April 10, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel, which was read a few minutes ago.
During the shortened season of Lent, we looked at the Passion of Jesus through the eyes of those who were present. We talked about Denying Eyes of Peter and the Betraying Eyes of Jesus, and last night we talked about how there is more than meets the eye going on at the Last Supper. On this Holy Good Friday night, we’re going to view Jesus’ crucifixion through some different eyes, God’s eyes. We will see what He saw and what was accomplished at the cross for us men and for our salvation.
What did God the Father see on Good Friday? He saw His only-begotten Son suffering and dying unjustly on a Roman cross. Can you imagine watching your own child die in this way? It is unfathomable. As sinful mortals, we cannot understand what it is like to be the immortal, holy God, but surely the Father’s heart was grieved beyond words.
Yet what’s even more unfathomable is that God loves you so much that He willingly inflicted this on His beloved Son. Saint Paul wrote that the Father “did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all.” And that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He didn’t wait around for us to clean up our act first, instead while we were ungodly and enemies of God, He slaughtered His Son in our place. He poured out His righteous anger against the sin of the world on Jesus.
This means that we provoked the death of Jesus. On Pentecost, Saint Peter preached, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” The Father gave the Son to the world, but the world crucified and killed Him. And yes, Peter is also talking to you and me. Whether a sinner lived in the first or twenty-first century, the guilt and blame is all the same: we all crucified the Son of God by our sin.
As we acknowledge our sin and unworthiness, we need to see ourselves nailing Jesus to the tree, but at the same time, His crucifixion was “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” the Father. What value did the Father see in this plan? The Father saw, and now all of us can see, God’s own glory being manifested to the world. This is what Jesus prayed for, just hours before His crucifixion: Jesus said, “‘Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him.”
The Father and the Son showed their glory in having mercy on sinners. That’s what they accomplished during Christ’s perfect life, suffering, death, and resurrection. The Father sees all of your sin taken upon Jesus on the cross, even the sin of crucifying His Son. Moreover, He sees His wrath against sin being poured out upon the Son and the gates of hell prevailing over Him. Yes, hell is being under God’s wrath, and that is what the Father sees Jesus taking, in your place, to save you.
Jesus always knew that His name means “the Lord saves,” so He sees Himself as the object of the Father’s wrath but as the subject of your salvation. He drinks His Father’s wrath down to its dregs, finally crying out in abandonment from His Father, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” A cry of despair as He suffers abandonment from His Father. He can’t see His Father watching down as He suffers the pains of a sinner condemned to hell. But with the words “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” He breathes His last. He knows His Father still loves Him and that by doing all that His Father commanded, He has done all that is necessary to save us.
On Good Friday, what does Jesus see when He looks at you and all sinners? He recognizes you as the cause of His woe, but He doesn’t hold this against you. The Lamb of God bears this willingly. He wants nothing other than to be your Savior. He looks at you and then prays, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He stares into your sinful eyes and says, “You are forgiven for I have done it all for you.”
Finally, what does the Holy Spirit see? On Good Friday He sees that everything necessary for the salvation of sinners is achieved by the Son. Again, Jesus had promised just hours before His death, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth…He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.” Here we see the Holy Trinity working together in their natural perfect harmony. The Father gave the Son the task of redeeming mankind. The Son willingly took this task upon Himself. And the Holy Spirit joyfully proclaims this message to you so you may enjoy the benefits of the Son’s sacrificial death.
The Spirit takes what is Christ’s and declares it to you. He takes the righteousness of Jesus and instills it in the waters of Holy Baptism to make it a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of new birth into God’s eternal kingdom. He takes the forgiveness of Jesus and declares it to you through the Gospel and through the words of Absolution. And He presents to you the body given and blood shed for you on the cross to be received for forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in Holy Communion.
On Good Friday, God’s eyes see everything necessary to save you from sin, death, and hell. Although your own eyes look upon your guilt, unworthiness, and impurity, the Father looks upon your sin forgiven for Christ’s sake, the Son credits His own righteousness to your account, and the Holy Spirit makes you a participant in the holiness of Jesus. You are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so keep this truth on your mind, in your heart, and before your eyes at all times: When God looks at you, He sees the apple of His eye, His beloved child united with Christ in His death and raised up to new, eternal life with Him.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen