Sunday, April 27, 2014

Easter 2 Sermon

Jesu Juva

“All Locked Up With No Place To Go?”
Text: John 20:19-31 (Acts 5:29-42; 1 Peter 1:3-9)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed Alleluia!] Alleluia!

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

How ya’ doing?

We ask that all the time. It’s a good conversation starter. And it’s not a bad question. The problem, I think, is with our answers. 

Oh, I’m fine. You? I’m fine.
I’m good! You? I’m good, too.

Maybe sometimes that’s true. But most of the time it’s not, is it? So why don’t we answer honestly? Perhaps we don’t want to burden others with our problems. Don’t want to be a gloomy gus all the time. 

More than that, though, I think, is that we don’t want others to know our problems. For what would you think of me if you really knew me? If you knew the problems I have, and the sins I am struggling with, and my failures? That I’m really a mess, that my family isn’t perfect, that I don’t have it all together? That what you see on Sunday morning isn’t really who I am? If you knew that all I really want to do is be like those disciples and go into my room and lock the door and try to keep the trouble out? Or forget about it for a while. Or wait until maybe it’ll blow over. Because I’m afraid. I know me too well.

Ever think those things? 
How ya’ doing? 

Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Nathanael, Matthew, James, Jude, and Simon weren’t doing so well either. They were a mess. Each of them and all of them. The images of what had just happened were fresh in their minds. And when they weren’t thinking of that the shouldas, wouldas, and couldas were probably taking up the rest of the time. Peter remembering his denials. The others remembering their cowardice. Maybe James and John remembering how they wanted the seats of honor next to Jesus in His kingdom. Yeah. Look at them now. Peter - did you double check the lock on that door? Nathanael - peek outside; anyone there? And the only thing worse than today? The thought of tomorrow.

Then Jesus shows up. And if you think our paraments are white, I’ll bet at that moment the faces of those ten were whiter! Fear, embarrassment, wonder - how?, questions, doubts, awe, shame, terror . . .  Peace be with you.

And there are the holes . . . in the hands, the feet, the side. It’s Jesus. No doubt about that. Peace be with you. He says it again, for they needed to hear it again. He holds nothing against them. He knows. And He forgives. Everything. All the guilt, all the shame, all that’s gone wrong. 

This is Jesus not only giving them what they need, it’s Jesus teaching them about what they just saw. Because of His wounds, because of His death, there is now peace with God. They are reconciled. All they deserve He has taken. Yes that should have be them, but it’s not. And what they don’t deserve, He gives. Peace be with you. I forgive you. 

Then, we are told - then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Not before. Before forgiveness there were only the doubts and fear and shame and all the mixed-up jumble of confusion and guilt. After forgiveness they were glad. They were absolved. Jesus is not mad at them, is not their enemy now, is holding nothing against them. It’s . . . it’s almost as if nothing ever happened . . .


It’s what Jeremiah had written so long ago: I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jer 31:34).

Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Overjoyed is more like it. They didn’t have to hide anymore. They didn’t have to run anymore. And they didn’t. They leave that locked room to share their joy with Thomas. They leave that locked room to share their joy with the world. Did you hear the reading from Acts? No fear of the Jews there! Just boldness; defiance. We must obey God rather than men.  . . .  And they left the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. The name of the God who doesn’t condemn but forgives! The name of the God who unlocked their prison of sin and shame and absolves and forgets. The name of the God who died for them. The name of Jesus.

So where are you hiding? Where are you running? What’s locking the door of your heart? 

Nothing! I’m fine, Pastor. Really! Everything’s good. Good. Couldn’t be better . . .

You know, that’s why we don’t start the service here every week with “How ya doing?” Jesus knows how you’re doing. He’s knows better than you! Because sometimes we work so hard trying to fool others that we even wind up fooling ourselves.

And so instead we start the service here every week just like that first Easter night. Jesus comes. He comes here. To you. Locked in your sin and shame, afraid to let anyone know what you’re really like, how bad a sinner you are, that you don’t have it all together. We just start with Jesus. His name. And His Absolution. In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sin. In His name. Peace be with you. Because He commanded those ten, and the Church, to forgive. 

That’s why we start the service this way. That’s why I’m here so often for Private Absolution. No judgment. Just forgiveness. Freedom from your locked doors and shame. Because of His wounds. Why are you hanging on to what He took away? That’s also why Baptism. That’s why the Supper. Forgiveness for young and old. Forgiveness for you. Jesus said it twice in that room that night. They needed to hear it again. You need to hear it again. And again and again. And to receive this gift again and again. To come out of your locked doors. To live. 

