Good Friday
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 23:44-46 Sermon
March 25, 2016

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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
154 "Alas!  And Did My Saviour Bleed"
172 "O Sacred Head Now Wounded"
175 "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" 
655 "I Pray Thee, Dear Lord Jesus" 
----- "The Old Rugged Cross"
180-186 "Jesus In Thy Dying Woes" 


TEXT:  “It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’  When he had said this, he breathed his last.”

            Many of you know that my dad was a pastor.  He was ordained in 1952 and served three different congregations before he became the Nebraska director of Church World Service/CROP.  Considering the years he served before retirement, and all the pulpit supply he did after retirement, I cannot even begin to estimate the number of worship services he conducted.

            After he retired, he enjoyed sitting in a pew and worshipping.  He almost always went to church on Saturday nights, especially when he would be otherwise occupied on Sunday.

            However, the thing that I found a bit unusual is that he would not go to church on Good Friday.  He would go on Maundy Thursday, and Easter, and at other times.  And if somebody invited him to go to church, he was usually always ready to go; but not on Good Friday.  I know he conducted many Good Friday services during his ministry.  Without question, he knew the meaning behind the whole Good Friday story, and what it meant to him, so it wasn't a matter of faith.

            He was never very specific behind his reasons; but from what I could glean from him, he found the whole scenario very disturbing, and he really didn't want to have to deal with it if he didn't have to.  Therefore, he opted for more uplifting services.  He wanted to focus upon the living and resurrected Christ, and not the suffering servant.  He wanted his worship to be based upon his victory.  And he trusted that what God told him was true, that through faith in Christ, he would one day occupy the mansion in heaven that he now does.

            Trusting God often isn't an easy thing to do.  But as we look at Good Friday and what Jesus had to endure, he was the shining example of trust in the most adverse of circumstances. 

            So think about this for a while.  How is your trust doing lately?  Have there been situations and events to shake that trust?  If we look to the example Jesus gives us, we how important that trust is.  After all that he had been through, after he had endured the agony on the cross, at the very end when Jesus was about to breathe his last, he spoke a word of trust.

            I remember watching a young father playing with one of his little children.  He’d throw his two-year-old up in the air and catch him.  And he did it every time without fail.  All the while the child was laughing, and so was his dad.  I've seen this many, many times.  Little kids seem to love this activity!  But I bet the laughing would have stopped in a hurry, if Dad had dropped his little boy just once. I’m pretty sure that would have ended the game, and the trust would have ended right along with it.

            Jesus had just been dropped by his heavenly Father in a very big way.  From noon until 3:00 pm, Matthew tells us that “darkness came over all the land” (Mt. 27:45).  That was the darkness of the Father’s judgment on his Son.  God had been forsaken by God.  The Father had abandoned his Son to hell.

            How hard was that for Jesus to handle? Just moments earlier, our Saviour had cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  On the cross, Jesus experienced the absolute anguish and loneliness that is hell.  He was, for the first time in all eternity, separated from the perfect love that is God.  How do you think that felt?  It was hell for Jesus in every way. 

            Of course, it had to be this way. Why?  Because on the cross, Jesus shouldered the sin that our human race has pumped out like raw sewage!  And it has been produced by you and me!  We continually sin.  Matthew records the condition of sinful humanity: “Evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Mt.15:19).  It happens naturally, and it was all there upon Jesus that day.

            I can understand my dad's aversion for going to church on Good Friday, because there are a lot of disturbing and disquieting things that are put right in front of us.  But nothing can be any more disturbing than seeing what Jesus had to endure.

            And do you know one of the most crucial things Jesus took upon himself?  It was our lack of trust!  And that is not the easiest thing for us to admit.  Our money may have “In God we trust,” but you and I trust a whole lot better when we’ve got a wallet full of bills that say that.  We trust better still when we’ve got a nice savings account that says that.  We sleep better at night when we’ve salted away a nice retirement nest egg that says that.  But let the nest egg be lost in a Bernie Madoff type scandal, let the savings account be nibbled away by rising prices, and let the wallet be filled with cobwebs instead of greenbacks, then trust in God comes a whole lot harder. It’s replaced instead by worry, high blood pressure, and ulcers.

