Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Morning (April 12, 2009)

Easter Morning (April 12, 2009) Mark 16:1-8 “He is risen!”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Our text for this morning is from the Gospel lesson just read from Mark chapter 16. We focus on the words of the angels, He is risen!

The last and greatest enemy of mankind is death. As we gather here this morning to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, this message of the angels first of all reminds us of why Jesus had to die and rise again from the dead. From the time of Adam, death has been our lot as human beings. No amount of medical advances or health kicks or anything else under the sun will stave off grip of death upon humanity. There is no escape for any of us. Even the most innocent to our thinking have death as their inheritance.

But what’s worse is that we know it is our own fault. We can’t blame this death on someone else, not even on our parents. As we heard on Good Friday, it is your sin that put Jesus to death on the cross. And it is your sin that brings about your own death. As St. Paul rightly said The wages of sin is death. That’s your payment for you sin. Left to your own devices, you will get what you deserve: death.

This is what the women are thinking about as they bring the spices and ointments to Jesus’ tomb. Their Lord is dead, so they go to give Him a proper burial, hopeless as it may seem. They went, but in their grief they forgot about the stone at the entrance of the tomb. But behold! The stone was gone! An angel was at the entrance to the tomb, and told them, Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.

Their grief in the face of death is now joy in the face of indestructible life. Only God Himself could roll away the stone. Only Jesus could face even death itself for your salvation and come out victorious. The cost was great. He suffered death itself for you. He died the death of a common criminal. Everyone abandoned Him. God Himself abandoned Jesus on the cross. All of God’s wrath for sin was taken out on our Lord at the cross. Paul rightly said that the wages of sin is death, BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus is risen from the dead, and that changes everything. You no longer have to fret and worry over your sins. They went with Jesus to the cross and to the tomb. And that’s where they shall stay forever.

God’s gift to you is nothing less than eternity for this sake of His crucified and risen Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Saint Paul in our epistle lesson calls this a mystery. That is the same word for sacrament. It is a mystery that only God can unravel. We may not understand it all. We may not be able to piece it together or explain Jesus resurrection, as we would like. But it doesn’t matter. It is a mystery. But it is a mystery that we may rejoice in for all eternity.

This mystery, this sacrament of the resurrection came to little Thomas this morning in the waters of Holy Baptism. What a wonderful day for a baptism! God once again gives His Church the gift of eternal life poured out on the cross for Thomas. As Saint Paul said, Death is swallowed up in victory. This Easter is Thomas’ entry into new life. Death no longer has dominion over him. Now He is in God’s kingdom. Now He is God’s adopted son and heir not to death, but to eternal life. As our Lord said, Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the Kingdom of God. Our Lord has blessed Thomas with the gift of life, a real life in Him that will last forever.

What is true for Thomas is also true for you. God has set eternity in our hearts, as Solomon wrote many years ago. Our Lord has put eternity on you in the waters of Holy Baptism. Saint Paul said in Romans chapter six,
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:3-11)

When we celebrate Easter, we are not simply remembering an event that happened 2000 or so years ago. This isn’t a history lesson, my friends. Every time your hear the Gospel, every time the waters of life are poured out on a new child of God, every time you hear His Word of absolution or eat His body and blood, every time God comes to you in these many ways, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead becomes yours. It truly is a mystery. This is why we call every Sunday the Lord’s Day. This is why every time we gather together in the divine service, all of God’s work of salvation becomes yours once again.

Soon God will put eternity into your mouth in the mystery of the Lord’s Supper. For there the power of Jesus’ resurrection is yours like no other place. You are not a walking corpse, scrambling on this earth to make a buck and get by until you die. No! You are a living child of God. Eternal life is yours, now, today. This is the feast of victory. This is the life that will never end.

The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Maundy Thursday 2009

Maundy Thursday 2009 “These Words” (The Sacrament of the Altar)

Tonight we conclude our series on “The Six Chief Parts of Lenten Catechesis.” So far we’ve been following the Catechism in looking at the basics of the Christian faith and life: The Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, and Confession. That brings us tonight to the Sacrament of the Altar.

Everything we want to say about the Sacrament tonight we can find in the words with which Christ institutes this holy meal. Which words? These words: “Take eat; this is my body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.” “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

“These Words”: The Words of Institution, the Words of Our Lord. These words will tell us what the Sacrament of the Altar is, its nature. These words will tell us what the Sacrament gives, its benefits. And these words will tell us how to receive the Sacrament worthily, its right reception. As Luther says in the Large Catechism, “All these points are established through the words by which Christ has instituted this sacrament.”

