Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
John 19:31-37 Sermon
April 3, 2015
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154 "Alas! And Did My Saviour Bleed"
172 "O Sacred Head Now Wounded"
175 "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross"
655 "I Pray Thee, Dear Lord Jesus"
----- "The Old Rugged Cross"
180-186 "Jesus In Thy Dying Woes"
THE RECONCILIATION AT THE CROSS
Text: Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”
Have you ever taken the time to count how many crosses there are here in the front of our sanctuary? Now I don't want to lose everybody's attention so you can count them, so let's do it together.
The main cross in the front, the one that is usually lit with fluorescent lights, is now dark and draped with a black cloth, to depict and bring to mind our Saviour's crucifixion and death. Directly below that on the altar would normally be the large brass cross sitting between our two candles; but we removed it with the candles last night when we stripped the altar. Then to the left of the altar is the processional cross, which is a gold filigreed cross on a pole and placed in a stand. On the wall beside the pulpit is a rough-hewn cross, a project I did in college, which symbolizes our Saviour's rough and rugged cross. And on the lid of the baptismal font, there is a cross interlaced with a dove, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
And finally, if you look at the communion rail, you'll see six crosses on each of the two rails; and if we put the middle section of the rail in place, there are an additional three crosses on it. So if you've been keeping a tally, that's a total of twenty crosses that you see in our chancel area. And that's not counting the one that I usually wear around my neck, or the ones that adorn some of our altar paraments and banners.
That is a lot of crosses! The reason they are there is because it is one of the most important symbols of our Christian faith. But it's a symbol and nothing more. The cross itself isn't some sort of good luck charm or magical talisman. There is no power in two pieces of wood nailed together. The cross is not something we worship or adore in and of itself.
You might also notice that some crosses are empty, and others have a figure depicting Jesus attached. This is what we call a crucifix. And it is not uncommon to see both types of crosses in our church and many others, because both have their own significance.
The empty cross is a victorious cross, which symbolizes Christ's triumph over death, hell, and Satan. The grave could not hold him. His victory means our victory as well.
But when we see the cross with a figure of Jesus attached (called a corpus), this brings to mind what Jesus did to accomplish our salvation. He is the Lamb of God who sacrificed himself once for all. His spilled blood and broken body was given into death and shed for the redemption of all humanity. This also brings to mind the incomprehensible love that our God has for each of us.
There are some slogans or sayings about the cross that have emerged over the years. For example, there's the one about Christian mathematics. "1 cross, plus 3 nails, equals 4 given." Or there's the poster that says, "It wasn't the nails that held Jesus to the cross, but his love for you and me." And the last one that comes to mind is the poster that says, “I asked Jesus, ‘How much do you love me?’ And Jesus said, ‘This much.’ Then He stretched out His arms and died.”
These are really short quotes; but yet they are so profound. They manage to capture a small glimpse of the beauty of Jesus’ amazing love for us. If you are ever wondering how much Jesus loves you, the answer is right up there on the cross. And I want you to know that even if you were the only person in existence, Jesus still would have done all that he did, just for you. And if you leave this evening's service with only one thing in mind, it's that Jesus would have done all that he did just for you, even if you were the only person in existence. Indeed that's how we can feebly attempt to grasp that "love so amazing, so divine" we sing about when we survey that wondrous cross. When we understand what Jesus did for us on the cross, we can also understand why we see our reconciliation at the cross.
Let's do a brief recap of what has happened. When Jesus began his final journey, he declared that he was going up toJerusalemto be mocked and spit upon. He was going up be handed over to the Gentiles. He was going up to be beaten and crucified. He was going up to die and then, after three days, to rise from the dead. And he said on more than one occasion that all of this was done to fulfill the Scriptures. Jesus did it! He fulfilled the Scriptures. Each and every prophecy about the Messiah pointed to Jesus. Just think about that for a few moments. Every step of his journey, yes, going all the way back to his birth inBethlehem, had been foretold in the Old Testament. One promise after another depicted the journey of the Son of God from heaven to hell, from the glory that he had in eternity to the horror of hell’s essence when he is abandoned by his Father on the cross.
Just think of how heart-rending these events are for us, let alone God himself. But God had promised every single one of them. So let's have a brief look: King David, in Psalm 22, records this day in alarming detail when Jesus would be crucified, when his bones would stick out so that they could be counted; when his clothes would be won by gambling soldiers in a lottery at the foot of the cross.
The prophet Isaiah also writes some rather graphic prophecy. In chapter 53, we read about the day when God’s Suffering Servant would be despised and rejected, and he would have no form or beauty that we would want to see. Later Isaiah spoke of the blood-spattered garments.
The passages referred to here in our text from John 19 are promises from God that go all the way back to the time of Moses and that end with Zechariah, one of the last Old Testament prophets.
It's almost impossible for us to understand. God promised all this misery and suffering would happen to his Son. Jesus agreed that all this should take place and happen to him. And every step of the way, the Father ruled over history and the Son directed his own footsteps, so that not one, not a single one, of the promises God made concerning his Son would fail. This is what had to happen in order for all humanity to be reconciled to God.
