Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Tenebrae


Good Friday: Buried![1]
March 29, 2013

Text: Amos 9:1-6 (ESV): “I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said: ‘Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake, and shatter them on the heads of all the people;    and those who are left of them I will kill with the sword; not one of them shall flee away; not one of them shall escape. If they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; if they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down. If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search them out and take them; and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them. And if they go into captivity before their enemies, there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.’ The Lord GOD of hosts, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who dwell in it mourn, and all of it rises like the Nile, and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt; who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth—the LORD is his name.”
            What on earth does this text have to do with Good Friday?  Good Friday is all about a reckoning to God for sin.  Our Lord Jesus makes a reckoning for our sin before His Father in His innocent suffering and death on the cross.  But understand, outside of Christ, our text is the description of our own reckoning before God.  Israel experienced this firsthand.  What is described in our text is the destruction of the temple at Bethel.  The Lord gives the command: Strike the capitals, the tops of the temple pillars, until the thresholds shake, the bottoms of the temple pillars.  And when the pillars fall, the whole structure comes tumbling down.  It crushes the people.  There’s no place to hide.  Dig all the way to Sheol, climb to the top of Carmel, swim to the bottom of the sea, it doesn’t matter.  God will find you.  There must be a reckoning.  Israel was at the height of its power and prosperity.  The people trusted that things would go on as they always had.  So they ignored the warning.  They did not heed the Word of the LORD.  And then this prophecy was fulfilled, in 722 BC, when Assyria wiped out Samaria and burned the temple at Bethel.    
            If this is what the Lord does to His people, Israel, what will He do to you?  There must be a reckoning for your idolatry, which is at the root of every sin.  “Idols of money, sex, alcohol, and possessions offer everything.  But they deliver nothing” (Lessing).  It’s the old lie of the devil, “Do this, possess that, and you’ll finally be happy,” and when you take the forbidden fruit you find it has destroyed you.  You’re a mess.  You’re buried in the rubble.  You’re a crumbled heap of ruins.  Like the temple in our text.  And there’s no escape from the righteous Judgment of God.  No escape, that is to say, except in God Himself, in His beloved Son, God in the flesh, whom the Father sent to make atonement for your sins.
            The Lord Jesus once said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).  He was not speaking about the temple in Jerusalem, or the long-destroyed temple in Bethel, for that matter.  He was speaking about the Temple of His body (v. 21).  His body is the dwelling place of God with men.  He was speaking about His death and resurrection.  Because of your sin, this Temple is raised up on a pillar on Golgotha.  The capital of this pillar bears a sign: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (John 19:19).  And the thresholds shake as the Lord Jesus breathes His last and gives up His spirit.  His death, the blood that flows from His sacred head, His hands, His feet, His pierced side, this is the rubble of your own sin and death.  This is the reckoning.  There had to be a reckoning.  God is just and holy.  He could not ignore your sin, so He sent His Son to make the reckoning for you.  Jesus did not hide.  There was no escape.  The Lord took it all for you, crucified, dead, and buried.  It’s the end of your sin.  It’s the end of  your death.  And this Temple will be rebuilt.  Remember?  In three days I will raise it up.”  That’s the good news we will hear on Sunday.  God says through the Prophet Amos, “I will raise up the falling tabernacle of David.  I will repair their breaches, and his ruins I will raise up, and I will rebuild it as in days of old” (9:11, Lessing’s translation).  That is the promise we hold on to tonight, as we are left in the darkness of our Lord’s Passion, His suffering and death for our forgiveness.
            That, and the promise of the new reality that is already ours in Baptism: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4; ESV).  Beloved, you have “been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12).  The Good News tonight is this: You are no longer buried in the rubble of your sins.  You are buried in Jesus, who is your death and resurrection.  The reckoning has been made by Him.  You have eternal life.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


[1] The theme and many of the thoughts in this sermon are from R. Reed Lessing, Restore the Roar! (St. Louis: Concordia, 2012).

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