First, then, these words tell us what the Sacrament is. Jesus says it plainly: “This is my body.” “This cup is the new testament in my blood.” He says this of the bread and the wine he gives his disciples to eat and to drink. “This is my body, this is my blood.” What you are receiving, then, is the bread and the wine, yes, but not mere bread and wine. In, with, and under these elements, you are receiving the true body and blood of Christ.

How can this be? Because Christ says so. His words make it so. When we consider who it is speaking--Christ, the eternal Son of God, the Word made flesh--then we realize that his divine, creative, powerful words can do whatever he wants. And if he says that this is his body and blood, then this is his body and blood. Not only do these words tell us what the Sacrament is, these words make the Sacrament what it is.

“This is my body, this is my blood.” Don’t overlook the “my.” This is Jesus speaking. This is his body and blood. As he says, “This do in remembrance of me.” So our attention is drawn to the person of Christ, his whole ministry, and the particular context in which he says these words. Who it is speaking makes all the difference. And this is Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, come down from heaven, come in the flesh, to reveal God to us, to bring us back to God. And now, as he speaks these words, that saving mission is coming to a climax. “On the night when he was betrayed,” Christ institutes this sacrament. He has entered into his Passion, his intense suffering, and within a few hours he will cry aloud, “It is finished.”

This is my body, this is my blood, “given and shed,” he says. Christ’s body, given into death. His blood, shed on the cross. This is what he is giving you; this is what you are receiving. The Sacrament connects us to the cross. Christ crucified, his body given, his blood shed--why? As the sacrifice for our sins. Our sins, our lawless deeds, our breaking of God’s commandments. Our sins separate us from God and condemn us to death. But there is one death that can cover all our sins and rescue us from death, and that is the death of God’s only Son, dying in our place. That’s why Jesus gives his body and sheds his blood on the cross. His death on the cross wins forgiveness for our sins, and with that forgiveness, then, life from the dead and eternal salvation, as his resurrection demonstrates and declares.

So all that Christ won for us on the cross he delivers to us in this sacrament. That brings us to the second point, what the Sacrament gives. And we find that too in Christ’s words of institution--specifically, in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” The forgiveness of sins--there is the one benefit that brings with it all the other benefits. “For,” as Luther says so well, “where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” In other words, if you take care of the sin problem, you also take care of the death problem and all the other damaging results of sin. And of course, you don’t take care of it, Christ does! And he gives those benefits to you! He does it in this sacrament. “For you for the forgiveness of sins.” There is the promise! There is the gift! “For you.” The promise and the gift, the forgiveness, life, and salvation--all for you!

Forgiveness--God remembers your sins no more! Do you feel your guilt? Are you troubled by your sins? Then come to the altar and receive the gift of God’s forgiveness. Life--new life now, eternal life forever. Life that heals your soul and that will bring wholeness to your body. Do you need nourishment for living the Christian life? Come to the altar and be refreshed and strengthened, in faith toward God and in fervent love for one another. Are you afraid of dying? Come to the altar and receive Christ’s pledge of everlasting life in this sacrament. Salvation--being safe in the loving care and strong protection of your heavenly Father. Are you worried about your future? Come to the altar and be assured of God’s love for you--he who loved you so much that he gave his only Son for you, that you would not perish but have eternal life. Life and salvation come with the forgiveness of sins that is given you at this altar in this sacrament. It all comes back to these words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

That brings us then to our third point, how to receive this sacrament worthily. Simply put, have faith in these words--we cannot emphasize them enough--“Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Christ gave his body and shed his blood for you on the cross, and now he gives his body and blood to you in this sacrament. “This is my body, this is my blood.” Do you believe these words? Then come to the altar. His body and his blood are for the forgiveness of sins. This sacrament gives us just that. “For the forgiveness of sins.” Do you believe these words? Then come to the altar. “For you for the forgiveness of sins.” This means that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness. Do you believe this? Then don’t stay away, as though you’re not good enough. God knows you’re not good enough! That’s precisely why he gives you this gift! So come and be forgiven! “For you for the forgiveness of sins.” Put your name in the “for you.” “For Art.” “For Catherine.” “For Dick.” “For Barb.” Whatever your name is, put it in the “for you” slot. That’s what God does! Christ died on that cross for you, and this bread and this cup have your name on it. “For you, for the forgiveness of sins.”

