Sermon – April 19, 2019
We have gathered to celebrate and remember Good Friday, the day that the Lord of life was crucified and killed. It is, admittedly, an odd day to celebrate, but we understand by faith the life giving power and the sin cancelling nature of his death. Tonight, as we look at the four words Jesus uttered on the cross in Matthew 27:46, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani” we have a chance to think through the grave problems this declaration gives to us, and a chance to wonder in amazement at the cross.
First, let us never think that these words indicate that the Son of God was, somehow, neglected or rejected by the Father. Or, that the Father poured out wrath while the Son only pleaded for mercy (for himself and those around him). These things rend God asunder! Such division within the God-head has disastrous consequences for our spiritual lives, our understanding of Scripture, and the nature of our salvation.
Second, let us never think that these words indicate that the human nature was left in flesh on the cross after the divine nature left Dodge. This rends Christ asunder! We cannot have two Christs – one of God and of humanity. There is one man who is humbled at the cross, who gave up heaven, who suffered and died, and is honored by God in heaven. To think otherwise is to lose salvation which only God can afford.
Rather, the words remind us of the fact that, while he wanted to do the Father’s will more, Jesus also wanted to avoid the cross if he could. He knew the agony, pain, suffering, loneliness, and darkness that awaited him there. The fact that he wanted to do the Father’s will should not decrease that fact. Praying thrice to have it taken away, Jesus understands well that it is not his Father’s will that he should escape. Thus, his prayer of escape is forsaken, and the Son goes to the cross. The death he died, he died for our sins; he is forsaken that we might be accepted; he is penalized so that God could be seen as just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
But the words also remind us of the great hope that Jesus had. He never saw the cross as a finality, but understood it as a necessity, even if a dark one. Jesus would entrust himself to the one who judges justly; he would suffer for the joy set before him. This glory does not make the darkness of the cross lighter, nor does the darkness dim the light. Rather, both are held in tension, mysteriously.
The words uttered by Jesus do all of this because he is not just showing us his heart – but he is showing us his Word. Psalm 22 is quoted by Jesus, a Psalm that is powerful in its prophetic way of speaking about Jesus and his suffering, while being just as prescient about his eventual triumph over the grave and praise from God.
Our Christ suffered in joy. For us and for our sin. So we call this day, filled with the ugliness and betrayal of mankind, Good Friday.