Friday, April 02, 2010

Sermon - Good Friday - 2010

Hebrews 9:27-28
Good Friday
April 2nd, 2010
“Die Once”

Jesus dies. Today we not only remember it, but we face it starkly. It is finished. He breathes his last. He gives up his spirit.

We're so accustomed to throwing it out there like nothing: “Jesus died for you”. But today we think carefully, closely, on what that means. Death. In all its darkness and ugliness. Death, that great enemy that looms over us all. The end. Lights out. No more.

Death is never pretty. It is, after all, the wages of sin. And sin is ugly. It's an ugly feeling to know your sin. Guilt. Shame. But worse is the punishment. The fear of punishment. And the ultimate punishment is death.

Hebrews tells us, “it is appointed for a man to die once, and after that comes judgment”. We know it's true. Physical death isn't the final end. But it brings us before God for judgment. Eternal death is the real punishment. Physical death is only a shadow of this.

We die once. We don't keep coming back, again and again. There is no reincarnation, no cycle of endless lives to keep on trying and improving. This precious gift of life is a one-time-deal. A short breath, but an important one. One life to live. And then, we die. Once. And then the judgment. There is no second chance.

Or is there?

Christ died once, but not because of his sin. He died because of your sin and mine. He died to bury sin. He died to “deal with it” as only he could. And at the cross sin IS dealt with. It is finished. It's a done deal.

Christ rose, and will come again – but not to die. He will come to judge, and to save. To judge those outside of salvation. Those who reject his gifts, his work, his death. And to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Christ died. And we too, die. But because he died, death, for us, is different.

Death no longer means judgment. Death no longer has a sting. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But Christ gives us the victory.

Or to put it another way, we have already died. We died with Christ. We were buried with him. You look in that borrowed tomb and you see yourself there – your old self with all the sins and warts and faults and flaws and deep dark secrets. All of it lies on the cold slab, sealed in the tomb of death. Jesus took it with him.

You died – at the cross – your sins died. You died – at the font. You drowned in the waters of baptism. Overwhelmed in the flood, your sins never stood a chance.

And since you've already died, now you live, even though you die. By faith in Jesus, he who lives and believes will never die. Even though he dies, he will live.

In other words, death isn't really death for those who die in Christ. His death changes what death means for us. It is no longer the enemy to be feared, but the gate to eternal life. It is no longer the summons to God's courtroom for judgment, but a liberation from the prison of our fallen flesh.

In Christ we do get a sort of second chance at life. We get a new life. We partake in his death to partake in his life. We are bound up with him in all of it.

Good Friday, in a sense, is your own funeral. It is the death of your old nature, your sin and shame. It's all nailed to the cross in him. “You who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great, here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.”

It's too dark for some people. There are even many Christians who skip Good Friday. Too much of a downer.

But it is good to gather this day, to observe this event, to stand before the cross and appreciate what it means. There's what our sins deserve. There's what his love for us does. There's death in naked display.

But there also, is life in all its fullness. From the cross spring all the blessings we treasure and need. From Christ on the cross flow the blood and water that cleanse us all. From the cross he declares, “it is finished” and makes it so. Here is the center of all human history, the cross-roads of time. The God-man suspended between heaven and earth, the one without sin who becomes sins. And eternal life is born out of eternal death and suffering.

They take him down. They wrap the body and apply some spices. Joseph offers his tomb. They bury him. The stone seals it shut. All is quiet. Death's silent rest begins for our Lord. But death is not the end of him, or of us who are in him

And so we eagerly wait. In somberness over our sin. But with a peace that death will soon give way. In Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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