Good Friday 2019

My sermon for First Trinity Lutheran Church, Indianapolis, April 19, 2019, where I have the blessed privilege to serve in the absence of our pastor.

My daughter Erin’s exquisite rendering of the Lord’s cross.

“The Impossible”

I suspect you know both of these quotes from God’s Word: “Nothing will be impossible with God,” and, “With God, all things are possible.”

Before the Son of God entered the world in the womb of Mary, the Lord accomplished plenty to fulfill these two promises. The Lord made possible the impossible before the eyes of Israel when they were able to cross the Red Sea on dry ground, when they ate of the manna and quail, and when they drank from the water-giving-rock, not to mention the plagues in Egypt which preceded those miracles.

Not only every active miracle, but every act of mercy was the Lord’s making possible for humanity what was impossible for us, because in our sinful state our hearts no longer pumped the pure love of the Lord. Yet, God so loves the world, and so God the Son entered the world so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.

Have you ever wondered why it was God the Son who became a human, and not God the Father or God the Holy Spirit? Even more, why did the Son of God need to become the Son of Man, that is, the Son of humanity?

John chapter one tells us that everything that was made was created through God the Son. Colossians 1:16 goes a step further, informing us that everything was made by the Son and for the Son. Hebrews 2:10 asserts the same about Jesus, “for whom and by whom all things exist.”

And that tells you why it was the Son, and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, who came into the world in human flesh, to be our Savior. I like to say it this way: you and I, and all people, and all of this creation, are God the Father’s gift to the Son. Because the Son loves the Father, when you and I, and all people, required redemption from our sins, it was the Son who takes on our human flesh; it was the Son who died.

Why did we need Him to do so? For this, we go to Galatians chapter four, where we are told that the Son was “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law.” The Savior had to be human because humans had to fulfill God’s Law, and the Savior had to be God because we are incapable of perfectly fulfilling God’s Law.

In this act of becoming truly human, God the Son did what humanity finds impossible. It makes no sense that the Creator could be a creature. For us to grasp how great is the leap the Son of God made in becoming the Son of Man, the best example I’ve been able to conjure is this:

Imagine you have made for yourself, from Play Doh, a little kingdom of people. After forming them, you breathed on them, and they came to life. But, instead of thanking you for their living and moving and having their being, they did everything the opposite. They even took to killing each other.

Appalled at their actions, you still loved them. But, why? You still loved them because you were their creator. And so you did the unthinkable, the thing you had to do for their sake so that you could directly relate to them. You took a lump of Play Doh, you entered that lump of clay, and you fashioned yourself as one of them.

Crazy thought, isn’t it? Recall the first quote of this sermon, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” That was spoken by Gabriel, when he announced to Mary that she would bear the Son of the Most High. Mary wondered how this could possibly be done in her, yet she could have asked a much larger question: how can the Son of the Most High take on human flesh?

How? Because nothing will be impossible with God. Because Mary, and you and I, and all people, are the sacred possession of the Son of the Most High. Because God so loves this world, it simply could be no other way.

And then the Son of God incarnate, who had been given the name Jesus, for He would save us from our sins, was crucified. Jesus died.

Jesus just as eternal, just as all-powerful and all-knowing and ever-present and divine as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, yet when Jesus died on the cross God died.

This just can’t be. God can’t die. Based on God’s being all-powerful and eternal, that is as logical a thought as has ever been spoken. But, here’s the thing about God, in the person of Jesus, dying. The conundrum isn’t that He died. The enigma is that He became a human being in the first place.

Thus, we remember Gabriel’s pronouncement, that nothing will be impossible for God. And so God the Son takes on human flesh. And the moment He did that it became possible for God in Christ to die.

That’s the how. Here’s the why.

The last time I preached, our epistle was from Second Corinthians chapter five. That day, I quoted these two verses: 19: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them,” and 21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Through the work of God the Son’s Good Friday death, God the Father does not count our sins against us, because God the Son became sin for us so that we might be the righteous children of God.

Now, to the second quote with which I opened the sermon, “With God, all things are possible.” The Lord Jesus said this after the rich young man wanted to know what good deed he must do to be saved. When the Lord’s answer was too much, the disciples asked, “Then who can be saved?” The Lord replied, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

Because Jesus is God, all things are possible for Him, including His bringing Himself back from the grave after dying for the sins of the world.

If Jesus had only died—well, everyone dies, so dying, by itself, would accomplish nothing. Yet, because Jesus did the next impossible-for-us thing—His Easter resurrection—He is a man whose every promise is sure and certain.

And the Lord Jesus promises that which is impossible for you: “Even though you die, yet shall you live,” and, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

And the impossible keeps coming. Scripture says that we are dead in our transgressions and sins. As you have witnessed all too often, dead people can do nothing for themselves. So, as the disciples asked, who can be saved? Nothing will be impossible for God, and through a Word—the Good News about Jesus Christ—faith in Christ has been created in you so that you who were dead are now alive in Christ.

Both the Old and New Testaments confirm that the righteous shall live by faith.

You, friends, are the righteous, the righteousness of God for whom God the Son laid down His life on the cross.

You, friends, are the righteous, the righteousness of God who confess Ephesians 2:8-9 as your own: “It is by grace I have been saved through faith. It is not my work, but God’s gift to me, for the sake of Jesus Christ.”

You, friends, are the righteous, the righteousness of God who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who takes away the sin of the world. This is your baptism into Christ, attested to in Titus chapter three: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

You, friends, are the righteous, the righteousness of God who are continually fed upon the body and the blood of the One who declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

All of it impossible for you, but by the Word, through Holy Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper, all of the Lord’s forgiveness of sins, His gift of salvation from death, devil, and damnation, and the eternal life which will be completed in your own resurrection from the dead, has been made possible in you.

And at the close of today’s service you can depart in peace, trusting Christ at His last word: “It is finished.”

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ, our Creator and Savior. Amen.

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4 thoughts on “Good Friday 2019

  1. wow, was this deep for me. Had to stop several times and re read to figure it out. Could not have done that in a sermon. Enjoyed. Glad you have not let all that talent go to waste.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Ann, and for posting your comment. Yeah, it’s deep stuff. Indeed, I scrapped a whole bunch I had written because it had been even deeper! That’s one reason I used the Play Doh illustration, hoping to make it more accessible.

      A holy and blessed Easter to you!

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  2. Add more amazing stuff to this picture. When Mary asked Gabriel how it should be that she would become the mother of our Lord, he said that it would be by the power of the Holy Spirit, not the Father, that she would conceive Jesus. It’s impossible to figure it out with human wisdom, but, as Scripture says, the just shall live by their faith.

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