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 25, 2016

Good Friday Tenebrae

Good Friday Tenebrae: Golgotha: A Place of Simple Love[1]
March 25, 2016

Text: Luke 23:44-49 (ESV): It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, pinto your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

            Martin Luther said, “The cross alone is our theology.”  There are preachers aplenty who would direct your weary soul to God.  They all have their methods.  Some have published books.  Some have popular television programs.  Some tell you they have the magic fix for all that ails you.  But there is one sure way you can tell a true preacher from a shyster.  Does he direct you to the cross, or away from it?  Is the God he proclaims a bloody, crucified man?  Or a benevolent spirit in the sky?  “(W)e preach Christ crucified,” writes St. Paul (1 Cor. 1:23).  The cross alone is our theology.  Because it is only the God who dies who is able to save us from our sins.
            There is no question where the Evangelist, St. Luke, directs us for our salvation.  He takes us right to the cross.  Creation itself testifies that this is the central event in all of history, the pivotal moment in the relationship of God to humanity.  There was darkness over the whole land from the sixth hour to the ninth as God in the flesh hangs upon the cross drinking the cup of God’s wrath to its very dregs for the forgiveness of our sins.  The Temple bears visual witness to the new reality when God’s anger is assuaged.  The curtain dividing the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies is torn in two from top to bottom.  Heaven is open, and man has access to God through the riven flesh of Christ.  And finally there is the centurion.  Seeing these things, beholding our Lord in His great compassion, hearing His gracious Words, witnessing His saving death for us, he praises God by praising Jesus.  “Certainly this man was innocent!” he says (Luke 23:47).  Actually, “innocent” is a bad translation.  Better: “Certainly this man was righteous!”  That is to say, the sinless Son of God has died for sinners, that sinners be declared righteous, justified, and go free.  Sins paid in full.  Reconciled with God.  Heaven is open.  We are justified.  The cross alone is our theology. 
            Luke takes us right up to the foot of the cross to behold with the centurion our salvation in the simple love of Jesus.  Jesus takes this place of death, destruction, and condemnation… Golgotha, the place of a skull… and makes it a place of life and love and restoration to God. 
            Have you ever tried to get God to work in your life?  “You’ve followed all sorts of rules.  Your bookshelf has one too many books on how to have a happy marriage and you’ve stopped saying your prayers” before bed (Places of the Passion).  You’re burnt out.  You’re “simply tired of the struggle… worn out by the complexity… and deep down afraid maybe God isn’t there,” maybe He isn’t for you.  “Listen to Luke.  Luke speaks tonight for all who have ever been lost in a religious system,” who have been promised that if you just follow these ten simple steps or say this magic prayer or forward this email to 10 friends then you’ll be extra-specially blessed and live your best life now.  Your spouse will adore you, your kids will obey you, and your boss will throw money and power at you.  And it never works.  No matter how hard you try, you never get it right.  This is still a fallen world, and you are still a sinner.  And any preacher who tells you it can be different if you just believe enough, work hard enough, or do this, that, and the other thing enough, is a fraud!  And he hasn’t led you to the cross.  For all his “Jesus” talk, he hasn’t directed you to Christ crucified for your sins.  He’s directed you to you!  But you are the problem!  You are the sinner in need of saving.  You can’t save you.  But Jesus can.  And He has.  The cross alone is our theology.
            Now, this is not to deny Easter and the centrality of Christ’s resurrection.  We know where this is going and we know that death is not where this ends.  The fact of the matter is, we wouldn’t be here tonight and we wouldn’t call this Friday “Good” if Jesus had not risen from the dead.  If this was just a death and it ended there, this would all be meaningless and morbid.  That we wear jewelry and hang wall decorations depicting a capital punishment would be absurd.  The resurrection fills the death of Christ with all its divine significance.  The resurrection proves that this man is who He says He is, the very Son of God, and He does what He says He does, namely, takes away the sin of the world.  The resurrection is the Father’s declaration that the sacrifice has been accepted.  Our sin is at an end.  We are not condemned.  Jesus has saved us.  God loves us.  There are no more steps to take.  All is finished now.  Believe it, and it is yours.  Fully redeemed.  Fully restored.  Eternal life.  You have it in Jesus.
            And if a preacher points you anywhere else, especially if he points you to yourself, run.  There is death in the pot!  We preach Christ crucified, the Bread from heaven who gives Himself for the life of the world.  The cross alone is our theology.  In the death of Christ, we live.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.                    
             




[1] Based on the Maundy Thursday sermon from Places of the Passion (St. Louis: Concordia, 2015).

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