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Sermon Good Friday 2016

FIRST LESSON Isaiah 52:13-53:12

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14As many were astonished at you — his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind — 15so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.
1Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
PSALM Psalm 22

1My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? 2My God, I cry out by day, but you | do not answer; by night, but I find no rest. 3Yet you are the Holy One, enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4Our ancestors put their trust in you, they trusted, and you rescued them. 5They cried out to you and were delivered; they trusted in you and were not put to shame. 6But as for me, I am a worm and not human, scorned by all and despised by the people. 7All who see me laugh me to scorn; they curl their lips; they shake their heads. 8″Trust in the LORD; let the LORD deliver; let God rescue him if God so delights in him.” 9Yet you are the one who drew me forth from the womb, and kept me safe on my mother’s breast. 10I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born; you were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb. 11Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help. 12Many young bulls encircle me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me. 13They open wide their jaws at me, like a slashing and roaring lion. 14I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; my heart within my breast is melting wax. 15My strength is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; and you have laid me in the dust of death. 16Packs of dogs close me in, a band of evildoers circles round me; they pierce my hands and my feet. 17I can count all my bones while they stare at me and gloat.  18They divide my garments among them; for my clothing, they cast lots. 19But you, O LORD, be not far away; O my help, hasten to my aid. 20Deliver me from the sword, my life from the power of the dog. 21Save me from the lion’s mouth! From the horns of wild bulls you have rescued me. 22I will declare your name to my people; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you. 23You who fear the LORD, give praise! All you of Jacob’s line, give glory. Stand in awe of the LORD, all you offspring of Israel. 24For the LORD does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty; neither is the LORD’s face hidden from them; but when they cry out, the LORD hears them. 25From you comes my praise in the | great assembly; I will perform my vows in the sight of those who fear the LORD. 26The poor shall eat and be satisfied, Let those who seek the LORD give praise! May your hearts live forever! 27All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; all the families of nations shall bow before God. 28For dominion belongs to the LORD, who rules over the nations.  29Indeed, all who sleep in the earth shall bow down in worship; all who go down to the dust, though they be dead, shall kneel before the LORD. 30Their descendants shall serve the LORD, whom they shall proclaim to generations to come. 31They shall proclaim God’s deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying to them, “The LORD has acted!”
SECOND LESSON Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.

1Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” 12From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, 17and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” 23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things, 25but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. 28After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29A 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. 30When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 31Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” 38After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
Matthew 27:60 The Final Stone Good Friday