These are promises that are filled with torture and ridicule and suffering and pain. But Jesus was absolutely sure that not a bit of the pain was left unfelt and unsuffered. Have you ever heard of or can you imagine such a thing?
But that is exactly what happened in the journey of Christ that ended on Good Friday. He promised that he would come of his own free will. He promised that he would suffer the torments of death and hell. He did this, not because he deserved any of it, but he did it for us and in our place. And he kept his word. He kept it down to the last detail. He kept it perfectly. This was the price that had to be paid for our reconciliation and our salvation.
Now we look ahead promise of the resurrection that we will celebrate on Easter. And we do not doubt for a second that he will fulfill that promise too.
All of these promises we know will come to fruition. God never lies. And these promises have to do with us, with you and me.
Jesus himself had promised it to Nicodemus in John chapter 3; he had promised that he would be lifted up on a tree and that all who believe in him will have everlasting life. That promise extends to each one of us. We see him on Good Friday fulfill the promise that he would be lifted up on the cross. He kept his word. His word promises us that we are reconciled to God, and we will have everlasting life.
How can we doubt it? If he suffered on the tree, as he promised, he will surely keep his other promise as well, which is to give eternal life to all who trust in him alone for their salvation. That’s the whole reason why he kept the promise.
For example, it would be silly for any of us to go next door to Mike's Market and pay for several bags of groceries and then just leave them all there. Jesus has paid the price for our salvation by the hard labor he endured. It would be extremely ridiculous for Jesus to pay such a high a price and then not get what he paid for, namely our redemption and salvation.
No, we can be sure of it. He kept the promise to pay the price of it. He will keep the promise as well to give us fully and freely what he paid for: our redemption, our forgiveness, our peace with God and even peace with our own consciences.
The Son of God has kept the promises there that leave him bleeding, that leave him dead. The Holy Spirit has kept the promises there that he made through the mouths of the holy prophets in the Old Testament, going all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
Not one of those promises has failed. Not one of them has been left incomplete in any way. And all of them were expensive to no one but God. Having kept these difficult promises, we can be sure that what he wanted to accomplish by this hard labor has been accomplished.
But that isn’t all. All through the Bible, God makes promises to us, beautiful promises, one right after the other, that cover the whole of our lives, which cover us even after we are dead. If God kept his hard and painful promises there, then we can be sure that he will keep all of his other promises to us as well.
For example, he promised through the apostles Peter and Paul that Baptism God keeps his promise and adopts us there for his own; he washes us clean of the sin and guilt in which we were conceived and born. We are connected with Christ's burial and resurrection. Jesus promises us that he will never leave us nor forsake us.
Oh, we most certainly deserve to be forsaken. For in spite of the love God has shown us in many ways, we have been all too eager to wander away, we have been happy to stumble and fall, and we have rejoiced to rebel and leave the Father’s house.
But, nevertheless, just as the father in the parable of the prodigal son, God has stood waiting, and waiting, and waiting. And then, when the bitter consequences of our sins have come home to roost and we are in despair, there is the Father, waiting, calling, embracing, pardoning, and receiving us again and with tears for the sake of his Son who suffered so that we would be reconciled to him.
But that isn’t all. When we suffer pain in our lives, he does not forsake us. When all around us leave, he remains. When sorrow shadows our every move, either because of our own sins or those of others, he does not abandon us.
He has promised that he won’t. In the Bible, God tells us that a mother may forget her nursing child, but he will never forget us; our names are engraved on the palm of his hand. He promised that the mountains could fall down and melt into the ocean, but his love would remain for us forever. He promised that all things would work together for our ultimate good, and that he himself would be with us to the end of our days. He promised it, and on the cross he paid for it. He is faithful to his word and keeps it forever.
Jesus' promises even go beyond the grave when he said, “Because I live, you will live also.” Even death itself will not rob us of our life in Christ and our life with Christ.
It is Good Friday. In the beginning, we made a survey of the crosses that normally adorn our sanctuary, and we counted twenty of them. As we consider them, we look towardGolgothain spirit and we see the cross of our Saviour. He hung there to pay for each and every sin we have ever done or that we will ever do. He paid that price so we would be reconciled to God. His body was broken and his blood was shed for you and me.
It is Good Friday, and those who witnessed what happened to Jesus that day went home smiting their breasts in anguish at the sight. It is Good Friday, and our sanctuary is austere and the color of black is prevalent. Sorrow fills the air. It is Good Friday, and we will do some personal reflection here at church, and go home smiting our breasts in our own way at what we have done to him.
We do this because he pays for our sin with his passion. But at the same time, we go home with hearts throbbing with hope that cannot disappoint and with joy that will never fade and with life that does not end. We celebrate our reconciliation with God because of what Jesus did for each and every one of us.
We see crosses around us all the time. Tonight we think about the horror of what happened to Jesus on that cross. But there is also a glory in the cross that we must see. It is the glory that his promises to us have all been fulfilled there on the cross, and a joy that only comes from the forgiveness we have through faith in Christ. We see the glory of the cross so that we can be certain that he will always keep all of his promises to us. That's the hope we carry with us into Easter as we celebrate once again Christ's physical resurrection from the dead with the promise that the grave will not hold us either, and we too shall rise and dwell with him for all eternity.