Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Good Friday Evening

Good Friday
Sermon: The Lamb of God Who Bore Our Shame
(Isaiah 53:3–7)

In a world driven by marketing and fixated on entertainment, Good Friday seems a little out of step. There is nothing entertaining about the cross, and there is no way to draw a smiley face on the crucifixion. No matter how you slice it, there is just no way to sell the cross. And there is nothing entertaining about this day. But then, that is the way it should be. This day is not called Happy Friday, after all, but Good Friday.

God the Son did not come down from heaven to make us happy. He was not incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary to make us happy. He was not made man and crucified for us under Pontius Pilate to make us happy. It was not to make us happy that He suffered and was buried or on the third day rose again in accordance with the Scriptures. Jesus Christ is interested in much more than our mere happiness. His burning intent is nothing less than our eternal joy. Our Lord Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, for the one joy that was set before Him—that He might swallow up death forever in His death. And He did this though it meant He had to set aside His glory and embrace our shame to do it. All this, and more, is what puts the “good” into Good Friday.

Jesus is the Lamb of God who bore our shame. That’s what was going on that first Good Friday. Although He is in Himself pure and holy, Jesus was carrying all our shame in that pure and holy body of His that day. That is why He looked so bad on that day we call “good.”

You all know the events of Good Friday very well; how our Lord was nailed to the cross around 9 a.m. and hung there in bitter agony for six hours; how utter darkness descended from noon until He expired with a loud cry around 3 p.m.

It was not a happy scene that day. The holy prophet Isaiah records that “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not” (Isaiah 53:2–3). This sums up the way things played out that first Good Friday, when Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, took on the sin of the world and died a sinner’s death under the wrath and judgment of God, His righteous Father.

It looked for all the world like Jesus was the worst sinner who had ever or would ever live. Isaiah records: “We considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4). It looked as though Jesus deserved to die; otherwise, why would God be punishing Him?

So we learn an important lesson today/this night: we learn to look for God not in external circumstances but hidden under the opposite. He reveals His glory in His shame, His joy in sorrow, His comfort wrapped in suffering and pain. For things were not as they appeared that Good Friday. It looked as though Jesus was stricken and smitten by God because of His own sin, when in reality it was our sins that hurt Him so. This the prophet underscores in these words: “We considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4–5).

At the cross, amid great agony of body and soul, the Son of God opened up the heart of God for the whole world to see. Things were not what they appeared to be. Hidden under Christ’s agony and excruciating suffering we can see the Father’s love in action. Not one of us would give up his son to save another, but at the cross God the Father sacrificed His Son, His only Son, the Son whom He loved, to remove the curse of sin. At the cross Jesus, the Lamb of God, stripped and mocked and flogged, was carrying in Himself the full burden of all the sins of all the world.

No wonder, then, that He was pierced and crushed—for there Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God, got what we deserved. At the cross, justice was done, but not as it seemed. Jesus was indeed stricken and afflicted by God, but not on account of anything He had done. Rather, it was our sins—yours and mine—that He was carrying on His sinless back, that pure and holy Lamb of God. And there He bore our shame as well.

Sin is rebellion, idolatry, open hostility against the God who in love created us and gave us all we have, who purchased and won us by the blood of His Son, who called us by His Spirit through the Gospel. Violations of His will, therefore, bring not merely guilt but also shame.

We all have known the ravages of shame—that sense of being dirty and filthy, contaminated by things that fill you with remorse and regret. Things you have thought and said and done that leave you broken, humiliated and ashamed deep inside, feeling all alone and isolated from God.

Here before the cross on which is hung the salvation of the world, that ugly shame is removed. For in His cross and by His death, the Lamb of God bore all our shame away. “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

That healing is yours this very day. The wounds of Jesus are strength for the weary, consolation for the sorrowing, healing balm for the walking wounded. Thank God, there is room at the cross for sinners who grieve and mourn their sin; sinners who know their transgression, whose sin is ever before them; sinners who know the bitter taste left over in their mouths from angry words they have spoken; sinners whose lives are strewn with the wreckage of sin and the anguish of hurt; sinners who feel in their bones the wretched refuse of foul and polluted thoughts and who the know the heft of the awful weight of shame and guilt that comes from sins of thought and word and deed.

But now all that is over and done. Because this is a fallen world, your life might not always be a happy life, but it remains a good life in Jesus, the Lamb who died to save you, the one who bore your shame. For that is all done now, thanks be to God.

After all, notice the thrust of each power-packed phrase in our text: He was pierced, He was crushed, our punishment was upon Him. All of that is now long past. The bitter agony, the bloody sweat, the suffering soul, the dying breath—all of that lies in the past, forever over and done. But the last and best part continues now and lasts forever, and that is what is yours this very day/night: with His stripes we are healed.

Every wounded heart and hurting soul can find its health restored tonight in the Savior once given into death that you might live. There is a cure for all that ails your sin-sick soul in the words of Jesus, for they are Spirit and they are life for you today. “It is finished,” hear Him say. And you can take Him at His Word. Now is vanquished sin and death and hell. Now the whole ugly record of our sin and all its shame is set aside, nailed with Jesus on His cross, done away with in His death. Now the power of darkness is defeated and the fury of God’s wrath is silenced. Now the fears that haunt us are dissolved. Now even the grave itself can never separate us from the love of God in Christ, His Son.

For Jesus is the Lamb of God who bore our shame away. Therefore in awestruck wonder we pray this holy day, “Have mercy on us, Jesus. Grant us Your peace. Amen.”

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