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Christ’s Passion and Death

  John 18-19

Before breathing His last, Jesus declared, It is finished! It was for no small reason that Jesus spoke thus.  By these words, Jesus testified to His completed work for your salvation.  It was not on the day of Easter, the day that our Lord resurrected bodily, that sin and death were put to an end.  It was the day He died that sin too had died and death had lost its eternal hold.  For this reason, the unforgetful words of our Lord, It is finished! bring comfort and consolation to hearts troubled by sin and burdened by its effects.

Through His suffering and death, Christ brought about that peace with God that surpasses all human understanding.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36).  The price for that peace, the cost for that sin being taken away, was His blood.  It is as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, that Christ ‘redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, that He purchased and won from sin, death, and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death’ (Meaning to the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed).

The Jesus of the Bible was not an unbloody Jesus.  He shed His own blood, not for Himself, but for you.  The servant of Isaiah chapter 52 & 53 is truly the servant of the Most High God, but He is the suffering servant, whom we esteem as stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Instead of the crown of kings, the Christ of God received a crown of thorns.  Instead of the honor due His name, the Son of the Living God was mocked and blasphemed.  Though His Words and works gave witness to His true identity, still did they crucify Him.

Though Jesus endured such hostilities, though He died at the hands of sinful men, though His life ended just after His last words that still echo in the ears, It is finished! He surrendered Himself to death and permitted Himself to be crucified.

Jesus did not say what He said because His suffering in this world had ended.  Jesus did not do what He did because He was sinful from birth and in need of a savior.  Jesus did not give Himself over to suffer and die to save Himself.

Jesus said what He said as a clear witness and testimony to all creation that His work of redemption for all people, here and there, near and far, at home and abroad, was now accomplished.  All the work that His Heavenly Father had given Him to do was now done.  There is nothing more to be done.  There is nothing undone that Jesus hasn’t fulfilled for your salvation.  There is nothing to add to, and nothing to take away from what the Lord Christ had completed in death – for you.

The penalty for your sin and justice for your guilt was laid upon Him who knew no sin.  The holy One became the unholy.  The righteous One became the unrighteous.  The sinless became the sinner.  In your place and as your substitute, the Passover Lamb Christ Jesus was slain.

Willingly our Savior endured the cross, even scorning its shame.  He was wounded for your transgressions, bruised for your iniquities, the chastisement of your peace was upon Him, and by His stripes you are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

This despised and rejected Jesus of Nazareth, this One called King of the Jews, who hung on a cross, is the only hope for our dying world, for sinful people, and for Christ’s church.

Whatever you would add or subtract from His work is all for nothing.  The sacrifice of God’s Son is sufficient satisfaction and compensation for all sin, whether it be the sin of the most pious saint or the sin of the most wretched sinner.  It makes no difference, for there is no partiality with God.  He shows no favoritism to anyone.

This is good news for all who sorrow over their sin, grieve because of their unrighteousness, and despair over themselves.   The first-born Son of God reconciled you to His Father.  He who is the way, the truth, and the life placated God’s wrath by means of humility, suffering, and death (John 14:6).

Christ the Messiah came to fulfill all that was spoken of Him.  He was the suffering servant of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 52-53), the Psalmist calling out, My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me? (Psalm 22), and the seed of the woman crushing the serpents head (Genesis).  He came to fulfill all righteousness and willingly obeyed His Father in every respect.  He was the Servant of servants and the Slave of slaves to free both you and me and all the world by condemning sin with His flesh in death and doing the work which we could not.   This He has completed.  All is done.  It is finished.

In Christ the crucified, all requirements for your salvation are complete.  He is your perfection before God.  He is your righteousness before the Father.  He is your peace before the Just Judge.  Through His suffering and death, by His work of righteousness upon the land, on account of His faithful and perfect obedience to His Father, He fulfilled all the requirements of the law in your place and died your death, that you would live in Him and with Him for all eternity.  In Christ Jesus, it is truly finished!  All is accounted for, and through His death, you now have life.

This is how to see Christ’s death rightly: not that he was merely one who died who should not have, not simply  having pity toward the one who got what He Himself did not deserve, and not casting blame only on others, like the Jews or the Romans.  The Jewish religious leaders certainly called for His death.  The Romans did put Him to death by execution.

Christ was there for you.  For your sins He died.  Seeing Christ’s death rightly is believing that Christ died in your place, that you deserved all that He got, but that He took your place, even in death, so that you have life, and that you no longer be ruled by sin and its evil desires, but look to Him for help and salvation.

Christ’s death means your life, free from sin and death.  By Christ’s death, your sin too is dead.  Having been baptized into the Name of Christ, you have been baptized into Christ’s death (Romans 6).  This means that you are now dead to sin, but alive to God, even as St. Paul writes, If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness (Romans 8:10).  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2).

Though this night be one of sorrow, sorrow for the death of Christ, more is it to be one of sorrow over your sins for which our Savior died.  On the way to the cross, some women had cried out after Jesus.  They were weeping in sorrow for what was coming upon Him.  But to them He said, Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children (Luke 23:28).  Jesus says the same to you.  Do not weep for Him.  Weep for yourselves and for your own sins.

On the cross you see where you should be, what should come to you.  Only for God’s grace are you not there, for Christ was.

The little suffering you find in this life is no comparison to Christ’s.  If He suffered so much for us willingly, can you not do the same?  The problem is that you don’t see Christ’s suffering and death rightly.  You believe our own trials and tribulations to be the greater.  If you did see them rightly, you would cling all the more firmly to Christ and see in Him your only help and salvation.

