April 10, 2020
Service of the Cross
P: We worship this evening in the Name of our Triune God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Prayer for Good Friday
P: Let us pray.
God Most Holy, look with mercy on this Your family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, be given over into the hands of the wicked, and suffer death upon the cross. Keep us always faithful to Him, our only Savior, Who now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
The First Lesson: Isaiah 52:13—53:12
The Servant suffers in accord with the gracious will of God, but His suffering gives way to glory, for “He will see the light of life” and be given “a portion among the great.”
See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness—so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (NIV1984)
Silence for prayer and meditation follows the reading.
The Second Lesson: Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Jesus is revealed as our great High Priest. Except for sin, He shares fully in our humanity and renders the obedience due to God in our place.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (NIV1984)
Silence for prayer and meditation follows.
The Good Friday Devotion: Matthew 27:45-50
The Son of God is Our Warrior—
The Greatest Battle Ever Fought!
Dear fellow sinners,
What is the greatest battle ever fought? For you and for me the greatest battle we have ever fought is the battle we are currently fighting— the COVID 19 battle that has shut down huge portions of our country and put millions of Americans under a Shelter-in-Place order for weeks now. If you look back over the course of history there are numerous battles which at the time were probably considered to be the greatest battle ever fought. In 1529 there was the Battle of Vienna which stopped the Ottoman Empire from advancing into Europe. In 1815 there was the Battle of Waterloo which brought an end to the French dominance of Europe and forced Napoleon Bonaparte into exile. During the American Revolution there was the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Yorktown. In WWII there was the Battle of Stalingrad, the Invasion of Normandy and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Sadly, trying to sift through all the battles that we human beings have fought until we narrow it down to the greatest battle ever fought is a futile effort. Why? Because we keep adding to the list of battles to choose from!
Tonight, however, is different, isn’t it. Tonight we focus our hearts on the one battle that puts all other battles to shame. Tonight, as we conclude our sermon series on The Son of God Goes Forth to War we gasp as we see our Brother Jesus engaged in: The Greatest Battle Ever Fought! Our text for tonight is recorded for us in Matthew 27:45-50. Matthew writes, “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ — which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of those standing there heard this, they said, ‘He’s calling Elijah.’ Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, ‘Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.’ And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.”
The physical agony that Jesus endured was horrific beyond words. He had been beaten and mocked by members of the Sanhedrin and by the Jewish Temple guards (Matthew 26:67). Pilate’s soldiers had pressed a crown of thorns on His head, mocked Him and hit Him on the head with a staff over and over again. (Matthew 27:27ff) Then He was scourged which ripped chunks of skin and flesh from His back. Jesus was so weak and in so much agony that He couldn’t carry His own cross out to the hill called Calvary. So the Roman soldiers forced Simon from Cyrene to carry the cross for Him. Once they arrived at Calvary they laid Him down on His back on a wooden cross, pounded long nails through His wrists and feet and hoisted the cross up and into a hole as the soldiers and the Jewish leaders mocked Him. But while the physical pain that Jesus was enduring was indeed beyond words, the Son of God never complained as He allowed these mortal sinful human beings to do all of this to Him. In fact, while Jesus was being crucified and as Jesus was hanging on the cross we hear Him proclaim amazing words! He offered up a prayer to His heavenly Father asking Him to forgive all those who crucified and mocked Him. He tenderly entrusted the care of His dear mother to His disciple John. He graciously answered the desperate prayer of the thief who came to faith in Jesus as his Savior by promising him a wonderful life in the Paradise of heaven.
Then came the darkness. In the middle of the day— at high noon— the sun stopped shining! This darkness helps us to realize that all of the physical agony that Jesus had endured was like a mosquito bite when compared to the spiritual agony that He endured as He hung there on the cross. (Pointing to the cross) The darkness shows us how much God hates sin. The darkness reminds us that each and every sin separates us from the love and the grace of God. The darkness covered up what no human eye could or should see— Jesus, the only begotten Son of God was hanging there on that across all alone as Satan marshaled all the forces of hell against Him in the greatest battle ever fought! Satan saw that the Son of God and the Son of Man was now at His weakest and most vulnerable point. Now was the time to attack! Now was the time to tempt Jesus to abandon the Father’s Plan of Salvation for this world and let us weak mortal human beings either fend for ourselves or simply get what we deserve.
So much darkness, my friends. What have I done to cause this? What have you done that Jesus should suffer so? The weight of all the sin of billions upon billions of people are pressing down on Jesus— all the massacres in the world, all the abortions, all the divorces, all the horrible things that you and I have ever said and done and thought— Jesus was bearing the guilt and the pain of it all! Alone! In the darkness! And as our Warrior was bearing all of this pain, as our Warrior was fighting against Satan and all the forces of hell He did not flinch. He was still faithfully holding His ground. Why? Because He knew! He knew that only He— the true Son of God and the true Son of Man— only He could pay the ransom price for all the sins of all mankind. It was there in the midst of all that darkness that we hear the worst part of it all: The Father’s white hot anger over sin was poured out on His Son full strength! You can hear it in Jesus’ voice as His tone changed from “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” to “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
You and I will never be able to comprehend the fact that God the Son was “forsaken” by God the Father. Think about it. The heavenly Father suspends His loving relationship with His only-begotten Son so that the Warrior Son could endure the punishment that all of humanity deserved to receive because of their— our— sin. This is the moment of sheer horror for our Warrior. This is when the Warrior’s suffering reached its climax. This is when the greatest battle ever fought is either going to be won— or lost. At the same time, this is where we need to remember that our Warrior willingly endured all of this because of His amazing love for us!
