Good Friday – ‘Repent’ Lenten Series

April 14, 2017

Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church

Sioux Falls, SD

Rev. Norman F. Seeger

 

John 19:17-30

17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,

“They divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.”

So this is what the soldiers did.

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

 

John 19:17-30

Repent:  Turn to Jesus — He & He Alone Finished Our Salvation

1) Nothing I Do Can Save Myself

2) Jesus Has Done It All

 

Dear Redeemed Disciples of Christ,

In life, we strive for finish lines!  Youngsters cannot wait to grow up.  Dating a little while, we desire a wedding.  Purchasing our first home, we soon long for that final house payment.  Driving a long distance for vacation or going to visit grandparents, we cannot wait to arrive, to finally get out of the car.

Looking for a finish line, we sometimes fool ourselves – we stop too soon.  A basketball team playing a great first half has not yet won the game, not until a final buzzer sounds.  A crowd clapping at a concert does not mean the music is done.  Acing your first a semester test is not a time to stop studying, not until you finally receive a signed diploma at your graduation.

‘It is finished!’ Jesus cries from his cross.  But we wonder, ‘Is it fully finished?’  ‘What is finished?’  What do our Lord’s words really mean?  Tonight, let everyone who has ears listen carefully as Jesus proclaims salvation’s grand finale with his precious words.  Tonight, let everyone who has a heart beating; let everyone who has a soul longing to live in heaven turn to Jesus in repentance, for he & he alone finished our salvation!

Looking for finish lines, Pontius Pilate is not having a good Friday.  An angry mob forms outside his window as soon as the sun rises.  People demand a crucifixion.  Pilate offers an opportunity to punish a real criminal & release an innocent man.  Choosing poorly, people free the rebel Barabbas.  Pilate provides a good old-fashioned Roman flogging, hoping to satiate their bloodthirstiness.  But forty lashes minus one will not ease the crowd/s anger.  A not-too-talkative Jesus tells Pilate about kingdoms not of this world; mentions ‘the truth,’ but Pilate is not about to debate finer philosophical points while trying to handle a political hot potato.  Charges of treason; the real possibility of a riot has Pilate worrying what Caesar will think if this news gets back to Rome – news that could quickly kill a governor’s career!

With a bowl of water, Pilate thinks he will wash innocent blood from his hands. With a sign on the cross, Pilate proclaims his reason for this crucifixion, poking Jewish leaders in the process.  ‘The chief priests of the Jews protest to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”  Pilate answers, “What I have written, I have written.”’  Pontius Pilate is certainly finished!  Finished with Jesus, finished with Jewish priests & people; finished with Friday’s frustrating debacle.

Based on outward appearance, it looks as if Jesus is also finished.  Nailed to a cross; hung out to die, his end is coming.  Romans will make sure of this.  But Jesus is not finished.  Not yet.  Jesus is not yet finished fulfilling the law in perfect love.  Shockingly, looking down from the cross, Jesus forgives soldiers whose hands hammered him to this cross.  Lovingly saving a repenting criminal on the next cross, Jesus assures him he will be with Jesus in paradise today.  Lovingly looking down from his cross, Jesus expresses concern for his mother, Mary whose ‘highly favored’ position was destined to cause her heartache – as Simeon told her in the temple thirty-three years earlier, ‘This child is destined to cause the falling & rising of may in Israel… A sword will pierce your own soul too’[LK 2]  This sword, sharpened by her people’s rejection of her son, is driven home into her heart as nails are driven into her son’s flesh.

Deflecting this sword in his mother Mary, Jesus’ perfect love for her soul — love that brought him from heaven into her womb, love that led him to obey her every word as a child — love looking down from his cross provides for her future:  ‘Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, Mary…When Jesus sees his mother there & the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he says to her, ‘Woman, here is your son;’ to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’   From that time on, this disciple takes her into his home.”

Jesus provides for his mother’s physical & emotional well-being.  For the world he provides far more!  With nails in his hands; with his earthly life’s end in sight, showing perfect love for his earthly mother, Jesus perfectly fulfils the law of his heavenly Father…to provide the world with an innocent substitute, a perfect sacrifice, a holy Savior.  Showing his love to his mother, Jesus shows his love to us — Jesus wins for us a place in the home of the heavenly Father.

Still Jesus is not finished!  Jesus on the cross actively fulfills Scripture prophecies so we can be 100 percent certain Christ is truly our Savior.  First is one done to Jesus by Roman soldiers for whom this is another workday, not a Good Friday holiday.  Assigned to carry out an execution — never a pleasant duty — they take an opportunity for a little profit:  ‘When the soldiers crucify Jesus, they take his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining.  This garment is seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. ‘Let’s not tear it,’ they say to one another. ‘Let’s decide by lot who will get it.’”  Unknowingly, soldiers bring home their most special paycheck because ‘This happens so the scripture might be fulfilled that says, ‘They divided my clothes among them & cast lots for my garment.’  So this is what the soldiers do’… cast lots for clothes sung about in Psalm 22 one thousand years before they toss their dice.  Using the soldiers’ greed & cruelty, our Lord Jesus provides proof he is the long-promised Savior!