It all comes back to the words, “These Words” of Christ Jesus our Savior: “This is my body, this is my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” As the Catechism teaches, “These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament.” Christ himself instituted this sacrament for us Christians to eat and to drink. So “this do”! Come to the altar this coming Holy Week and Easter and receive the great gift Christ has for you. Amen.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Daily Bible Readings for Easter Week

Easter Week April 12 - 18, 2009

Easter Sunday Ex 14:10–31; Heb 7:23—8:13
Monday Ex 15:1–18; Heb 9:1–28
Tuesday Ex 15:19—16:12; Heb 10:1–18
Wednesday Ex 16:13–35; Heb 10:19–39
Thursday Ex 17:1–16; Heb 11:1–29
Friday Ex 18:5–27; Heb 12:1–24
Saturday Ex 19:1–25; Heb 13:1–21

The Great Vigil of Easter 2009

The Great Vigil of Easter 2009

Exodus 14:10—15:1

“The Waters of Salvation”

In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Our text for tonight is the Exodus and crossing of the Red Sea as recorded in the book of Exodus chapter 14.

We gather here tonight to keep vigil, or watch for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. What makes this night different from any other night? Why should we gather here and hope and trust that our Lord has risen from the grave? Why should we, modern 21st century Americans, care two hoots about an event that happened close to 2000 years ago?

We keep vigil tonight because Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead is the defining event in the history of the world. We see the world through His death and resurrection. If you look at the world any other way, it simply is not reality.

The people of Israel were faced with a similar challenge almost 3500 years ago. Relentless Pharaoh pursued them. He had it in for them. He sought to kill the whole lot of them. Their very lives, their very existence as the people of God was in jeopardy. The armies of Pharaoh were on one side, the Red Sea on the other. What would they do? Would God deliver them? Would they even survive?

This is your lot as children of death. We are lost and hopeless. We, like them so many years ago, are in darkness and left with fear because of our sins. Will God deliver us? Will God see us through this life and into the life to come?

We know the rest of the story, of course. God opened a path for them right through the middle of the sea, so that they were safe on dry ground. The water that once spelled their death now was their salvation. God saved them through the water, by protecting them AND by destroying their enemies.

My dear friends in Christ, tonight we learn what this story is really about. This great story in the history of Israel was but a picture of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and the life that is now yours through Holy Baptism.

When Jesus died on the cross, He was laid to rest in the tomb. For three days He rested in the grave. But after three days, He burst forth from the tomb. God had exalted Him, He had lifted Him up out of the grave and death. As Saint Paul said, Death no longer had dominion over Him.

Jesus rose triumphant from the grave! Just as the people of Israel passed through the sea of death to life everlasting, Jesus passed through death to life. Pharaoh is Satan, that old evil foe who seeks your life. But you are loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke! Because you are baptized into His name, that journey is now your journey. You have passed from death to life through the holy waters of baptism. You have traveled with Israel through the Red Sea and death, and have come out dry and safe on the other side. Satan is left at the bottom of the sea with your sins.

Perhaps Saint Paul said it best in Romans chapter six: Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:3-11)

This is the song of all creation. His death is your death, and His life is your life. The women brought incense and spices to Jesus’ tomb to bury him. These spices and incense were used to cover up the smell of death. But that smell which was meant to cover up death is now for us a reminder of life, eternal life in him. With Jesus’ resurrection from death the power of Satan is undone, the power of death is finished, the power of hell is gone forever. So rejoice in your risen Savior! Pray and watch this night, for we rise in the morning to greet Him with the dawn of a new day, the Lord’s Day, the day of the Resurrection of the Dead. In the strong name of Jesus. Amen.

“An Ironic Death” Matthew 27 Good Friday 2009

“An Ironic Death”

Matthew 27

Good Friday 2009

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Good Friday is a day that is full of irony, tragic and yet beautiful irony. We see this even from the name Good Friday itself. On the one hand this is the day when we observe and meditate on the torturous and painful and agonizing sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus. And yet we call this day Good Friday, because we know that it was only through this crucifixion of Christ that we would be delivered from sin and death and hell. This dark, loathsome day is nevertheless truly good because it is the day of our salvation.

The first irony of this day is that an innocent man, Jesus, was condemned to death, while a rebellious murderer, Barabbas, was set free. And all of this was a part of God’s plan. St. Matthew writes:

“Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, ‘Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ . . . But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ asked the governor. ‘Barabbas,’ they answered. ‘What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?’ Pilate asked. They all answered, ‘Crucify Him!’”

