Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Tenebrae Vespers

Good Friday Tenebrae[1]

April 10, 2009

Text: Is. 53:1-6 (ESV): Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken,smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. That is why it is so difficult for us to look upon our crucified Savior. That is why we prefer empty crosses to those with a corpus. It is not so much that the crucifix is too Roman Catholic. That’s just an excuse. Nor is it that we are afraid the crucifix will become an idol for us. That is just another justification for our discomfort. The reason we prefer the empty cross is that when we behold the wounds of our broken and bloody Savior, we behold the punishment that should rightly be upon us. We behold the gravity of our sins. The crucifix is a picture confirmation that what we piously say, but often fail to believe, is indeed true: we are poor, miserable sinners. We justly deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment. We deserve hell, the hell that Jesus suffered on the cross as His Father forsook Him. But Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for us and for His sake forgives us all our sins.

The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all, and it is difficult for us to look upon Him, nailed to the tree. He has no form or majesty that we should look on Him, no beauty that we should desire Him. The cross is not a pretty picture. We would rather skip the cross and look upon a pastel painting of Easter. The cross is such a downer. God crucified is such an offense. God crucified is an offense because upon Him is the whole load of this world’s sin, yours and mine and the sin of all people. He who knows no sin becomes sin for us. And it is so contrary to reason, to what we expect of Almighty God, that He should save the world in this way. That is why He is despised and rejected by men. That is why He is often despised and rejected by us. That is why even we who believe in Him and know the end of the story have a hard time looking upon our dying God, this man of sorrows who is acquainted with grief. It is so often tempting to hide our faces from Him, as the world does, not to look upon Him, to look elsewhere for a god who is not crucified.

But we should not hide. We should not look away. The cross is good news for us. He bears our griefs. He carries our sorrows. He is stricken, smitten, and afflicted for us, in our place, that we might have peace with God, a loving Father, that we might not suffer the wrath we deserve. He is wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, that we might be forgiven of our sin and set free from the chains of death and hell. He is punished in our place, that we might have peace. He is beaten and bloodied for our healing. While we have gone astray, like dumb sheep, each going his own way, seeking greener pastures elsewhere, not knowing the mortal danger that lies in wait for us, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, throws Himself to the wolf for us, throws Himself into the gaping jaws of death for us, that we might be saved. The Lord has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. Greater love has no man than this, that He lay down His life for His friends. We ought to behold the cross and all its gory beauty, we ought to behold our crucified God, for He is our salvation.

“LORD JESUS CHRIST, Life of the living, Hope of the dying, Salvation of all who hope in you, [we] bless and thank you for your temporary departure from this world, and for your joyful return to the Father through the terrible throes of death and the marvelous martyrdom of the cross… O how precious and victorious was that death, which destroyed our death and gave us eternal life! O Christ, may your death be ever fixed in [our] memory so that whenever [we] think of your death [we] may also be mindful of [our] own, and when the uncertain time for [our] life’s end does come, [we] may not be overcome by fear or despair.”[2] For You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

[1] This year’s Lenten Midweek Series is based on the book, Sacred Head, Now Wounded (St. Louis: Concordia, 2009). While the sermon is my own, it is based on the material in the book.
[2] Thomas À Kempis, On the Passion of Christ, Joseph N. Tylenda, S. J., trans. (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2004) pp. 132, 133.

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