So your Pastor forgives. Try it sometime. Unlock your heart; dump your whole mess in my ears; spew it out. Why hang on to what Jesus takes away. I forgive you all your sins . . .

So come here for forgiveness, yes. Jesus loves it when you do. He is overjoyed. Your Pastor is too. For remember the last really great Christmas gift you bought or made for someone? The one you took so much time and thought it just perfect, just what they needed? How do you feel when that person opens it up and says: Oh. Yeah. Thanks. And quickly puts it aside? But how much joy for you, the giver, when it is received with joy! So too with Jesus and His forgiveness. He wants to give it. To you. It’s His joy, and yours.

And speak those words too. Because when you don’t, you’re also hanging on to what Jesus takes away! Which satan absolutely loves. That’s why the six hardest words to speak are: I am sorry, and I forgive you. We so often would rather say and do anything but those words. You see how satan has wormed his way into us?

So speak those words too. Don’t give satan the satisfaction. Don’t lock yourself up again. Don’t look at the sin committed against you. Don’t look at the sin in you. Look at Jesus, His wounds. For you. And though you cannot put your fingers and hands into them, He puts his wounded but now raised Body and Blood into you. For the same joy. The same forgiveness. The same freedom. So you don’t have to hide anymore. So you don’t have to run anymore. So you can leave that locked up heart and locked up room and live in joy and peace. 

And you know what? You may suffer for it, like the disciples. That’s true. I’m not going to tell you that life will be all rosy. Not everyone out there will forgive. You’ll even be betrayed by fellow Christians. Because those Christians, you know, they’re sinners too. And family members, friends. And it’ll hurt. Maybe you’ll do it too.  . . .  Well, not maybe, right? 

And so we come back here and dump it again. And Jesus is here, again! Forgiving. Absolving. Never growing tired of it. Which is sometimes hard to believe, isn’t it?  There must be a limit, right? But you can’t out-sin the cross. You can leave it and not want forgiveness. You can reject it and not think you need forgiveness. But you can’t out-sin it. If it was just a man there, then yes. But that’s not just a man there. That’s Jesus. Your God. For you. To forgive you. And to provide you an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.

That’s coming. For now, the trials. Which we usually think of as great persecutions and troubles. But maybe it’s much simpler than that. Maybe the greatest trials we will go through are those six words. Humbling ourselves to say I am sorry. And loving to say I forgive you. Maybe that’s hard enough.

And that’s the pure spiritual milk we need. To grow up to salvation. For what is salvation but our freedom and rescue from sin and death? That peace be with you. That you depart in peace. Reconciled. Redeemed. A child of God. Dearly loved. Forgiven and free. The death and resurrection and joy of Jesus yours. Now and forever, peace be with you.

For Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia!

In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Resurrection of Our Lord Sermon

Jesu Juva

“The Angel and the Word of Life”
Text: Matthew 28:1-10 (Acts 10:34-43; Exodus 15:1b [Introit])

Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed Alleluia!] Alleluia!

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

There’s an angel again, at the tomb. A messenger of God. The angels are always around Jesus. There to announce Jesus’ coming to Mary, there at Jesus’ birth, there with Jesus in the wilderness, there with Jesus in His agony in Gethsemane, and now at His empty tomb. They would have been there with Jesus to prevent His arrest. For Jesus had told His disciples: Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53)? But He did not make such an appeal. Better the one angel at the empty tomb than twelve legions preventing it. Better for us. Jesus had come for this battle, the battle of the cross. The battle against sin, darkness, death, devil, and all the forces of hell. To fight this battle alone. Himself. 

And for a time, it seemed as if the forces of hell had won. Even though Jesus had told His disciples numerous times that He would be killed but rise again on the third day, seeing Jesus on the cross, then seeing His lifeless body being taken down and then laid in a tomb made it tough to remember such words. Or if they remembered them, to believe them. For as you well know, death and graves are so cold and dark and sad and final . . .

So it was in that sad numbness of heart and mind that the women went to the tomb that first day of the week. It must have been a joyless Passover for them, the day before; a just going through the motions. Perhaps like that first holiday you go through after a loved one has died. You do all the same things, the same traditions, but it’s not the same. There’s a hole, a void, a certain aching joylessness that’s hard to overcome. So it probably also was with the women . . . until they got to the tomb.

