Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday Sermon: "The Journey is Finished"

+ Good Friday – April 6th, 2012 +

Text: John 18-19

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

O Christ you walked the road Our wandering feet must go.
You faced for us temptation’s power and fought our evil foe.

            But isn’t there another way, another road? Can’t we go straight from the joys of Palm Sunday to the greater joys of Easter?

            No. There’s no detour around Golgotha. No Easter without Good Friday; no glory apart from the crucified one. You can’t have one without the other. For true faith does not worship Jesus first in his resurrection, but rather in his death and burial. “For this purpose,” Jesus says, “I was born and for this reason I have come into the world” – to be crucified, dead and buried – for you. It has been a long trek for Jesus: healing and miracles; teaching and preaching; raising the dead and casting out demons. It all comes down to this. To Good-for-you-Friday.

            Today all the great journeys of the Scriptures come to their final destination. All Biblical roads lead to and from the cross.
            Today the Father leads Isaac up the mountain bound in the cords of death. But no angel intervenes this time. The Lord will provide Himself as the sacrifice. He does not withhold his Son, his only Son from you.
            Today the Passover Lamb without blemish is sacrificed in order to lead you out of slavery by his exodus, accomplished in Jerusalem.
            Today the Holy One of Israel goes into Babylonian exile, to take captivity captive in his death that we might be welcomed home.
            Today Jesus ‘s body is carried and laid to rest in a garden in a tomb to restore paradise lost for all the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve;
            Today our anxious Palm Sunday question is finally answered: are we there yet?
            Yes. Look down the via dolorosa, the way of sorrows.  See the hillside before you. The road goes up to Calvary – the place of the skull - a hill of dry bones waiting for the Lord to breathe his dying breath. And just in case you thought you were lost, there’s a sign above his head; the inscription reads: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Pilate’s words ring out with each swing of the hammer: “Behold your King.”

            You’ve come to the right spot. This is no mistake. No accident. Jesus’ hour of glory has finally come. Jesus is crucified between two criminals for criminals and sinners and exiles like us. Jesus is left to finish the journey on his own, alone, for you.

            That’s the problem with hell; not the heat. It’s that the God who made you turns His back on you. He ignores you. He gives you exactly what you want — to be left alone without Him. But he will not let you suffer alone; he steps into the grave ahead of you, for you.

            As if a world of pain and agony, mockery and scorn wasn’t enough. Jesus suffers hell for you. God forsakes God. All to welcome you home. You are Forgiven. Saved. His death brings you life. His exile returns you to the Father. His exodus ushers you into the Promised Land. He is crucified outside of the city walls to gather you into the courts of the heavenly city, Jerusalem.

            Jesus walked the lonely road into Jerusalem, through the palms and hosannas, through the spatter of hatred, through the scourging and nails to the cross for you who so often walk your own way. How beautiful the feet that trod, the road that leads us back to God. How beautiful the feet that walked the shores of Galilee, travelled throughout Judea, rode into Jerusalem; how beautiful upon the mount of Calvary are the feet of him who is pierced for you (Is. 52). Jesus leaves no road untrodden.                 

            The road takes one final turn as the funeral procession leads from Calvary to the cemetery. A hasty burial in a borrowed tomb. Even in death, the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.

            Although they did not understand everything Jesus said or did, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus still buried Jesus. Only those who stand at the tomb of Jesus can know the glory of the resurrection.

            So it is for us…all Christian funerals are acts of finality but they’re also acts of faith. We bury the dead in Christ, knowing that while it appears to be the end of the road, it is not. In fact, as far as God is concerned, our burial and resurrection have already happened. We are waiting for the welcome home of the final Easter. After all, not one of his bones was broken. He will walk again.

            So, on the eve of the Sabbath, His disciples bury the great high priest, adorn him in burial vestments and anoint him with costly, heavy spices and laid him to rest in a tomb. So complete was his suffering and death; he could not walk into his tomb; he had to be carried. Humiliation over. Justice satisfied. Sin is paid for. Atonement made. Sacrifice accomplished. The journey’s end is here.

O Christ you walked the road, For us the curse undone.
You journeyed to the cross for us And our redemption won.

 The journey is complete and all is accomplished. Jesus is crucified, dead and buried. For you.

It is finished.

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

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