Brothers and sisters of Christ, you are Barabbas. You are the one who, because you have fallen short of the glory of God, deserve death. But when the question is posed, “Which of the two do you want me to release?”, the voice of God answers, “Barabbas--Dick or David or Mary or Teri.” “What shall I do, then, with Jesus?” “Crucify Him,” the Father says. How ironic that we should be released from our sins while Jesus should suffer for them. And yet how thankful we are that God chose to rescue us in that way.

A second irony of Good Friday occurs when the mob chose to take responsibility for Jesus’ death. St. Matthew writes:
“When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said. ‘It is your responsibility!’ All the people answered, ‘Let his blood be on us and on our children!’”

Nowhere do we find the people of Christ’s day giving expression to a more frenzied, fanatical hatred for Jesus than in this particular passage. Faced with a ticklish problem, Pontius Pilate resorts to a time-tested gimmick: passing the buck. Taking water and washing his hands, he insists, “If there’s any blame in connection with this affair, I’m free of it; you people take it.” And they did. They were willing to assume all the blame. In fact for all they cared any such consequences extended to succeeding generations of Jews too. That didn’t make any difference. “Let His blood be on us and on our children,” the people screamed. Seldom has hatred been more intense.

Jesus’ enemies intended these words to be a self-imposed curse. “We accept the consequences of His death.” But without ever intending it, their words in the light of the Gospel contain a blessing too. For Christ’s blood is on us and our children, in a saving sense. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb was on the doorposts of the houses of the Israelites prior to the exodus, saving the occupants from the plague of death, so also the death-destroying benefits of Christ’s blood are on us and our children through faith. The wonderful blessings of eternal life in heaven and the opportunity for goodness in everyday life which Christ won for us through the shedding of His blood are available to all people of all generations--including those Jews who meant something quite different when they screamed, “Let His blood be on us and on our children.” For I Peter 1 says that we were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ.” And Colossians 1 declares that in Christ “we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Ironically, then, a hysterical, over-enthusiastic mob gave voice to a great Gospel truth. The saving blood of Christ is on us and on our children.

A third irony of Good Friday occurs when Jesus was delivered into the custody of the Roman soldiers. The Passion account states:

“Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around Him. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on His head. They put a staff in His right hand and knelt in front of Him and mocked Him. ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ they said. They spit on Him, and took the staff and struck Him on the head again and again. After they had mocked Him, they took off the robe and put His own clothes on Him. Then they led Him away to crucify Him . . . Above His head they placed the written charge against Him: ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.’“

The soldiers thought that they were just having a little “fun” with this convict Jesus--morbid and perverse though it was. Little did they know that when they scornfully hailed Him as the King of the Jews, they were speaking the truth. Little did they know that the One they were spitting on and physically abusing would one day be their judge. And little did they know that the crown of thorns which they hatefully pressed onto His head was actually a fitting symbol of the kind of king He came to be and a means by which He became the Lord of all creation. In Genesis chapter three we read of God’s curse on Adam after he fell into sin: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you.” Thorns are part of the curse of sin which we all are under by nature. So when Jesus was crowned with thorns, He was showing that He was a King who came to bear the curse of sin for His subjects and to rule them with His sacrificial love. As Galatians three says, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us.” Jesus’ coronation as King of the Universe took place, then, oddly enough, on the cross. For it was there that He redeemed the Universe, buying it back from the curse, and making it His own. How ironic that the mocking and the thorns and the crucifying, which the soldiers meant to degrade and humiliate Jesus, actually worked to lift Him up and exalt Him as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

And a fourth irony of Good Friday occurs after Jesus has died. “Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” This soldier was simply verifying that Jesus was dead. And indeed He was dead. For those who are crucified die by slowly suffocating under the weight of their body which keeps their heart from being able to pump the blood properly. As this occurs, the liquid portion of the blood separates from the red portion. Eventually, oxygen can no longer be carried to all the different parts of the body, and after a great deal of agony and pain, the one crucified dies. What flowed from Jesus’ side demonstrated that He had died in this way.

However, there is more here than meets the eye. The church has always interpreted the flow of blood and water to be a picture of the Sacraments, which flow to us from Christ. The water of course is Holy Baptism and the blood, Holy Communion. The forgiveness and the life that we receive in these Sacraments was earned for us and is poured out to us from Christ’s holy cross. Just as God created a wife for Adam from Adam’s side, so also the heavenly Father has created a holy bride for His Son from His Son’s side. For the church is given life and is united with her groom in these Sacraments. Jesus is the new Adam; we are the new Eve. How ironic that something that was meant to verify the death of Christ is actually something which pictures how He gives life to His church.