For they’re not the only ones there. Oh, the guards they expected, but not the angel! And they expected dead Jesus, not guards that had become like dead men! This was a most unusual and unexpected scene. 

But notice: the women did not tremble and become as dead like the guards. Yes, the guards who were the trained soldiers, who were the brave and hardened ones, who were ready to fight and die for their country, trembled. But we are not told the women did. Why not? What was the difference between the soldiers and the women that caused such different reactions?

The Word of God.

The angel who descended from heaven and caused the earth to quake, whose appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow, came down and sat on the gravestone and said nothing to the guards. He just sat there in His awesomeness and they were terrified. 

But to the women - who saw the same thing as the guards - the angel spoke. He spoke the Word of God. Do not be afraid, he said. It’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay! For I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, he has risen, as he said. And though they still have fear - who wouldn’t at such a sight? - it is not the paralyzing fear of the soldiers - it is fear with great joy. For they do not just see what they do not understand - they hear the Word of God. They hear the good news that Christ is risen! They hear the Word of God that gives life and the good news that gives joy.

And so it is for us still today. Without the Word of God, if God were to remain silent, there is only confusion, fear, and death. But with the Word of God, with the good news of a resurrected Saviour and His victory over sin, darkness, death, devil, and all the forces of hell, there is joy and life. It is the Word of God that makes all the difference in the world. The Word of God made flesh that did it. And the Word of God that proclaims that truth now to us. That Jesus has gone before us in the fight, the incarnate God goes through death and to life again, and so you need not be afraid. 

For as the angel once said: Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. All people, for as Peter said: God shows no partiality. Or as Paul put it: For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor 15:22). So good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:10-12).

Just as the angel once announced that, so now he announces (and I paraphrase): Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is risen this day from the grave a Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, who is Christ the Lord. And this is a sign for you, you will see him no longer wrapped in grave cloths and lying in a tomb - he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.

And this is the message that is proclaimed to you today, to give you joy and life. 

That when your sin weighs heavy upon you and you feel its awful, condemning weight, you hear the message: Jesus is risen! Your sin is forgiven.

That when the darkness of despair, or loneliness, or hopelessness, or suffering seems to be engulfing you, you hear the message: Jesus is risen! He lives to give you hope and light and love.

That when death suddenly appears on your doorstep coming for you or for a loved one, and seems so cold and dark and final, you hear the message: Jesus is risen! Death has been defeated. The grave could not hold Him, and it cannot hold you.

That when the devil whispers in your ear that you are unworthy, that your sins are too great, that its all a hoax, all a myth, all untrue, you hear the message: Jesus is risen! The tomb is empty. He is victorious.

And that when all the forces of hell and this world seem arrayed against you and your life is a mess and nothing seems to be going right, you hear the message: Jesus is risen! That’s what the cross looked like, too. But I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously. He has triumphed gloriously, for you!

This is the message, this is the Word of God, that makes all the difference in the world. That we not only be no longer afraid to die, we no longer be afraid to live either. And I think that’s sometimes even a bigger problem - being afraid to live. Isn’t that the fear that so gripped the disciples now? And for us, too, so often. Afraid to live in my situation, afraid to live with my suffering, afraid to live with my disease, afraid to live with the bad news I just received, afraid to live when I don’t know what the future holds. Afraid to live with my spouse, afraid to live without my spouse. Afraid to live with my child, afraid to live without my child. Afraid to repent, afraid to forgive, afraid to grow up, afraid to grow old, afraid to leave, afraid to stay, afraid to serve, afraid to give, afraid to say the wrong thing, afraid to say the right thing, afraid of the news, afraid of no news, afraid that maybe I’m going to screw it all up . . . or that I already have. 

For you, then, is this message of good news and great joy! Do not be afraid! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! And because He lives, you also shall live. What you fear, whatever you fear, is not greater than He. For He who has defeated all your enemies has promised to see you through whatever comes in this life as well. Even death. Truly, in Christ, you have nothing to fear.

Which doesn’t mean you won’t still have fear. Especially at death. You will. You’re human and your sinful nature is still clinging to you. The women at the tomb still had fear as well - but at the same time, with great joy. Which sounds like our funerals, doesn’t it? Fear and sadness, yet with great joy. That’s faith. Living in a world of sin and death with great joy and hope in Christ Jesus.

