Saturday, April 7, 2012

“Jesus on the CROSS” 8th in sermon series Places of the Passion

S-1310 GF/3B 4/06/12 Hymns: (O) # 175; 140:1-3; 4-6; (S) #172:1-2; 3-4; 171:1-3, 4-6 TLH

Text: Psalm 22:1-11; Hosea 6:1-6; Hebrew 4:14-16; John 1:29; 19:17-30

Theme: “Jesus on the CROSS” 8th in sermon series Places of the Passion

Question: “No question tonight?” Armour, SD.

In the name of the Crucified Christ, Amen. The text for the GF is from the Gospel Lesson: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’... 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’ (John 1:29; 19:17-30).

Precious saints in Christ, it all started long ago when the Creator of the Universe stood by our fallen parents in the Garden of Eden and spoke His first Gospel proclamation: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). Many centuries had gone by and now in the Judean hills, a young maiden in a stable is being coached to give birth to her first-born Son. One more push and the baby comes out and suddenly the angels fill the skies and announce: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”

That night of long ago; was one of joy and great anticipation that the Savior of mankind has been born. But tonight is totally different. This night is one of sadness and sorrow, agony and affliction. During this time of the year as they observe the Passover, every Jewish boy asks: ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery” (Ex. 13:14).

Tonight, the scene is played over as it has many years before. A river of pilgrims has traveled from every corner of the world to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Feast. Every language is heard on the streets, but the greatest noise is of the bleating sheep that will be sacrificed for the temple offering. As every lamb is slaughtered blood runs down. This blood is a payment for sins. But what kind of God is this who would be appeased by the death of an animal? So many years have come and gone. So many sheep have been slaughtered? So much blood has been spilled. Is that all there is to it? How many sacrifices? How many carcasses are needed to pay for man’s sins? PAUSE.

And thus, we too, join the great crowds and listen in our own language to what is taking place on Golgotha beneath the cross this Friday. On this night we are moved to ask: ‘What does this mean?’ Again, the answer resounds, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out from the house of slavery.”

It is the extended hands on the cross of the Carpenter from Nazareth, Jesus the Christ who makes this night different and bring about eternal changes. He accomplishes the impossible in the course of one day. A single Friday! All carried out in the short span of 6 hours. He takes what is upside down and turns it right side up. He restores God’s broken world to its Creator God.

From 9:00 a.m. till 3:00 p.m. 6 short hours. 6 hours one Friday in the Judean Hills, and the angels are silent. No good news announcement. No mention of the Babe in the swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. Tonight, there is stillness and darkness as the heavenly chorus remains silent. Instead they watch this same Babe who became a MAN, now hanging totally naked upon the cursed and cruel tree of death called the cross.

Six hours one Friday. To the casual observer these six hours are mun­dane and monotonous. But to the handful of awestruck witnesses the most maddening of miracles is occurring. God is on a cross. The Creator of the universe is being executed. Spit and blood are caked to His cheeks and His lips are cracked and swollen. Thorns rip His scalp. His lungs scream with pain. His legs knot with cramps. Yet, death is not ready.

Far worse than the breaking of His body is the shredding of His heart. His own brothers screamed for His death by crucifixion. His own disciple planted the kiss of betrayal—the kiss of death. His closest companions ran for cover. The Governor of Jerusalem, despites His clear and convincing innocence, slams the gavel down and gives the order of death to be carried out. And now, now, even His own Father turns His back on Him, leaving Him alone. And there is no one to save Him, to rescue Him, to sooth His pain or wipe away His blood from His disfigured body. He is sacrificing Himself as the Passover Lamb promised long ago.

These are no ordinary six hours. They begin with a beautiful sunshine and end in total darkness. This is not a normal Friday. It is God’s Friday. This is no ordinary night; but a night that God long ago set in motion to redeem humanity from the slavery of sin, death and hell. To be sure this night is DIFFERENT from all nights—because this night, the good, the bad and the ugly meet on Calvary’s Hill. This Friday begins with life and ends with the death of the innocent Son of God.

Things changed quickly. The air is cool now. The sky is black as black can be. No thunder. No lightening. No clouds. The sheep are restless. The feeling is eerie. And all people are in awe as they wonder what has happened to eclipse the sun/Son. Many have heard the clamor of soldiers taking the Rabbi to crucify Him. Indeed, this Friday is DIFFERNT.

On that Hill stands 3 condemned criminals hanging on the cruelest instrument mankind has ever devised—a Roman cross. In the middle hangs Jesus Christ the Lamb—of God. But before this Lamb takes its last breath and shed its blood, one of the thieves speaks and pleads for mercy. This thief makes confession of His sins and profession of Jesus’ innocence and receives from Christ’s own lips the promise of life-eternal beginning today.

Why is this night different from all other nights was the question the young Jewish boys asked as they gathered to celebrate the Passover. And we must ask the same also. The answer is given by God Himself. “For God so loved the world that He gave His…” The cross: deepest demonstration of God’s unending love. Dead tree, living Savior.

On the cross God brings together the best and worst: His fiery judgment and His boundless love, His wrath and His forgiveness, hell and heaven. Because of our sin He pours His furious wrath on His Son. Because of the perfect obedience of His Son Jesus Christ He pours His love and forgiveness out for you and all people.

We can’t help but ask this heart-wrenching question: “My Jesus, why do you give no thought to saving yourself? Why not use Your power and come down from the cursed tree? What keeps You there? What holds You to the cross? Nails don’t hold gods to trees. What makes You stay? In 4 simple words: HIS LOVE FOR YOU!

It is His love for you as His created beings that causes Him to stay on the cross and endures the wrath of God and the punishment of hell. It is His love for you as a condemned sinner that He, the INNOCENT One exchanges His life for yours. It is His love for you that He offers Himself as the Passover Lamb so that the angel of Death passes over you.

This evening as we are in the Places of the Passion beneath the cross, let us hear anew the sweetest Words spoken by Jesus from the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” From the cross you and I receive blessing after blessing. A Song by Joseph Martin called “Without the Cross” helps us grasp the value of Christ’s cross.

Without His tears, there is no comfort (refrain)
Without His death, there is no life
Without His blood, there is no pardon
Without His cross, there is no crown.

Without His shame, there is no glory
Without His grief, there is no joy
Without His stripes, there is no healing
Without His cross, there is no crown.

Lamb of God, who bring salvation
And with Your grace, our hearts are sealed
Lord, with Your tears of love, You bathed our sorrows
In Your eyes we stand revealed. (refrain)

Those 6 hours one Friday with Jesus hanging on the cross changed History. As darkness descended on the land, life was ebbing away from Lamb of God. And then, that figure on the cruel tree of death speaks yet once more. “IT IS FINISHED!!!” Satan is Finished! Death is Finished! Salvation is Finished! Redemption is Finished! And Eternity is guaranteed! YOUR ETERNITY BELOVED IS CERTAIN BECAUSE OF HIM WHO IS OUR PASSOVER LAMB WHO STRETCHED HIS HANDS ON THE CROSS TO TELL YOU HOW MUCH HE LOVES YOU. AMEN.

Now the peace…


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