To this end the Lord would preserve you.  He directs you to view the suffering and death of His Son as your own.  In this way, you see rightly what Christ endured, that all is indeed finished.  Your sin is done away with.  It is no more.  In Christ, all is truly finished.  In Christ, your salvation is won.  Amen.

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Meal of Salvation

17Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

      20When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

      26Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

      30And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:17–30)

These Words of Christ in which He instituted the sacred meal are the very Words of our Lord on the night that He was betrayed.  On that night, Jesus held what is called the ‘Last Supper’ with His disciples.  But that ‘Last Supper’ is not ‘Last’ for us.  Our Lord says, As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

The meal in which we partake of Christ’s very body and blood is a proclamation of the Lord’s death till He comes again in His glory.  It is a meal of remembrance.  It is also a meal in which the Lord Himself distributes what only He Himself gives.  Though the eyes see one thing, the ears hear another.  We see bread and wine, but the Lord says that more is going on than meets the eye.  The Lord would have us believe what He says.  This is how one eats and drinks the true body and blood of our Lord worthily, by faith in the very Words that the Lord speaks.

Though your eyes and reason say something different, believe what God speaks in His Word, and His promises are yours, even the forgiveness of all your sins.   You might not understand it, but that’s ok.  The Lord would not have you to understand it.  He would have you believe it, not according to your eyes, but according to His Word.  This is where true confidence and lasting peace are found.  This is where we hear the words, given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.

In the Lord’s Supper, in the meal offered for your salvation, our Lord Jesus gives His body and blood.  By these, God really remits all your sins.  Think not, ‘how can this be’?  Believe rather that because the Lord says it, it must be so.  What He offers and what He gives is your salvation.

As one before has said, “That person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words ‘for you’ require all hearts to believe.” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘Who, then, receives such Sacrament worthily?’)

We partake of the Lord’s Supper on the basis of God’s Holy Word, having faith in that and not in ourselves.  True faith is not just going through the motions.  It is not simply doing things because everyone else is doing them.  True faith is of the heart and takes God at His Word, seeing there His Son, for us, not only in Word, but in bread and wine and body and blood.  To not believe the Words of the Lord as they are is unbelief.  To believe is belief.  To those who do believe, God offers the promise of life and salvation.

It is for this reason that the Lord’s Supper is offered in our churches, offered and not forced.  We cannot coerce anyone to believe.  We do not force anyone to receive the Sacrament of the Altar.  The Lord does not give it to burden consciences.  He gives it to comfort and to gladden the heart.  He gives it that you know that you are forgiven according to His Word.

Jesus says, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).  Even as the Lord gives rest in His Gospel, so also does our Lord give rest in the Lord’s Supper.  In the Lord’s Supper, the Lord gives you this rest for your weary soul.  Here, He provides and nourishes you unto eternal life.  Here, He strengthens and preserves you to life everlasting.  He forgives your sin and gives Himself FOR YOU.

If you feel or think that you are not worthy to receive the holy things of God, know that true worthiness does not consist in you.  Your sincerity of confession or the sorrow of your heart is not the basis for going to the Lord’s Supper.  What is the basis for eating and drinking at the Lord’s Table is not you, but the Lord’s Word.

If you are waiting to feel worthy, you never will.  Believe His Word.  Though you know yourself to be unworthy, this supper is prepared for you, not because of your own righteousness, but because here the Lord gives you forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, “For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?’).

Christ’s words are to be taken as they are.  Many add to them or take away from them.  But this is not the right way.  What we cannot understand, we leave in God’s hands.  There, we are safe.  Anything else is going too far.  Sticking to the words of our Lord, we are on solid ground.

Christ gave bread and said, This is My body.  Christ gave wine and said, This is My blood.  He could not be more clear than that, saying what He means and meaning what He says.  If this Word is not enough, St. Paul also says, The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)

What the Bible gives in one place will also be supported in another.  All interpretations of Holy Scripture therefore that contradict what Scripture says are against Scripture and not Christian.  The inconsistencies that abound in Christendom are the result of not everyone being faithful to the Lord’s Word.  True unity doesn’t consist in ‘agreeing to disagree’ or in ‘tolerating different opinions’ when it comes to the things of God.  It consists in this, believing what God says and confessing the same.  Because all churches do not say the same thing concerning the things of God, there is not true unity.

Because we are not united in the faith, we are not able to express true unity.  If we were, then we could commune at the Lord’s table with others, and they with us.  As it is, all do not agree with reference to what God says in His Word.  This is the problem.  We cannot express Christian fellowship where there is none.  To do so would be to deny Christ and His Word.

For this reason, our churches and the Christian church throughout her history has practiced ‘close or closed communion’.  This is not the unloving practicing of welcoming all to the table, regardless of creed and confession.  It is the loving practice of clearly proclaiming Christ and Him crucified to a confused world, declaring that Christ and His Word does matter, and that Christ’s body and blood, truly and really present with the bread and wine, are given for life and salvation.

This we believe and this we confess.  The Lord offers the Sacrament of the Altar for our salvation.  Here, God gives the forgiveness of sins.  It is not the bodily eating and drinking that does this, but the words here written, “‘Given and shed for you for the remission of sins’; which words, besides the bodily eating and drinking, are the chief thing in the Sacrament; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?’).

To the Lord’s Words we cling.  It is here and in what He gives that you find rest for your soul and the promise of eternal life.  Hear it often.  Receive it plenty.  Amen.

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