No matter how old you are, like me you have probably noticed something about yourself: While we are not always aware of how much we sin, we are aware that something is broken inside of us. All too often we just tell ourselves that we need to work harder to break that anger habit, that pride habit, that jealousy habit, that laziness habit, that lust habit, that greed habit, that overeating habit, and all the other sins we find ourselves falling back into over and over again. News flash: Our sin problem is so much bigger than we want to admit! We cannot work hard enough to overcome our sin! We cannot work long enough to overcome our sin! We need a Warrior who is big enough and strong enough and dedicated enough to save us from our sin, a Warrior who can pay a big enough ransom to purchase forgiveness for us and for all human beings! You know as well as I do that there is only one Warrior who could do that for us, only one Warrior who could fight our spiritual enemies and win the victory! That Warrior is none other than the Son of God Himself!
Matthew records our Warrior’s victory in the closing words of our text. He writes, “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.” What did Jesus “cry out in a loud voice”? Was this a cry of surrender? Was this a cry of defeat? Absolutely not! Luke tells us, “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46).
To all of the people standing there on Calvary— both His friends and His foes— it looked as though Jesus had lost this battle. Praise God, my friends, that we know the glorious truth that Jesus’ disciples would soon learn! Praise God that our Warrior was able to fulfill the promise He made in John 10:18. Speaking of His life Jesus said, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” Praise God that since our Warrior was victorious in the greatest battle ever fought (Pointing to the cross) we have the comfort and the confidence of knowing that no matter how many battles we wage as we journey through this world our victorious Warrior will always be by our side. Praise God that when we come face-to-face with that final battle, the battle with death itself, our victorious Warrior will take us by the hand and give us the strength to calmly say, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
To God be the glory!
Offering During this time of uncertainty we still want to give our offerings of firstfruits to our Savior. Please keep setting aside your offering to the Lord until we are able to meet in His house once again.
P: Let us pray for the whole Church, that our gracious heavenly Father would defend her from the devil and keep her faithful to her Lord.
P: Almighty and everlasting God, You have revealed Your saving name to the world through Jesus Christ our Lord. Protect us from the assaults of the evil one, and help us remain faithful to Your Word so that, in every adversity, we may stand firm in our faith and give ourselves fully to our Savior’s work, through Christ our Lord.
P: Let us pray for those who serve in the public ministry and for all the people of God.
P: Almighty and everlasting God, You rule over all things for the good of Your people.
Preserve us from divisive spirits and false teachers. Give Your servants the grace to
proclaim Christ joyfully in both word and deed so that all who hear them may come
to know their Savior better and be strengthened for their lives of service, through
Christ our Lord.
P: Let us pray for those who are being instructed in the Word that they remain firm in
the simple faith of Baptism.
P: Almighty and everlasting God, You make us Your own dear children by the washing of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit. Give strength to all who are buried with Christ in Baptism that each day they may die to sin and rise again to live a new and holy life, through Christ our Lord.
P: Let us pray for our earthly government, our rulers, and all who are in authority.
P: Almighty and everlasting God, You have established earthly government to keep a measure of order in this dying world and to protect us from the disorder of sin. Give to all rulers the wisdom to govern well and to all citizens the desire to obey them, so that we may live peaceful lives in all godliness and holiness, through Christ our Lord.
P: Let us pray that our gracious Father would protect us and our communities from the many earthly dangers that threaten us.
P: Almighty and everlasting God, on all sides we are surrounded by danger from wars and famine, from disease and pestilence, with the devil begrudging us every minute of our lives. Protect us from all these miseries so that Your name may still be glorified in them and so that we may safely pass through them to Your heavenly kingdom, through Christ our Lord.
P: Let us pray for those who are outside the Church, that they may come to know the one, true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.
P: Almighty and everlasting God, Your Son was lifted up on the cross so that He might draw all people to Himself. Through the proclamation of Your Word, mercifully gather from the nations a people that are Your very own, that we may join together around Your throne in glory to praise and thank You forever, through Christ our Lord.
P: Let us pray for our enemies and for all those who hate us.
P: Almighty and everlasting God, no one can harm us without grieving You whose name we bear. We ask that You would change the hearts of those who work against us and those who hate us without reason. Give them repentance and faith so that they may be glad with us and find joy in Your love, through Christ our Lord.
P: Let us pray for all who suffer under cross and trial.
P: Almighty and everlasting God, You sent Your Son into the world to bear our grief and to carry our sorrows. Help those who are suffering for Your name’s sake and those who are struggling against temptation so that they may not be overwhelmed with sadness but find relief in Your grace, through Christ our Lord.
P: Finally, let us pray for all those things for which the Lord would have us ask in the
words He Himself has taught us:
C: Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Closing Response
P: We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You.
C: By Your holy cross You have redeemed us together with the whole world.