Friday, April 22, 2011

Forsaken, but not Forever

+ Good Friday – April 22nd, 2011 +

Text: John 18:1 – 19:42

In the Name of Jesus + Amen.

It’s one thing to have your parents upset with you – to have done something to anger them or deserve their punishment.  It’s another thing – and usually we say it’s more painful to hear - “I am disappointed in you.”  But it’s far worse to be abandoned, forsaken, and rejected.

And if children feel the pain of punishment, disappointment or loneliness – how do you think parents feel when the tables are turned?  When the children are faithless and disobedient?  When they have rejected you?

Welcome to Good Friday.  Jesus is abandoned, rejected, forsaken.  First by His very own disciples, then by His Father.  But Judas wasn’t the only one to betray Jesus.  Peter wasn’t the only one to deny our Lord.  The High Priest and the Sanhedrin weren’t the only ones to wag their tongues in mockery and spray their hatred upon His face.  The Jewish crowds weren’t the only ones screaming bloody murder, “Free Barabbas…Crucify Him; Crucify Him!”  And the Roman soldiers weren’t the only ones twisting the thorns, rolling the dice and driving the nails. 

We are all accomplices - you are the betrayer, the denier, the jester, the murderer, the executioner.  The hammer, the reed, the thorns, the cloak, the innocent blood is in our hands too.  There’s only one kind of water that can wash out that damned spot.

 And the most remarkable thing is that Jesus is not even the least bit angry with you, no disappointment.  Not a word of it. No regret in His voice.  Jesus goes to the cross bearing your betrayal, your rejection, your forsakenness.  He takes it all on Himself.  Jesus does not – He will not - come down from the cross that we’ve fastened Him to.  He loves you too much.  He will suffer sin, death and hell rather than let you go. 

 Jesus prays for us who persecute Him.  He is cursed for us who crucify Him.  He trades mockery for mercy. Betrayal for blessing.  Foolishness for forgiveness.  Jesus’ death for your life.  All that He says and all that He does is accomplished for you.  Listen to His bitter cry: “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?”  God against God.  The prayer of the God-forsaken believer.  The Father does not with hold His Son, His only Son for the love of you, His abandoned-for-dead, rejected-in-sin, children.  There on Golgotha, the Light no darkness can overcome is plunged into the darkness.  The Radiance of the Father’s glory is swallowed up by a black hole of death – covered in a bloody baptismal flood. 

“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth.”  What is truth?  The truth is that even though you have angered and disappointed your Heavenly Father, He will never abandon you; even though you are the betrayer and the denier and the murderer …Jesus has not – and never will -forsake you. 
            For all that you are Christ became…the traitor, the sinner, the thief and the scoundrel; all of that is drown in His blood.  Your sin is stamped into His forehead, inscribed into His palms and buried in His tomb.  And from His riven side He pours sacred blood and water for you.  Jesus’ death is your life.  Life in the water.  Life in the body. Life in the blood.  Life has come with life for all.  Now there’s a living font that never runs dry, life through the water that washes your hands, head and conscience in a saving flood; where Christ the Ark of life ferries us across death’s raging flood.  He leads us past death’s fearsome scowl to a table where He feeds us; where His baptism of blood is drained into the chalice, poured out to quench your sin in His life-giving Supper, a cup from which you’ll never thirst again. 
            That’s what makes today not just Good Friday, but “Good-for-you-Friday.”  Sin has spent itself on Jesus.  Death is dead.  Hell throws everything it has at Jesus and still loses.  Beat by its own game.
            Jesus hangs there for you, making all things new, reconciling all things to the Father, embracing you in His death never to let you go.  In His darkness is your light; in His death is your life; in His lonely forsakenness, you find the Father’s eternal acceptance and your peace.  This death of God is your life.  Behold the Man.  The God-Man who bleeds for you, suffers for you.  Arrested.  Deserted.  Betrayed. Slandered. Pierced. Cursed. Damned and Dead – for you.
            This is the kind of love that can’t be stopped by nails, spears or thorns; the kind of love that overcomes rejection, betrayal and death by virtue of His own.  The kind of love not even the grave can hold down.  Jesus is forsaken, but not forever.  Creation shudders.  Darkness deepens.  Heaven weeps; angels hide their eyes.  Disciples and women mourn and cry with pain too agonizing to be heard.  All human words are hushed in utter silence.  It is finished.  All of this - for you.

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