GOOD FRIDAY 2017

 

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, 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. John 19:30-34

 

I know some good Lutheran people who are experiencing a very unusual juxtaposition of events this weekend. A family member is getting married tomorrow, and so tonight, instead of going to the Good Friday Service at their church, they have a wedding rehearsal and dinner to attend. Can you imagine a wedding on Good Friday or Holy Saturday here in our church?

Ø  Not only would there be no flowers; the church would be bare, and the altar draped in black. How cheerless that would be!

Ø  There would be no joyous music.

Ø  A receiving line inside, with laughter and loud greetings, would not be permitted.

A wedding in our church on this weekend? It just would not be done. It could not be done.

And yet, a wedding did take place on that first Good Friday when Jesus was crucified. From the cross He spoke, for us and to us, these words of promise: "It is finished!" And then, a soldier pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. This brings to mind a side-piercing that had happened long before, which is described in Genesis 2:

The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

God then looked upon all that He had made, and He pronounced it good. “It is finished!” He cried, and He rested.

Today, behold your Bridegroom! Jesus comes to us as the 2nd Adam, the One who makes all things new and restores God’s creation. And so, just as God opened Adam’s side and created a wife for him, so the side of Jesus is opened and God creates a bride – the Church, all who are united with Jesus through faith. But, the creation of a bride for Jesus is not as easy as it was for Adam.

For, our flesh is not so pure that we can be joined to Jesus, bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh.

Ø  Our hearts are corrupted by sinful desires, and we cannot purge them.

Ø  Our lives are stained with our sin’s destructive presence, which corrupts our every act.

Ø  Our thoughts are burdened with the remembrance of sins and led into depravity by their urging.

Our marriages give ample evidence of sin’s presence and destruction. We make pledges to love and support each other “as long as we both shall live.” Yet, we quickly end up fighting for our own desires and causing pain and sorrow. If we do this with those whom we know and love the most, then how can we ever choose as our husband Jesus, whom we have not even seen? How can we choose to join, bone to bone and flesh to flesh, our impurity to His purity? It just cannot be done.

But, the Son of God will have a wife. So, He left His Father to come and create His bride, to take us sinners unto Himself. More than a deep sleep and a rib from His side was required, however. All of Him was required. His death was required.

This is what Good Friday is all about. God wants a real, flesh and blood relation-ship with you. He is a jealous God, one who loves completely and will not be content with occasional contacts with you and half-hearted commitments from you. God wants you as His faithful and loving bride. He wants all of you. He wants you to be happy to be with Him and to be committed to Him alone. Such a bride you have not been. Isaiah says truly:

As one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not… All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned––every one––to his own way. (Isaiah 53)

We see this in Peter, who denies even knowing Jesus out of concern for his own skin. We see this in ourselves, as we are at times afraid to speak of our love for Him, perhaps uncertain as to what to say about Him. How unfaithful we have been!

And yet, Jesus will have a bride. He marries Himself to us sinners; and, as a husband promises to take as one flesh his wife and love and keep her even in sickness and poverty, so He takes our sins, now and to the end of our lives, as His own. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… and by His wounds we are healed.” His wounds continually flow forth with forgiveness, and in them we have an eternal union with God.

“ ‘It is finished!’… Then one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” From the opened side of the body He promised to us, even unto death, flows that which seals His marriage vows:

Ø  The water that makes us His beautiful bride, the water of our Baptism into Him. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word.” (Ephesians 5:25f)

Ø  The blood that continually forgives our sin and seals us as one flesh with Him, the blood of the marriage feast of Holy Communion.

Jesus opens His mouth and speaks His vows, then opens His side and seals them with His water and blood. And we are made, and kept as, His beautiful bride.

“But it’s just not done,” we say, “a wedding on Good Friday.”

“It is finished!” cries our Bridegroom. He has done it. Thanks be to God!