Good Friday 2019 - Chief Service
One of the better known Psalm verses is from Psalm 118. The Psalmist writes “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It’s a very pious thought, a good Christian expression. God has made this day, and I will rejoice in what He sends me. However, to leave the verse’s meaning at that misses its context. If you read all of Psalm 118 you find the cry of Hosanna and “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.” The Psalmist writes things like, “All nations…surrounded me like bees.” “You pushed me violently that I might fall.” “The Lord has chastened me severely.” “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” “Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.” Psalm 118 is all about Holy Week, especially Good Friday. So when we say “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it,” we’re talking about today, the day on which Jesus Christ tasted death for our sin.
That may seem like an odd verse for Good Friday. We think of this as being a somber day, a day of repentance and reflection upon sin. It is, but we also must remember that we do not mourn as those who have no hope. We certainly do focus on the crucifixion, the ultimate price paid by Our Lord for the sake of sheep who love to wander, people who sin in thought, word, and deed, in ways known and unknown. But while we do mourn our sin and lament that it resulted in Jesus’ death, we know the ending. We know that Jesus doesn’t stay dead. The site of His burial in Jerusalem is empty. The borrowed tomb did not stay occupied.
But we wouldn’t be able to rejoice on Sunday if it wasn’t for today. Because of today, we can say “Oh, give thanks unto the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever!” Each time we sing that verse after Holy Communion we’re recalling the chief event by which God’s mercy endures forever. We remember and gladly proclaim that He was not willing that any should perish. So, Jesus endured all that the devil could throw at Him from the hands of sinful men. He endured beatings, mockery, and blasphemy, all while bearing the burden of the sin of the world and the righteous wrath of God the Father.
But Jesus knew what was coming. In the Gospels when He discussed His impending crucifixion, Jesus always used the Words of Psalm 118, especially verse 22: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” The builders—the Jewish people, particularly the chief priests, scribes, elders, and Pharisees—rejected Jesus. They knew without a doubt that He truly was the promised Messiah, but they refused to acknowledge it, refuse to believe in Him. They rejected Him, but the One whom they rejected is not cast off, He has become the chief cornerstone, the foundation, the One in whom all things hold together. Jesus, and not just Him but especially His crucifixion, is the foundation of our faith, the event on which we hang all our hopes. We know that today is a good day because of what Jesus has done to win our forgiveness and eternal life.
So we shouldn’t shy away from the crucifixion. We shouldn’t weep for Jesus, wish that things had worked out differently. As the Psalmist reminds us: “This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” As gruesome as it may be, this is what the Father ordained and the Son willingly endured. One of the greatest Lenten hymns puts on our lips the dialogue between the Father and Jesus: “Go forth, My Son,” the Father said, “And free men from their fear and dread, from guilt and condemnation. The wrath and stripes are hard to bear, but by Your Passion they will share the fruit of Your salvation.” “Yes, Father, yes, most willingly I’ll bear what You command Me. My will conforms to Your decree, I do what You command Me.” Jesus didn’t take the easy way out, but in all things showed you that your salvation means so much to Him that He was willing to give everything, even His very life, to win it, to reconcile you to the Father, to open the mansions of heaven to you.
Because of this, we can stand on Good Friday and sing with the Psalmist: “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Apart from today, there is no such thing as a good day, a day worthy of rejoicing. Without Good Friday Easter wouldn’t happen, we would still be in our sins, and our lives would be in an aimless moat, a deathward drift from futile birth. Because of Good Friday every day is a good day, no matter how miserable it may be. Even when death claims those we love, we lose our jobs, the diagnosis looks bleak, our family falls apart, or any other bad thing, it is still a good day. Why? Because Jesus has died. He has died for you, forgiven you, opened heaven to you. The worst this world can throw at you is nothing compared to the glories made yours because of Good Friday.
So let us rejoice on this Good Friday. This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it and be glad in every other day that awaits us because we are forgiven. Jesus has died, paid the price your sin demanded, and not only has He wiped your slate clean, but He gives you abundant blessings, grace upon grace. Let us rejoice and be glad in this, in Christ, forever.
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Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.