jesus showed the Roman centurion, the representative of the Roman government, and the crowd as well, a truth about His horrible crucifixion that they could not understand: His death was the earthly fulfillment of God’s saving reign and rule in Jesus.
By His Actions and By His death Jesus shows His reign is not of this world but for us whom He has brought into His kingdom.
Jesus’s words from the cross, “It is finished,” then are very much for you. They show that though you live in the world, by faith in Christ you are not of it for you are born from above into Christ’s kingdom. Christ’s words and actions on the cross are God’s way of telling you that though your sin may make you feel like nothing sometimes and that sin and your sinful nature and Satan may seem to rule over you, Christ’s words and actions for you on the cross say the opposite: the Lord Jesus rules over you and He reigns over you in grace. Your sin will no longer sentence you to another realm, to hell, after you die because Jesus has died in your place to free you from sin’s oppression and power.
On the cross Jesus gives you new life in Him and in His kingdom. God the Father abandoned His Son on the cross so that He will never have to abandon you to eternal judgement because of your sin. This means God always hears your prayers and the forgiveness Christ won for you is always yours: it goes back in time, is yours now in the present and will stretch forward into all of your life and Christ’s eternal reign.
The one thing the Father demands from you in the new life He gives you in His kingdom is repentance: to own your sins and confess them to Him, instead of excusing your sins away or ignoring them, knowing that they have been atoned for by His Son.
Everything Jesus did on Good Friday was not just for the world in general or for other Christians but for you. Jesus lived for you and Jesus died to set you free from all sin and make you His own now and always.
This means you live and move in two kingdoms, that of this world under the government and your other earthly rulers, and under Christ. God has given the government to be a blessing for you, but His greatest blessing to you is to live under His gracious rule. Under His gracious rule He gives you your daily bread and feeds and provides for all your and your family’s needs and He blesses you with the unique gifts of His heavenly rule: knowledge and insight from His Word to know right and wrong, peace through the forgiveness of your sins, certainty that when you die you will live with God in His new kingdom and so certainty about your ultimate destination and goal, to be with the Lord face-to-face forever.
Whenever the world and life confounds you look to Christ: to His Word and to His sacraments for peace and strength. These are His gifts to sustain you in your earthly pilgrimage. They are the gifts Your Saviour left to you to sustain you in your walk of faith with Him in this life.
Conclusion: Crucifixion was so horrible to the early Christians that it took almost 500 years for them to even be able to draw it without the utter ridicule of their fellow Roman citizens on earth. But by the time they could even dare to portray the crucifixion in pictures the once mighty Roman Empire was dying and only had 25 years left to go in the West.
St. John shows us in His Gospel the truth and reign that will be proclaimed as long as this world stands: that of Jesus being lifted up on the cross and dying as the sacrifice for the world’s sin. In His death on Good Friday Jesus reigned most gloriously as our King and Saviour. As we look to Christ dying on the cross and adore Him and worship Him, we claim the King of the Jews and Saviour of the world as our Lord and our God. Through Holy Baptism God gives us faith and trust in Christ’s saving work for us and through these we have become subjects of our Lord’s gracious reign.
Crucifixion was horrible, but Jesus died our death and in so doing He has won us God’s sure peace and pardon now and forever. Christ’s death shows His reign is not of this world but for us whom He has brought into His kingdom. Today we join with the hymn writer and praise our King and Saviour and say:
“Glory be to Jesus, Who in bitter pains, Poured for me the lifeblood from His sacred veins!
Grace and life eternal In that blood I find; Blest be His compassion, Infinitely kind!
Blest through endless ages Be the precious stream Which from endless torment Did the world redeem!”
(Glory Be to Jesus, Lutheran Service Book, Hymn 433 v.1-3. Text: Italian, c. 18th cent.; tr. Edward Caswall, 1814-78, alt. Text is Public domain.)