And so the women, in their fear and great joy, having heard the Word of God, quickly depart to tell the disciples . . . when another unexpected happens: Jesus meets them. And I must say, our English translation here next is, quite frankly, terrible! It says that Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” The word is actually the word for joy. Rejoice! Be full of joy! He says. And with Him, they are. God’s Word gives what it says. This day has transformed everything. Jesus is full of joy, and so too they. And so too you. You who have heard the message and now meet Jesus in His Supper, not taking hold of His feet like the women, but taking hold of Him by eating His Body and drinking His Blood. For here is where He is for us today, with the same joy, with the same life, with the same love and forgiveness. The you be full of joy. That you be full of life.

And as we do, guess what? The angels are here! But we don’t just hear them now, we sing with them! Singing with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth (Isaiah 6:3)! The song of heaven. The song of those raised with Christ in baptism, and who now look forward to our resurrection with Christ to a life that will never end. That’s you. So come and receive the pledge of your Saviour, the forgiveness, life, and salvation given here for you in His Body and Blood.

And then like the women, go and be an angel, a messenger of God, to those in trouble, those in fear, those who don’t know. And tell them the joy and hope that you have. That:

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead, 
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 
(John Chrysostom, Easter homily c. 400 AD)

The first-fruits - which means there’s a lot more empty tombs coming! Which means that’s the future of your tomb as well. For this is our triumph day! This is our day of joy and life! For yes: Alleluia! Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia!

In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Easter Vigil Meditation

Jesu Juva
“The Night of Victory”

We get lots of God’s Word tonight, as we gather not to mourn the dead but to await the living. Some of this word is familiar, some is not. Some is long, some is short. But in all of it we hear of God’s goodness - creating, saving, providing, gathering, and delivering. And that’s what we celebrate this night. For all the Word of God points to and proclaims and finds it’s fulfillment in the mystery of this night: the Passover of our Lord. His passing over from death to life, so that we who were born dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1) might live as well. Live as we pass over with Him in Holy Baptism, which we also remember and celebrate this night.

For this is the night. The night of our victory. The night which ends all night, for Jesus, the Light of the world (John 8:12) lives, never to die again. 

And maybe it’s the last reading that is always read on this night that really highlights that for us. The story of the three men in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3). It’s one of the longer stories, and filled with repetition, as we hear about the king, the satraps, the prefects, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces . . . against just three young men. Not good odds. And what they refused to participate in was come pretty awesome worship. All the people were there, a huge horde, with a grand orchestra: horns, pipes, lyres, trigons, harps, bagpipes, and all kinds of music. It just didn’t get much more impressive than that! And as these things are repeated over and over it gives you the impression of these three young men against the world, against all human reason and pomp and power.

And yet the three young men win. Because with them is another, one who in appearance was like a son of the gods. For He was the Son of God, come to rescue His children from the flames of death and hell.

So it is with us. This is the night. The night we remember, as we confess in the creed, that Jesus descended into hell - not as part of His suffering, but as part of His victory. That like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we fear not the power and flames of death and hell, and like Job, know that our Redeemer lives. And that against Him, all human, all worldly, all demonic reason and pomp and power is nothing. 

So we rejoice this night, the Church with the angels and all creation, in the triumph of our King. We will feel and smell once again the oil of gladness in our baptismal remembrance, and we will sound forth our Alleluia once again. For this is most good, right, and salutary. This is the night. The night the light breaks the darkness, life breaks death, and the separated are reconciled. Thanks be to God!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Good Friday Evening Sermon

Jesu Juva

“Love So Amazing, So Divine”
Text: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; John 19:17-30

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Yes, that is what this day is all about. The mercy of our triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for you. Every deed done, every word spoken by Jesus, filled and dripping with mercy. The mercy of God toward us sinners. The mercy that is ours because the wrath is given to Jesus. He is stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. He was wounded for your transgressions, and crushed for your iniquities. It was the will of the Lord to crush Him. To crush His only Son. For you. For you.


I will tell you the answer again, but it will be as mysterious now as it was before and has ever been: because He loves you. Not with the kind of love we mostly see in our world today. Love that is an emotion that comes and goes. Love that is really quite about selfishness. No, God’s love is so different than what we see in the world today that there really is only one way to describe it: that He gave His Son for you. That’s a circular argument, I know. But it’s the best we can do. 

