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 03, 2015

Good Friday Tre Ore

Good Friday Tre Ore

Our Savior Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan
April 3, 2015

Text: Luke 23:32-38 (ESV): “Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’”

            The work of a priest is to represent the congregation before God in sacrifice and prayer.  The High Priest in particular was to come before God with sacrifices of atonement.  On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the High Priest alone would enter the Holy of Holies, always with the blood of the sacrifice, which He offered for his own sins and those of the people (Heb. 9:7).  The High Priest would sprinkle the blood on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant.  Thus the blood would come between the people and the Commandments contained in the Ark, the Commandments the people had broken.  The blood was vital.  For “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).  The priest represents the people, confessing their sins, making the sacrifice of atonement, pleading the blood of the sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. 
            Jesus is our great High Priest.  He comes before God as our representative, making the once-for-all, perfect, sin-atoning sacrifice of His Body on the cross.  His is the Sacrifice to which all the other sacrifices pointed.  They were but a shadow of the things to come in Christ, the Savior.  He comes before His Father with His own precious blood.  Of course, He has no sin His own for which to offer sacrifice.  He is unlike other high priests in this regard.  He is the sinless Son of God.  But He offers the sacrifice for us.  And on the basis of this sacrifice, Jesus prays for us.  Jesus prays for you.  In His Office as High Priest, Jesus prays: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
            The prayer is not just for the soldiers as they pierce His sacred flesh, though it is for them, too.  The prayer is not just for Pilate, who condemned Him, or the Jews, who handed Him over, or Judas, who betrayed Him.  Nor is it only for the disciples who deserted Him in His hour of need.  It is for all of the above, and for all sinners of all times, all who by their sins crucified the Lord of glory.  And this is a great comfort.  Jesus prays this prayer for you.  He is your priest.  All of this that He suffers, He suffers for you, to make atonement for your sins.  And so, when He prays “Father, forgive them,” He is praying that the Father forgive you and restore you to Himself, that He be your Father and you be His dear children.
            As our Lord is lifted up on the cross over the place called “The Skull” (v. 33), Golgotha in Aramaic, Calvary in Latin, crucified between two criminals, one on His right, and one of His left, Jesus prays for you.  And it is a picture of what the crucified and risen Christ always prays for you now that He sits at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for you.  He prays, “Father, forgive them.”  He prays by the Blood of His sacrifice.  He is crowned with thorns for all your sins of the mind: your bitterness and resentment, your hatred and malice, your worry and anxiety.  His hands receive the spikes for the guilt of yours, taking what does not belong to you, striking your brother in anger, touching what is forbidden you, clinging to all that is worthless and transient.  His feet are fastened to the wood for all the times your feet have carried you where you should not go, carried you away from your home, from your spouse, from your family… carried you away from Christ and His Church.  He thirsts to atone for every lie, boast, bitter word, or juicy piece of gossip that has passed through your lips.  His eyes are blurred by sweat and blood for your every lustful glance, every hurtful stare, every salacious website or movie or book.  His ears are polluted with the mockery and jeering of the religious leaders and bystanders for every time you’ve leant your ear to the lies of the old slippery serpent, the unbelieving world, and your own sinful nature.  His side is pierced, He is speared through the heart, for every evil thought that proceeds from your own: “murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19).  In body and soul, He suffers the hell that you deserve in body and soul as a born enemy of God, a son of Adam, a daughter of Eve.  He suffers your sentence.  He dies your death.  That His death be yours, and that your sins be forgiven.  He is your substitute.  He is your representative before the Father.  He is your High Priest.  He makes the sacrifice.  He prays the prayer.  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 
            And the Father says “Yes” to Jesus’ prayer.  He hears and He answers.  How could He do otherwise for His beloved Son, with whom He is well-pleased?  He accepts the sacrifice.  There is forgiveness in the Blood.  There is life in the Blood.  Easter is coming.  Christ Jesus is risen from the dead.  The Father forgives you for Jesus’ sake.
            And now everything is new.  Jesus, your High Priest, has ordained you a priest for your neighbor.  Now you represent your neighbor before God in sacrifice and prayer.  You love your neighbor.  You sacrifice for your neighbor.  You shed your blood, if necessary, for your neighbor.  And you pray for your neighbor.  To be sure, you make intercession for your neighbor’s needs of body and soul.  But chiefly you pray this prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  You pray this prayer for your neighbor’s sins against God.  You pray this prayer for your neighbor’s sins against you.  Because the Father has forgiven you for Jesus’ sake.  You actually say it this way: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  That is a priestly petition, and it flows from the cross of our High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ. 

            Jesus is our High Priest.  The sacrifice has been made, the Commandments covered in the Blood of the Atonement.  The Holy of Holies is open to you.  Jesus prays for you.  And you have peace with God and eternal life.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

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