Dear bride of Christ, as this service continues, as the church grows darker, and as you hear the Passion account for the last time this Lent, consider carefully the ironies and the paradoxes of this Good Friday. Ponder how Jesus died because of you; but also ponder how Jesus died for you. For in such holy meditation on our Lord’s Passion, you will find forgiveness and life and peace. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Good Friday 2009 It is Finished

“It Is Finished”

Good Friday

John 19: 30

"The war is over.” Those words, printed on the front pages of newspapers and spoken over the radio, proclaimed the victorious end of World War II. With those words a deep sigh came across our country and much of the world. “The war is over.” The worrying, the waiting, the dying was finally done. It was finished. You can imagine–many of you can remember–the depth of emotion after so much suffering.

On this day, Good Friday, we hear our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross speak a similar but infinitely more powerful declaration, “It is finished.” He, too, was saying, “The war is over.” But this is a war that goes back not just a few years but to the beginning of time. It was begun in heaven by a powerful and glorious angel named Lucifer, who rebelled against God out of envy and jealousy and wanted to make Himself equal with God. For his rebellion Lucifer and the other angels who joined him were cast out of heaven. And so the war spilled over to earth where these fallen angels, the devil and his demons, were cast down. In his diabolical craftiness, Satan engineered the rebellion of man against God as well. And with Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, the war for man’s soul was on. Man had fallen into the hands of the enemy, but God was not about to let that stand. He undertook a rescue operation.

Already in the Garden the Lord prophesied how this victory would be won. To the devil He spoke this curse: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall crush your head, and you shall crush His heel.” With those words, the Lord foretold how He would Himself become man. He would become the Seed, the descendant of the woman. In the war the devil would strike the heal of the Son of God on the cross, but in the very act of striking the Son, the devil’s own head would be smashed. Jesus would grind the serpents head into the ground with His wounded heel. Down through history, man has struggled much in that war with the devil and the world and his own sinful flesh. There has been so much suffering, so much crying, so much dying. And for those who will not listen to Christ or believe in Him, the war will continue and end in defeat and hell.

But on Good Friday, our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to listen to His words, to believe them, and to rejoice! From the cross Christ declares, “It is finished.” The war is over. It has been won. The war that no man could ever win–for we are no match for the devil and the grave–that war has been won by the God man, Jesus Christ for us. He took the worst that the enemy could throw at us and suffered it all to death in His body. Satan has no ammunition left to shoot at you. Jesus took it all and destroyed it all for you and in your place. The enemy is conquered and defeated.

When Jesus cries out, “It is finished!” it doesn’t mean that He’s lost. It means that the victory is complete. It doesn’t mean that He’s finished, it means that His work is finished. Everything that is necessary to rescue you who were held hostage in the devil’s kingdom Jesus has done. Everything that is necessary to forgive your sins fully and completely Jesus has done. Everything that is necessary to release you from the power of the grave and give you eternal life Jesus has done. It is complete. It is fulfilled. It is perfected in His holy death.

When Jesus says, “It is finished!” it’s as if our Savior turns His gaze from the first sinner to the last sinner across all time, and there is not one single person whose guilt He hasn’t atoned for. There is not one person whose peace He hasn’t won. There is nothing more that you need to do to be saved, no good work you need to accomplish to finish the job. Jesus here declares that He has already finished the job. All you are given to do is believe.

Christ has reopened the Garden of Eden. That’s why this day is called Good Friday. Just as God declared everything He had created in the beginning to be good, so now He makes all things good again, putting to death the old order of death and brining the new creation to life. Paradise is restored through the cross. We are invited back in to lie down in green pastures and to be led by the still waters. We are reconciled to God. We are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. The desperation of the war is done. Its victorious outcome is assured.

It is finished! This mighty cry of triumph reverberates into the depths of hell, filling the devil with terror. It reverberates into the heights of heaven, filling all saints and angels with praise. And it reverberates into our hearts and the hearts of all believers yet on earth, filling us with comfort and confident hope. When we are troubled by our sins that separate us from God and from each other, and we wonder if we can ever be truly forgiven, Jesus says, “Yes, it is finished.” When we are tempted and tested and persecuted by the world, and we wonder if we will ever be victorious in these battles, Jesus says, “Yes, it is finished.” When we begin to doubt whether eternal life is really ours or whether or not we will really rise from the dead, Jesus says, “Yes, it is finished.” The war was terrible. So much crying, suffering, and sadness. But listen to Jesus’ proclamation today and believe it: “The war is over. It is finished. Mission accomplished, for you and for your salvation.”