But let’s go a little deeper: that’s true no matter who you are. There have been some pretty bad characters in our world, in history. And you? Well, we like to think ourselves not so bad; pretty respectable in the grand scheme of things. Maybe we don’t deserve an A, but not an F either. But really? Think of what you’ve done this past week, or even just today. Think of the anger, the stubbornness, the pride, the refusal to repent, the lust, the despair, the selfishness . . . and more.

When a crowd (of those who I’m sure thought of themselves in much the same way we do) was ready to stone a woman caught in adultery, Jesus said to them: Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her (John 8:7). We should use that same standard today, when we are feeling superior; when we think ourselves and our sin not so bad. But to do so, let me paraphrase Jesus: let whoever among you who thinks he’s not as bad a sinner as someone else be the first to let your every sinful thought, every sinful word, every sinful dream, every sinful act, every sinful desire, every sinful little nugget of your life be broadcast for all the world to see. Who’d like to go first? Not me!

Let that broadcast flash through your mind for a moment . . .  Now you are ready to pray: Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. On me, a sinner. On me, a wretch. On me, miserable me.

There was one there that day, though, who could have thrown a stone. He didn’t because soon that stone would be hurled at Him. And all our stones, too. Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace. He was made sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

Hail Jesus, full of grace. Grace, for you. Mercy, for you. Love, for you. 

Behold the life-giving cross, we said earlier tonight. That’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? Crosses didn’t give life, they took life. Except for one. The one on which the perfect one died, the sinless one, the one who should not have died, but did. His death gives life because His death conquers death. Because in His death, Christ was reconciling the world to God. Christ was making things right again and providing the forgiveness of all sins. Every single one. Even all of yours. 

So when you hear Jesus say tonight: Father, forgive them, that’s you. When you hear: Today you will be with me in Paradise, you again. And when you hear: It is finished, that is the beginning of your life. For that is the completion of your salvation, your setting free from your slavery to sin, your slavery to the past, your slavery to past regrets and mistakes. So that at the end of the service tonight, we can sing: Lord, let at last Your angels come, to Abram’s bosom bear me home, that I may die unfearing (LSB #708 v.3), because you know He will; you know they will; you know it’s true. You will not die forsaken - because of Jesus, you will die with the angels of God on the ready to bear you home.

So tonight Jesus is glorified. He is not shamed - man is shamed. Look at what we’ve done! Look at what we’ve done to the Lord of life. 

But tonight, Jesus is glorified. And glorifies you. The blood that flows from Him washing you clean, and the Spirit He breathes out in death breathing new life into you. 

So look upon Him tonight, and in His death see your death. And then as we celebrate His resurrection, see in His life your life. A life that will never end.

Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend. And I will praise Thee without end (LSB #708 v.3).

In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Noon Meditations

The Way of the Cross

I. In the Garden  (John 18:1-11)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”


Peter, why did you draw the sword? Didn’t you see what just happened? The first time Jesus said “I AM,” Judas and the band of soldiers and the officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees - the whole crowd with their lanterns and torches and weapons fell to the ground. At simply Jesus’ word, His powerful word, they could not stand. They could not do anything. All earthly weapons are useless against the powerful Word of God.
But then it happens again. The hunters want their prey. But this time, there is no falling down. And it can be for one reason only: Jesus allows it to be so. He allows them to seize Him and bind Him. Even these cords, like Samson of old, He could have easily broken off and set Himself free. But He will not. For He will drink the cup the Father has given Him. And what cup is that? The cup of God’s wrath against the sin of the world. And He would rather drink it than we drink it. He takes our place, that we may be let go. That we may be forgiven.
So you see Peter? To draw your sword and fight is to lose. For Jesus to die is to win. That is your victory. You do not understand that now, but you will. You will.

It is a hard lesson to learn, though. For how often are we like Peter, relying on the weapons of this world rather than the strong and powerful Word of God? Put your swords away. Put your anger away, your revenge away, your hatred away, your bitterness away, and instead forgive. Forgive as you have been forgiven. For still today, the powers of this world cannot stand against the Word of God. Satan and his minions still fall at the word of Christ. That is our weapon. 

Jesus, the great I AM, the almighty God in the flesh, now gives Himself into the hands of sinners. For you. For them. For the life of the world. And not one of His own will be lost. Not then. Not ever.

II. Before the High Priest  (John 18:12-14, 19-24)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.

The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.


