April 6, 2007

Good Friday sermon

“When they were driven out of Paradise they made for themselves a tent and mourned for seven days, weeping in great sorrow. But after seven days they began to hunger and sought food to eat, but found none. Then Eve said to Adam, ‘My lord, I am hungry. Go and seek for us that we may eat. Perhaps the LORD God will consider us and pity us and call us back to the place we were before.’” So begins an ancient document called “The Life of Adam and Eve.” It’s not from the Bible, but it does help us consider the plight of our first parents. What incredible sorrow they must have known!

And yet, you have known this sorrow too. The burden of work, that you might eat. The agony of loneliness and loss. The anger and resentment you have towards others. And then, the cold despair of death.

“Perhaps the LORD God will consider us and pity us.” But Eve’s prayer was not answered – not then. They were not returned to Eden. They could not. The way was barred.

Sin grew. Their children murdered, fornicated, lied, and let anger smolder within them – a seething rage. Generations passed on, and their children built civilizations, some of them great – yet the greater they became, the more they became infatuated with themselves. Calling upon the Name of the Lord became as a myth, not believed, even mocked. Seemingly indestructible empires toppled, set ablaze. The anger of the Lord burned even against His holy city. The prophet Jeremiah saw her in ruins and said, “My eyes fail with tears, my heart is troubled, my bile is poured on the ground.”

What consolation can be given? Have you been there, in the darkness of night, when death has visited? Man has no words of comfort. O fallen man! O cursed world! O race of traitors! “Your ruin is spread wide as the sea; who can heal you?” (Lam. 2.13). Behold, the man whom God made! He chose ruin, and cannot heal himself!

“What have you done?” demands the LORD. “Answer Me!” But we have no answer.

Then comes the trumpet, blown by Pilate himself: “Behold, the Man!” That trumpet sounds the coming of the new Man, the New Adam, who has retraced the steps of our first father. Adam was to be king of the world; dominion over all things God gave into his hand. He fell. And the earth which yielded grapes turned into thorns for him, piercing his flesh like daggers. Behold in Adam the fallen man. But more, look in the mirror and behold in yourself one who is worse. The first man fell in ignorance; you, having the Word and command of God, fall every day. You grasp for things, yet they do not satisfy. You spit bitter words to your neighbor, and they do not heal but only bring strife. Behold in yourself that fallen man.

But hear again Pilate’s trumpet, heralding the advent of the King! “Behold, your King!” Look at His crown! Thorns – the twisted briers of our own curse.

They mock him – but they know not what they do. For they are mocking themselves. There in Christ see the ruin of the Fall! Man grasped for what he thought would be sweet, but on his lips it turned to bitterness. Do you not repeat the same sins again, looking for sweetness but finding only the sour? So the new Man, the second Adam, drinks the sour wine at the point of death. Everything which overthrew the first Adam, Jesus assumed into Himself.

Which means that everything that has overthrown you, Jesus took into Himself. Your lusts, your foolishness, your pride, your envy, your unwillingness to forgive. He assumed it all. Look at Him, if you dare! Behold, the Man! Behold what you have done! Behold what you deserve! Behold the entire story of mankind.

And then, behold on that cross the arms of God, the incarnate God, Yahweh enfleshed – His arms flung wide, inviting all men back to Himself. His side is opened, and by His water and blood stands open again the way to Paradise. Answered is the longing sigh of Eve, “Perhaps the LORD God will consider us and pity us and call us back to the place we were before.” At last He has! Behold, your King, calling you to Himself! Behold Him, repent, and receive His forgiveness!

For in Him, everything is forgiven. All of it. No sins are held against you, no wrath will rain down on you. Death is dead in the death of Christ. Hell has no hold on you. Behold the Man; behold, your King; behold God’s love for you.

We can have no certainty in ourselves. Adam fell, Moses burned with wrath, David lusted, Peter denied, Paul murdered. We cannot save ourselves, and left to ourselves we cannot maintain our salvation. There is no certainty in us. So behold this Man, the God-Man, whose death is the ransom-price for the entire world. In you there is sin and death, but in Him is certainty. For in Him is redemption and holiness, forgiveness and life. In Him is certainty.

Rejoice, then, my friends; for He who drank the sour wine now gives you the sweet – His own blood, rushing from His side as the new river of Paradise.

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