Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sermon for April 6, 2012, Good Friday B

The Rev. Paul J Cain
John 19:17-30
It Is Finished
Good Friday, 6 April 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
LSB 450:5: What language shall I borrow To thank Thee, dearest Friend, For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? O make me Think forever! And should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never, Outlive my love for Thee.
The theology of the cross obviously does not mean that for the theologian the whole church year shrinks to Good Friday. It rather means that one cannot understand Christmas, Easter, or Pentecost without Good Friday. Luther was, alongside of Irenaeus and Athanasius, one of the great theologians of the incarnation. He was that because he saw the cross behind the manger. He understood the victory of Easter as well as any theologian of the Eastern Church. But he understood it because he understood it as the victory of the Crucified. The same can be said of his understanding of the activity of the Holy Ghost. It is always the cross which illuminates all chapters of theology because the deepest nature of revelation is hidden in the cross. This being so, Luther’s theologia crucis wants to be more than one of the many theological theories which have appeared in the course of the history of the Church. It claims to be, in contrast to another theology, which now prevails in Christendom and which Luther calls the theologia gloriae, the correct, the scriptural theology with which the Church of Christ stands and falls. Only of the preaching of this theology, Luther thinks, can it be said that it is the preaching of the Gospel.
Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors 18, 1951
It is finished. The cross is where salvation was accomplished. Period. The Lord Himself also does the work of delivering that salvation to you, here and now, in Word and Sacrament. That is also finished and is difficult for American Christians to believe.John 19:17-30 is at the core of these comforting truths.
So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 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. 21 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.’ ” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
Jesus is now enthroned on the cross between those appointed to be on His right and His left. Sorry, James and John. This is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. The four letters I N R I are often found at the top of a cross. This is the Latin abbreviation of the title, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Pilate has spoken, for his work is finished. 
23 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, 24 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.”
The dead have no need for clothing, the soldiers think to themselves. The whole is greater than the parts, so they gamble for Jesus’ tunic. The soldiers have a very practical view of death. As you know, His is no ordinary life or death, for He lives again.
So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
Behold, Jesus says to his mother and his beloved disciple, John, our narrator. As a good son, He honors His mother, keeping the commandment. Is His vocation of Son now complete, too?
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 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. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. [1]
Jesus rejected the drugged wine before. He submits to drinking wine vinegar, knowing that all was now finished. And he speaks: It is finished. And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
Note: The salvation Christ won on the cross has truly come to pass (objective reality). But unless the Holy Spirit applies that salvation to us personally and individually (subjectively), it will remain hidden from us. Sanctification is often understood to refer to our good works. (Here) Luther uses it, as the Bible often does, to describe the entire work of the Holy Spirit bringing us salvation, including justification. [In the next question,] Luther [will drive] (drives) home the point that “Church” is, first and foremost, the people the Holy Spirit is gathering together through the preaching of the Gospel. It is not primarily a building or an institution. Luther suggests it is best to understand the “communion of saints” as a “community of saints” or a “holy community.” It is not holy because of their works, but because of the Holy Spirit’s work in their midst. Within the Church the Holy Spirit, through preaching and through “signs” (that is, the sacraments), forgives us and keeps us in the faith. Therefore, in this sense, it is right to say that outside the Church there is no salvation. This is not because of an infallible papacy, but because of what is going on by the Spirit’s power. He works the forgiveness of sins and continues that work to the very end of time. (See AC VII/VIII; SA III XII.)[2]
Luther writes: 38 Neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe on Him, and have Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel [1 Corinthians 12:3; Galatians 4:6]. The work of redemption is done and accomplished [John 19:30]. Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, and so on [Colossians 2:3]. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew about it, then it would be useless and lost. So that this treasure might not stay buried, but be received and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed. In the Word He has the Holy Spirit bring this treasure home and make it our own. 39 Therefore, sanctifying is just bringing us to Christ so we receive this good, which we could not get ourselves [1 Peter 3:18].[3]
Similarly, the Formula of Concord confesses: 4 3. God the Holy Spirit, however, does not bring about conversion without means. For this purpose He uses the preaching and hearing of God’s Word, as it is written in Romans 1:16, the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” 5 Also Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” It is God’s will that His Word should be heard and that a person’s ears should not be closed (Psalm 95:8). With this Word the Holy Spirit is present and opens hearts, so that people (like Lydia in Acts 16:14) pay attention to it and are converted only through the Holy Spirit’s grace and power, who alone does the work of converting a person. 6 For without His grace, and if He does not grant the increase, our willing and running, our planting, sowing, and watering (1 Corinthians 3:5–7)—are all nothing. As Christ says ‹in John 15:5›, “apart from Me you can do nothing.” With these brief words the Spirit denies free will its powers and ascribes everything to God’s grace, in order that no one may boast before God (1 Corinthians 1:29; [2 Corinthians 12:5; Jeremiah 9:23]).[4]
It is as we memorize the Bible truth in the Small Catechism: I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. He did this not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, so that I may be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.[5]  Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 19:16–30). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[2] Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (402–403). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
[3] Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (403). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
[4] Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (478). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
[5] Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (329). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.