Friday, March 21, 2008

Sermon - Good Friday - Isaiah 53:4-6

“It's not my problem.” He could have said that. From heaven's high throne, when our Lord looked down on the little blue marble and into a little green garden on the man and woman he had created. And when he saw they were hastily sewing fig-leaves together in a futile attempt to cover their shame. They had a big problem. They crossed the line. But it wasn't his problem.

And yet he walked in that garden in the cool of the day, calling them by name – calling them to repentance, and for some reason – promising them hope. Her seed will crush the serpent's head. But, his heel will be bruised.

“I'm not my brother's keeper” Ah, but yes, Cain, you were. We all are. Love your neighbor as yourself. Bear each others' burdens. Yet more laws we ignore. But it's not enough for us to just ignore our brothers and sisters. Instead we hurt and harm their reputations, their possessions, even their bodies and life. Your brother's blood screams out for vengence against you too. But the blood of Jesus speaks a better word, a word of forgiveness.

“I have betrayed innocent blood” said Judas, “And what is that to us?” said the Jews. “Not our problem”.

“This man is innocent – I wash my hands of him. Crucify him yourselves. His blood is on you.” “Not my problem”.

And the Son of God could have said the same. Oh, you sinned? Not my problem. You ate the fruit? Killed your brother? Betrayed your Lord? Not my problem. He didn't have to stand in the way of that speeding locomotive of God's wrath. He didn't have to take your place on the cross. It wasn't his problem. He wasn't the sinner, you were. He didn't deserve death. But we all do.

We have all gone astray – like obstinate sheep. Not his way, but MY way! And so we have a problem. Actually we have many problems. Iniquities. Griefs. Sorrows. Illness. Conflict. We are lost. You know sin, don't you? Those dark deeds you would rather hide and deny and rationalize. The things that trouble your conscience, or at least the things that should. Yes, you have an inkling of your sin, but you will never fully grasp it like he does. Our sinfulness is so complete, we fall so short of God's perfect standard, that we don't even realize. You were even conceived and born in sin. Your every waking breath and thought is tainted by sin. Every deed and word – the word and deed of a sinful mind and heart and mouth. Who can know the depths of his own sin?

And who can know its true consequences? Yes, there is pain in childbirth. There are thorns growing in the ground. Life is hard. Work is hard. Troubles and sorrows and griefs come and then come again. Loved ones fall ill and perish. And one day we too like the grass, will wither and die.

But far beyond the temporal, earthly, present consequences is the eternal punishment. The separation from our holy God in eternal shame and suffering. The place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. An unending torment richly deserved by the enemies of God. Who can know the true depth of such punishment? We can only begin to imagine such a nightmare.

It's not his problem. But he made it his problem. He took on our sin. He carried our sorrows. He bore our griefs. And the punishment we deserved fell on him.

He knows the true consequences of sin. He knows the sorrow and grief sin brings. He was like us in every way, yet without sin. But he knew the sufferings of this world. He was well acquainted with grief.

He is the Suffering Servant foretold by the prophet Isaiah. Stricken, smitten and afflicted. Wounded for our transgression, crushed for our iniquities. Upon him the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes, we are healed.

He made our problems his problem. He made our sins his own. He took our punishment and bore it. He died our death, and defeated it.

He even suffered our hell – there on Calvary – forsaken by God as we deserve to be. All the physical suffering pales in comparison to this great anguish. Who can know the depths of sin and its wages? Christ alone, for he endured it.

And only now, in Christ, we can say sin is “not my problem”. Not in a callous or cavalier way. But in awe-filled and humble gratitude that he took our sin on himself, and made it his problem. Christ spoke the final word on sin, here at the cross. “It is finished”. His work is finished. His sacrifice is finished. Sin is finished.

And now, as they lay his cold clay in the tomb, some might think he, too, is finished. But we know what he promised. His time in the tomb will be short. Now it is evening, but morning will soon dawn. Yet, in the dark of this Good Friday, ponder quietly the one who bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. For with his stripes, we are healed.

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