Jesus spoke openly to the world. In the day, in the light, no secrets, no subversion. He had nothing to hide. He was all truth, all the time. It was, in fact, the ones questioning Him that were being secretive and in hiding. They have Jesus arrested at night, under the cover of darkness. They call an illegal meeting of the council at night, in secrecy. They want to get rid of Jesus in the easiest and most expedient way. That’s what Caiaphas had said after all: it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. They question Him, but it’s a ruse; they have really already made up their minds.

But even more than this, Jesus doesn’t just do everything in the light, He IS the light of the world (John 8:12). But those who love the darkness hate the light. Those who do evil will not come into the light. Those who are wicked will seek to extinguish the light. But they will not be able. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). That will be true also while Jesus is hanging on the cross. All three of the other Evangelists tell us that at 12 Noon, when the sun should be at its highest and brightest, there was instead darkness over the whole land. It was the time of darkness, evil, and sin. 

But never did the light of Christ shine brighter than in those moments. Never did His love burn hotter than when He stayed on the cross, suffering for the sin of the world. Suffering for you and your sin. When not the hand of a soldier, but the hand of God would strike Him. Because of you. For you. And this is what He taught in the synagogues and in the temple - that He, the Messiah, would do this very thing. He spoke the truth, and it is fulfilled.

Hymn #437  “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed”

III. The King and His Kingdom  (John 18:33-38)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”


What is truth? That is a question many ask today. Some ask honestly, truly wanting to know the truth. Some ask skeptically, thinking the truth really unknowable. And some ask mockingly, believing there is not one truth but many truths; or in other words, that the truth is whatever you want it to be. And if that’s so, then the truth really doesn’t matter. The truth is sacrificed on the altar of my desires.
But, Jesus says, the truth is why He was born. The truth is why He has come into the world. To bear witness to the truth. That we may know the truth. That we may know Him. For Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)
So there really is truth, Pilate. But are you listening? Are we? Or are our ambitions, our fears, our desires, our pleasures, our wants, making us deaf? Deaf to the truth of God’s Law, deaf to the truth of our sin, deaf to the truth of our Saviour? It happens, doesn’t it? 
The good news is that Jesus gives hearing to the deaf. His Word goes forth from the beginning of creation to the end, that all people may know the truth. The truth that sets us free (John 8:32). The truth that our bondage to sin, our captivity to the grave, and our oppression by the evil one is being broken by our Saviour. Now. That there be a new king, a new ruler. One who does not act in sin and deal in death, but who reigns in peace and promises life. A new king and a new kingdom - not of this world, which is passing away, but a kingdom that will never pass away. 
So yes, Pilate, Jesus is a king. He is, in fact, your king. For He is not just the king of a nation, for a time, but the king of the world, the king of creation. And though you do not know Him now, you will, on that day when every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11a)
That is the truth, Pilate. He is standing right before you.

IV. Condemned  (John 19:1-16a)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. 


When Adam plunged the world into sin, the ground was cursed and would no longer only grow good plants, but now thorns and thistles. Those thorns of sin now adorn the head of God’s Son.
When Adam plunged the world into sin, the hand of brother was raised against brother, as Cain jealously put his brother Abel to death. Now, the hands of sinners are raised against God’s Son.
When Adam plunged the world into sin, he tried to cover himself and hide his shame. Now, God’s Son is arrayed in a mocking purple robe to shame him.
All this, and yet Pilate says: I find no guilt in Him.

Behold the man! Yes, this is the depths to which man has sunk. And in these depths, there is Jesus!
You see, that’s the good news for us today. Do not feel sorry for Jesus. He wants to be there. For you. That’s why He does not speak. That’s why He does not object and proclaim His innocence. The Son of God becomes a son of man and lowers Himself all the way to our depth of sin and death, so that we sons of men might become sons of God and be exalted all the way to the heights of heaven. He takes our place that we have His place. So do not feel sorry for Jesus. Be grateful! And live this new life He has given you. This new life He gave so much to give you.

So finally, Pilate sits down on the judgment seat and passes judgment on Jesus. One day, the tables will be reversed. On the Last Day when Jesus the crucified and glorified will be the one sitting in judgment. But you need not fear that day. For you already know the judgment that will pronounced upon you, child of God. For on that day Jesus will say of you: I find no guilt in Him. For He took all your guilt away. He took it that day to the cross. That even though you die, yet shall you live, in Him, forever.