“It is finished.” That’s how John’s Gospel records the closing moments in the earthly life of Jesus Christ. As you are well aware, each of the Gospel writers tells the Passion story a little bit differently. Luke quotes Jesus as saying, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit,” and then He died. Here in Matthew, Jesus cries out twice, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and then He died. In Mark, Jesus utters a loud cry and breathes His last breath. However, John records something else and I think I like John’s version best. Jesus said, “It is finished.” And then He died. Now, none of these descriptions is inaccurate.
When fear grips us and when sorrow overtakes us, each of us notices and remembers different aspects of an event. But John makes a theological statement when he recalls Jesus’ last words. “It is finished.” But the question is, what is “it”? “It” is the plan God crafted to bring humankind back into a secure relationship with the Father once again. “It” is the life project of Jesus, to allow Himself to be sacrificed as the Lamb. “It” is the end of the most horrific week in human history, when loyalty and love was transcended by mob rule, and jealous hatred. “It”, explicitly, is the work of salvation. “It” was finished on Good Friday. In truth, “it” cannot be totally complete until you and I hear it, and see it, and grasp it, and own it as ours. And that’s why this final stone is the most painful of them all. May God grant us faith and courage to ponder Good Friday, and the day it became God’s gracious act.
Now, there are so many curious things to note in this tragic story of Jesus’ death. The trial before Pilate was really a kangaroo court, because so many Roman and Jewish laws were broken in the process. For instance, the trial happened at night, while courts of justice were supposed to occur in the light of day. Jesus was convicted by a single judge, while typically a jury of three was required. The deliberations were supposed to go on for another day; it was society’s way of “sleeping on it” before a man was sentenced to be executed. None of this was followed! But don’t be too hard on the Roman and Jewish leaders of the day. “It” was supposed to be this way.
Ironically, if Jesus was to be executed for violating Jewish Law, He wouldn’t have been crucified, He would have been stoned to death; that was the Jew’s way. Convicted criminals were brought to a pit at the edge of the city, pushed down the hill, and then stones would have been hurled at them until they stopped moving. In truth, this was a more humane practice, since death came so much quicker. The Roman practice was much slower, much more painful, and much more hideous.
When a man was crucified, he was first stripped of his clothing and beaten. A “cat of nine tails” (a whip of leather, with pieces of sharp glass or stone at the end of it) was used across the back. Thirty-nine lashes were administered, because it was commonly thought that forty lashes would kill a man. They wanted Him to be near-dead, so they could watch Him die on the cross.
Then His naked body was laid across a timber on the ground, and nine-inch nails were driven through His wrists. He crossed His feet and a single nail pierced them. When the cross was righted and dropped into a hole, the flesh would often tear. And then the dying began. It took as long as six hours for the criminal to breathe his last. For a while, they could boost themselves up with their arms and legs. But as fatigue set in, their weary bodies slouched, their chest muscles caved in, and the windpipe was closed. Death was caused by suffocation.
According to The Journal of the American Medical Association: Scourging produced deep stripes like lacerations and appreciable blood loss, and it probably set the stage for hypovolemic shock, as evidenced by the fact that Jesus was too weak to carry his own crossbar to Golgotha. Accordingly, death resulted primarily from shock and exhaustion asphyxia. Jesus’ death was confirmed by the thrust of a soldier’s spear into His side.
When it was obvious that Jesus was dead, a Pharisee by the name of Joseph, a wealthy man, received permission from Pilate to take Jesus’ body down from the cross on Friday night, The Jewish Sabbath was about to begin; if it were not done on Friday, it would have to wait until Saturday night. Joseph wanted to remove Jesus’ body respectfully as soon as possible.
Scripture then says that Joseph brought Jesus’ body and placed it in his own burial tomb. A large stone was rolled in front of the entrance of the grave, not only to close the grave respectfully, but also to prevent grave robbers from stealing Jesus’ body and falsely proclaiming a resurrection. The stone, while we may picture it today as a large round boulder, was rather a large disk, set into a groove at the entrance to the grave, and then rolled into place after the body was inside. The resounding sound of its closing echoed the finality of Jesus’ death: It is finished, indeed!
That’s the historical evidence of Jesus’ death. Though it’s graphically ugly, we can keep it at a distance and it’s not so difficult for us to consider. But the death of Jesus Christ was never intended to be taken historically … or in a detached manner. It must be taken personally. And this is where Good Friday takes us … to the foot of the cross … to a grave loudly closed … to a day without hope!
All the stones that you and I have laid at the foot of the cross this Lenten season have finally taken their toll. All the greed, the hatred, the vulgarity, all the selfishness, the violence, all the unfaithfulness we’re guilty of, not only fill the basket at the base of the cross, but they litter our lives. And that’s not even the sum total of our stones! We each have these secret sins, known only to us and God. God invites us to lay them at the cross as well. He takes them unto Himself. The entire load, the enormous weight of them all, pressing down on His body as He hangs on the cross. Our stones. Our sins. His cross. And now, “it” is finished.
The final stone is the one which is rolled across the entrance of Jesus’ grave. A final barrier, if you will, between us and the One who loved us so. When the final stone was rolled into place, it gave tangible expression to our sins. The sum of them is so enormous, they block us from God. They keep us from the kindest, most loving man who ever lived. And as hard as we may try, we cannot remove the stone ourselves. Not the stones at the base of that cross … not the stone that seals Jesus’ grave. And looking at those stones gives us a sense of hopelessness! And that’s exactly what we are! A helpless, hopeless people, partners in the Good Friday crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
You hold in your hands tonight, one final stone, too. This one is different from all the other stones of the season, for this one is marked with a black cross. It’s also different in that we won’t be leaving this stone at the foot of the cross; rather, we’ll take them home with us. These stones are a reminder of the stones that keep us from loving God. Let it be a reminder of the stone that stands between us and a Savior. I encourage you to carry it with you through the sorrow of tomorrow. I encourage you to carry it with you through the anguish of Sunday’s darkness. Perhaps bring it with you to worship on Sunday so that we might never forget the final stone that actually changed the course of human history. “It” is finished, “it” is finished indeed!

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