The account of our Lord’s Passion, His suffering and His death by crucifixion, should be discomforting to our ears. That one man suffered such horrible treatment is almost unimaginable. The last days and hours of the man Jesus are unequaled in all of history. But the treatment of Jesus by sinful men and His temporary end is not the entire focus of our meditation this sorrowful evening.
That Jesus suffered as an innocent man is not the center of our attention on this somber night, for on that day of Good Friday, the righteous justice of God was meted out.
On that day, One man was accused. Charges were brought against Him. And on the testimony of witnesses, that Man was condemned to die.
On that day, they executed the Innocent Jesus for crimes He had not committed. Jesus suffered at the hands of sinful men for wrongdoings that He had not done. Jesus bore the just punishment of a just God who hates sin and will not allow sinful man to stand in His presence.
But Jesus was not a sinner. He had no sin of His own to claim. Jesus was not a wrongdoer. He had done nothing wrong. He only fully did and fully spoke as His heavenly Father had given Him to speak and to do.
Therefore, Jesus had not suffered what He suffered nor experience what He experienced because of His own sin. What led this man, our beautiful savior, to such a state of affairs, was not what He did or what He did not do. Jesus was not judged because of His own guilt.
Jesus did not die on the cross because of His own disobedience to God. Jesus did not die for His own sin. Jesus died for ours. Jesus suffered and died in order that we, the justly judged and condemned sinners before God, would be saved from sin, death, and hell.
You deserved to be that man on the cross. But because of God’s grace and mercy, you are not that man. Because of God’s mercy, Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself – for you. He nailed your sin to that tree of death. He buried the power of sin in His grave.
But what are we to make of the whip, the crown of thorns, the nails, the suffering, the pain, the dying of our Lord?
Many wonder why we call this day ‘Good’. As we consider this Friday of Fridays, we see nothing but agony and suffering. And how can this be good? Many sorrow for Christ in His last hours, it is true. But many stop only at sorrow for Him in their consideration of the passion. Many only pity the Jesus unjustly condemned and go no further. Many only see the scourging, the thorns, the nails, the suffering, and the pain that Jesus suffered, and only lament that these things ever happened, but they fail to go beyond the mere appearance and get to the very of the matter.
But our meditations this night don’t stop at mere appearances or emotional laments. If they do, you will fail to see the Passion of Christ rightly. If you only see Christ in His sufferings and fail to recognize why Jesus set His face like flint to suffer and die as He had, you will not see Him rightly as your savior. If you only pity Christ and nothing more, you are to be the most pitied.
God is not moved to compassion towards you because you pity Christ. Rather, God has compassion toward you because of Christ. Your sadness for Christ does not save you. It is God’s mercy towards you in the suffering Christ that saves you.
God shows mercy towards sinners. This is what Christ’s Passion is all about. Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. If you fail to recognize that His love for you is what led Him to His death, you have no savior. And if you fail to recognize that Jesus died in order to save you from your sin, you have no savior in Him.
Jesus died on the accursed cross in order to take your place there. You deserve to be on that cross because of your sin, because of your idolatry, because of your lack of love for God and neighbor, because of your hypocrisy, and because of your selfishness. Because of your sin before God and men, you deserve to be where Jesus was on that cross.
We sorrow this day, but not for Christ. We sorrow for ourselves. We sorrow for our sin, for it is from this sin for which Jesus died to deliver us, and it is from this very sin from which Jesus does deliver us by means of His own blood.
Before God, no fault is greater than another’s fault. My sin is not greater than your sin, nor is your sin greater than my sin. Before the Holy God, all sin is alike.
Before God, we are all equally guilty. No sin is greater than another. We might distinguish between greater sins and lesser sins, but God doesn’t. To Him, you are either completely innocent or entirely guilty. And without Christ, we stand only as condemned sinners, deserving only of eternal death and hell.
You deserve everything that Christ suffered that fateful day – the lashes, the mocking, the crown of thorns, the beatings, and the cross. This is how to see the passion of Christ rightly.
Seeing yourselves in Christ on that day called Good Friday means that you see Christ’s passion rightly, that you see Christ bearing your sufferings, not for Himself, but for you. And as you learn to say, “me” in Christ’s suffering, so you also learn to say, “He” in your suffering.
Because of Christ, you stand innocent before God’s judgment seat. Because of Christ, God declares you not guilty, because on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty of death for all of your sin. This does not mean that you now have the freedom to sin, but it does certainly mean that you now have the freedom to freely serve the Lord rightly-by faith, and not by threat of judgment and death.
As you learn to see yourselves as deserving of what Christ suffered, you learn to see the Passion of Christ rightly. And you learn to see that your sufferings in this life, as Christians, for righteousness sake, is a partaking of Christ’s Passion. What is yours, sin, death, and hell, has become His; and what is His, righteousness, life, and heaven, has become yours. Jesus’ death now also means your death to sin. And His resurrection three days later means also your resurrection unto life. Amen.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, look not upon our sins, but see Your only begotten Son, who, in our stead, took upon Himself our sins and even our death, that we might have eternal life. Amen.
Filed under: Confession & Absolution-The Office of the Keys, God-The Holy Trinity, Justification & Sanctification-The Christian Faith & Good Works, Law & Gospel-Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, Salvation-Soteriology, Son, Theology & Doctrine | Tagged: Cross, Crucifixion, Good Friday, Holy Week, Jesus, Lent, Meditation, Passion |