Another fulfillment of Scripture is done by Jesus: ‘Knowing everything has now been finished; so Scripture would be fulfilled,  Jesus says, “I am thirsty.”  A jar of wine vinegar is there, so they soak a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, & lift it to Jesus’ lips.’  Whips, thorns & nails spilling Jesus’ blood create a deep-down, dreadful thirst.  True God, Jesus created the recipe for water.  True man, Jesus is desperate for a drink!  ‘I thirst’ is powerful proof Jesus’ suffering is real.  More than this, it is powerful proof Jesus will fulfil the tiniest letter of the Scriptures!  Jesus knows one prophecy to be fulfilled is Psalm 69, ‘They…gave me vinegar for my thirst.”

The point?  Jesus is not finished until he fulfils every single prophecy of Scripture in tiniest detail, from the toss of Roman dice for a piece of clothing, down to the very vinegar offered to Jesus to drink.  Jesus fulfils Scripture 100 percent so we have zero percent doubt our salvation is accomplished!

‘I thirst.’  Drinking the vinegar, Jesus has something else he needs to say, something we desperately need to hear!  Jesus is not finished until he is finished — finished fulfilling every letter of the law — finished fulfilling every prophecy of Scripture.  Only then is Jesus truly finished:  ‘When he receives the drink, Jesus says, ‘It is finished.’  With this, he bows his head & gives up his spirit.’

Jesus’ word ‘it is finished’ is the ‘final word’ on forgiveness – the word declaring, for a fact, our sins’ bill has been ‘paid in full!’    What a wonderful truth!  Our sin was a hopeless debt.  Nothing we give, say, think or do could pay off a single sin, let alone a whole life of evil, ungodly disobedience demanding death.  Fortunately for me, for you; for the whole world, a payment Jesus made for us – sacrificing his innocent life as our God-given substitute – pays for our sin; pays our debt in full. No small balance of not-so-serious sin remains for repenting people to pay down & ultimately pay off with good deeds we disciples will do as Christ lives in us.  No payment plan is put in place for us at Christ’s cross.  No, nothing is left for us saints to finish before salvation becomes ours.  It is, as Jesus put it so simply, ‘Finished!’  God’s promised salvation, God’s promised Savior — the Son of God who cannot lie – tells us in one word, ‘is finished!’  The debt of sin – my sin; your sin — has been paid…paid in full!

I pray our Lenten journey clearly proclaimed the fact Jesus — Jesus alone – won forgiveness; finished our salvation.  Let nothing take Jesus’ place in our life.  For no human work, no matter how right or ‘holy’ it feels to me, dare turn Jesus’ finished’ into some kind of ‘to be continued’ or ‘maybe’…  Please learn from past failures…  Judas trusting his money instead of trusting Jesus led to his ultimate dead end.  Peter trusting a personal feeling of dedication to Jesus paved the way for his disastrous denial of Jesus.  Pilate trusting old-fashioned worldly power proved pointless in the end as historians say he committed suicide in exile.  Jewish priests & religious leaders trusting their own works & will to preserve their treasured traditions reject the Son of God, reject the Messiah, the real heart of their religion.  Not even Mary can do anything to help her Son at the cross, let alone help her Son save our souls.

Today, let nothing, let no one; let no human work, no human effort take Jesus’ place in our life.  Feeling bad about my sin; promising to do better next time – good sounding resolutions – never save me.  Being really sorry I sin – our most heartfelt sorrow — never forgives me.  Believing in Jesus, believing beyond the shadow of a doubt – our most educated, most sincere faith – never removes guilt.  Nothing I say, do or even believe can contribute to my salvation.  Nor is it needed!  Jesus’ perfect life provided our righteousness.  Jesus’ innocent death fully paid our sin’s penalty.  Jesus — declaring on the cross, ‘It is finished!’ – Jesus crosses the finish line – Jesus completes his commission as ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’[JN 1]  What else shall we say, other than what God already said?  Believe in the Lord Jesus’ – trust Jesus’ sacrifice for your sin — ‘you will be saved!’[ACTS 16] 

Brothers & sisters in Christ, let no ‘ifs, ands, or buts’ ruin our life today.  Simply believing God’s truth — given us in God’s Word — regularly repenting of our sins, turn to Jesus; only to Jesus, for alone won God’s forgiveness for us – Jesus, Jesus alone finished our salvation.

Amen.