We have come to the Friday we call “good.” Good Friday. A strange name, don’t you think, for the day Jesus was unjustly and cruelly nailed to a cross and suffered a horrible death? Good Friday. Some just skip right over this, as though it were an unfortunate speed bump on the way to Easter Sunday and the joy of the Resurrection. Many avoid the bloody mess altogether. But you must not. You must look on this One who bore your griefs and sorrows, who was stricken, smitten, and afflicted, whose wounds do justice to your sin, who was crushed by the Law’s condemnation that hung over your head, whose punishment brings peace with the Father, and in whose wounds you will find your healing.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Nowhere is this more true than with Jesus hanging dead on the cross. In that one, solitary act in the darkness between Noon and three, the griefs and sorrows of our fallen humanity were borne by the Son of God, our sin was answered for, the just demands of the Law were paid, and we were reconciled to the Father. One time in history for times. One Man for all men.
He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Jesus was the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with our suffering. You, my friend, are His burden. He carries you, all your griefs, your sorrows, all that death has done to you, all that others have done to you, all that you have done to yourself, Jesus bore in His own body on the cross. When we see disaster, tragedy, senseless suffering, large scale loss of life, we are prone to ask “Where is God? Why doesn’t He do something?” The answer comes from the cross. There is God doing something, going to the heart of why there is suffering in the world. Where was God during 9/11 when buildings collapsed? Where was God in hurricane Katrina, in the tsunami, in the Haiti and Chilean earthquakes, in all the places where there is suffering and death? And why didn’t He do something about it?
It’s tempting to desire an interventionist God, a God who will deflect bullets before they hit innocent bystanders, who will eliminate cancer cells before they become tumors, who will heal every sickness, cast out every demon, restore every blind eye and faulty limb. But in a world like that, where God micromanages and intervenes in every little thing, there would be no laws of physics, no ordered universe, nothing but seeming randomness.
God does something entirely different. Instead of micromanaging, He macro-manages. Instead of doing rehab on a terminally broken cosmos, He does a death and resurrection job on it. He embodies everything in the body of His Son born of Mary together with all the brokenness, the tragedy, the disasters great and small, and He reconciles all things in the one perfect death of Jesus on the cross with one word tetelesthai – it is finished. He has borne our griefs, your griefs, the collected griefs of mankind, of every death and loss, it is all accounted for in His death, and it’s made good, knit together into a fabric of beauty as only God can do. He has carried our sorrows, your sorrows, every tear shed by humanity in its suffering, Jesus has taken them to Himself and bundled them into His death. Our griefs and sorrows find their end and meaning in His grief and sorrow.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. You wouldn’t know it by looking at Him. Jesus looks like One despised by men and rejected by God. A loser. Someone who ran afoul of Religion and the State and God didn’t intervene to rescue Him. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted. Not us, but Him. There by the grace of God goes He, for us and in our place.
As Luther reminds us, when you look at the beatings and suffering of Jesus on Good Friday, don’t blame the Roman government or the Jewish religious leaders. These are but the instruments. The cause is your sin – your thoughts, your words, your actions. Your sin is why Jesus had to suffer as He did. Even if you were the only human being on this earth, Jesus would still have had to suffer and die to save you. That’s what the Law of God calls for: the wages of sin is death. Don’t ever think of sin as simply a weakness, a “mistake” as so many public confessions like to say “I made a mistake.” Sin is more than a mistake, it is an embrace of death instead of life, of self instead of God, of the devil’s lie instead of God’s Word.
He was wounded for our transgression; He was bruised for our iniquities. Those were your hands beating Jesus as they lash out against your fellow man. Those were your words uttered in scorn. The lashes He endured were yours; the death He died was yours. And what’s so amazingly graceful is that in this God is reconciled to His enemies. God had promised in the form of a threat to the devil that He would make enmity, that through the heel crushed seed of the woman God would crush the head of the serpent. It’s the foundational promise of the Bible, and it finds it’s goal and fulfillment here with Jesus on the cross.
He who by a tree once overcame, is now by a tree overcome.
The violence of the cross is our peace. Again, every act of violence, of inhumanity, every genocide and injustice, is answered once and for all in the death of Jesus. There is peace with God. Peace always comes with blood, and this peace comes with the Blood of the Lamb shed on the wood of the cross and delivered to you in the chalice of the Supper. Water and blood flowed from the wounded side of Jesus, John reports. It’s more than a piece of medical evidence concerning Jesus’ death. It reminds us that the source of the Sacraments, of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are in the wounded side of dead Jesus.
By His wounds, you are healed. They are a medicine unlike any other, a “medicine of immortality.” Medicine can provide a stopgap. It can put a bandage on death but it cannot cure it. Only Jesus, the Physician of our souls,, can heal eternally. In His earthly ministry, He healed people as a sign of the coming kingdom. But every healing has its source in His wounds here on the cross. Here the penitent thief finds pardon, here the guilty find acquittal, here the sick find health and the weak find strength. Here, in the wounds of Jesus, is the ultimate and final cure to what ails us. His wounded head is the healing of our mind. His wounded back the healing of our strength and all the blows we have endured at the hands of others. His wounded hands the healing of our work. His wounded feet the healing of our walk. His wounded side the healing of our hearts turned away from God and against one another.
In His wounds are our peace. “Peace be with you,” Jesus said on Easter evening, showing them His wounds. ‘Peace be with you, He says to you with His Body and His Blood.
Where is God when bad things happen? He is there in Christ to make all things new. Why doesn’t He do something? He has. “It is finished.” A good Friday. Very good.
In the Name of Jesus.