            Our lack of trust helped raise humanity’s sin beyond flood stage.  However, according to God’s gracious plan, it all flowed directly to Golgotha, and right to Christ’s cross.  It was there, as the writer to the Hebrews records, that Jesus “offered for all time one sacrifice for sins” (Heb.10:12).  Sin forced the Father to turn away from his Son.  Your sins and mine caused Jesus to suffer the pain of hell itself on the cross.  And no, it's not pleasant to think about that.   

            We know that his work was over now.  It was finished, and that was a good thing.  The horrors of the Good Friday story were over.  There was just one last enemy needed to be destroyed.  Paul records in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 26:  "The last enemy to be destroyed is death."

            Jesus had the authority and power to lay down his life.  However, before he bowed his head and breathed his last, he prayed one final time. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

            Talk about trust!  Even though Jesus had been forsaken by his Father, even though our Saviour had been dropped into the agonies of hell, yet Jesus didn’t question his Father’s plan or purpose, even for a moment.  Instead, Jesus confidently placed his soul into the Father’s hands for safekeeping, and our Saviour knew he would not be disappointed!  Even in death, he clung to yet another of his Father’s promises as recorded in Psalm chapter 16, verse 10: “Nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”

            That is a very positive message for us on this rather dark day.  In Matthew chapter 5, verse 17 Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  

            Even with his dying breath, Jesus was still fulfilling divine prophecy and that holy law.  Everything Jesus said and did on the cross, he did for us and not for himself.  He lived, suffered, and died in our place without committing so much as a single sin, so that, as Paul writes in Romans chapter 5 verse 19: “through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

            Now Christ’s perfect trust is ours by faith. When the Father looks at us believers, he sees Jesus, our perfect substitute. That means the wall of sin between us and our holy God has been broken down. We have access to heaven above when we die and access to the heavenly Father right now; and this is all through God’s grace poured out upon us through Jesus!

            Think about what this means for us in our day-to-day lives.  Because of what Jesus has done, we can trust that our heavenly Father will always be with us and sustain us.

            Even when the economy turns sour and times are lean, David gives us words of hope in Psalm chapter 37, verse 25: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”

            When life’s problems pile up like mountains and hem us in on every side, we can heed Paul's advice in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 13: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

            And when the whole world seems against us, we trust our Saviour’s promise as John records in chapter 16, verse 33: “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

            We can trust all that our Father has promised, because we look to Jesus on the cross.  Listen to the trusting words Paul shares with the Romans, chapter 8, verse 32: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”  The Father has given us his Son.  The Son has given us his life; and through faith in him, the hope of heaven is a reality for us.  Do we really think our Lord would desert us and leave us floundering before we get there?

            Some time ago, a pastor asked me a question:  "How do you know that you have had a successful ministry?"       My reply to him was, "If you are standing by the deathbed of a Christian as they close their eyes for the final time, and they are completely at peace, then you have been successful."  And that's all thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit.

            Indeed what a privilege it is to use Jesus’ last words from the cross to pray with that believer, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  That's the trust we have because of what Jesus has done.

            When you and I come to the end of this life, we will be able to make Jesus’ dying prayer our own, because Jesus Christ has taken away even the sting of death!  We believe that, we know that, and we trust that because this last word from the cross wasn’t our Saviour’s last word after all.  Listen to the promises he makes:  In John chapter 11, verses 25-26 Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

            And I personally find great comfort in this promise of Jesus recorded in John chapter 14, verses 1-3:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

            Jesus speaks these words: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  He does so with confidence, because he knew his Father’s plan for him wasn’t finished on Good Friday.  God’s plan for his Son included Easter morning, an earthquake, angels, and an empty tomb.  He is risen, just as he said!

            I know that the whole Good Friday isn't pleasant.  It can be a "downer," as the expression goes.  And I don't fault my dad for wanting to be spared from the gruesome and disturbing nature of the day.

            But you know that God indeed spared us from the gruesome and disturbing consequences of sin.  We don't have a dark cloud hanging over us any longer.  We can trust the promises that God makes.    

            You can be like that two-year-old child tossed high into the air by his father.  Trust in your Saviour and all he has said and done for you.  He will bless, keep, and preserve you, and you have his word on it.  Remember the words Jesus speaks in John chapter 10, verses 27-28:  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”