Hymn #420 (vs. 1-3)  “Christ, the Life of All the Living”

V. On the Cross  (John 19:16b-22)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”


What I have written I have written. In Aramaic, in Latin, and In Greek. So that all could see it and read it and know it. Pilate would not change his sign listing the charges against Jesus just because the Jews didn’t like it. What I have written I have written.

So it is with the Word of God. What is written is written and will be done. Jesus goes just as it is written of Him.

The One promised to Adam and Eve, who would bruise the serpent’s head.
The One promised to Abraham, who would bless all nations.
The One promised to David, who would be an eternal king and sit on the throne forever.
The One prophesied by Isaiah, who would suffer and die for all people.
The One propheised by Hosea, who would rise on the third day.
The One whose way John the Baptist prepared, the angels announced, and the Spirit anointed.
That One now hangs on the cross, going just as it is written of Him.
No longer enthroned in love between the Father and the Spirit, but now hanging in hate and scorn between two criminals.
But here, too, He is enthroned in love. His love for you.

And His work of the cross now written not in three languages, but in a multitude of languages - that all the world may know. Here is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, the Lord of the Church, the Son of God. Dying for you. That in His blood, you and your name be written by Him in the book of life. That on the Last Day, what is written is written and will be done - and you enter into that life that will never end.

VI.  Blessed Words  (John 19:23-27)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.


The Scriptures often speak of Jesus as the Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride. Despite what is being said of and done to marriage in our day and age, it was and is and always will be God’s idea and institution. That a man leave his father and mother and hold fast to his bride, and the two become one flesh (Matthew 19:5).
That is what is happening now with Jesus. He left His Father in heaven to become incarnate, to become man. He is now leaving His mother, entrusting her to the care of His disciple. And He is holding fast to His Bride, to you. Holding fast to you in love. 
That’s why He will not come down from the cross. He loves you more than His own life. He will stay, to make His Bride His. To make your sins His. To make your condemnation His. To make your unrighteousness His. To make your faithlessness His. To make your death His. And then also to give you what is His. His atonement yours. His blessing yours. His righteousness yours. His faithfulness and obedience yours. His life yours. For so it is with men and women made one flesh - what’s mine is yours and what’s yours in mine. So it is with you and your bridegroom, made one flesh.
Just before that, the soldiers divided up His clothes - one of the benefits of being on this duty. And one lucky soldier even got the expensive and fine tunic that Jesus wore. But you - you get even better than that. And not just one of you, but all of you. For Jesus has won for you the beautiful wedding dress of His love and righteousness, put upon you in the washing of water with the Word, in Holy Baptism. That you be splendid and glorious, without blemish. Perfect Brides, in perfect love - the perfection and love of Jesus for you, who in His resurrection will take you to His home, to live there, with Him, forever.
Hymn #453 (vs. 1-2, 6-7)  “Upon the Cross Extended”

VII. Death  (John 19:28-37)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been 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 at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”


You don’t hear it in the English, but in the Greek it is there. John wrote that Jesus said “I thirst” in order to fulfill the Scripture. And after receiving the sour wine, Jesus says: “It is finished.” But the Greek word there, translated as finished, is the same word as fulfill. It is finished because all is fulfilled. All the Scriptures have now ben fulfilled. Jesus would not stop, would not die, until they were. Every jot and tittle, every last word. And then, and only then, when they were, when our redemption and salvation was completed, would Jesus bow His head and give up His Spirit.
And then we hear a remarkable thing: that when one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, at once there came out blood and water. Science has offered technical explanations for why that was, but the church has always seen in this a link to the life-giving Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Just as Adam’s wife Eve received her life from his side, so Christ’s Bride, the Church, receives her life from His side. For only in His death is our life. And so in His death come the water and blood that wash us clean from our sins and give us life.
And even here, too, is Jesus not stopping until all is complete, all is fulfilled, all is finished. For still today, the resurrected Jesus is working to save all people. And He does so by giving the benefits of His cross to us in His Word and Sacraments. And He will not stop until it is finished. Until His children from every nation, tribe, people, and language are gathered into His kingdom. And we will look on Him whom they have pierced, glorified, in Paradise.

So we are not sad this day. Serious, yes. Sad, no. We gather in quiet peace and joy. Because we know the meaning of this day. We know this is the day our Saviour made everything good again. This the day of our salvation. So to our Saviour Jesus Christ, we give all thanks and praise. To our Great Redeemer, be all glory, honor, and worship, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages. AMEN.