In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now, we see laid in the grave the One who built the earth’s foundation. To us, thinking in earthly terms, this seems like an ending. Death is final. If all we think about is the death of a mere mortal, then, yes. Death is the end, until the Last Day, the day when Jesus brings about the bodily resurrection of all flesh. But this death, the death of Jesus, is different. For Him, His death is part of recreation, part of the giving of life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” On the cross Jesus declares that He has finished this work, He has given to us the life He came to win.
Human life began on the sixth day of creation. God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” So He made male and female—Adam and Eve—to live together in holy marriage, to tend the world so newly made. He looked at His completed creation—at the light and darkness, the land and water, the vegetation, the animals, and especially Adam and Eve—and declared everything not just good, but very good. Everything was exactly how He wanted it, exactly how it was supposed to be. Nothing could be tweaked to make it better—the flowers didn’t need to be a bit brighter or more fragrant; the fruit didn’t need to be a bit sweeter or the vegetables a bit more nutritious; Adam and Eve were the perfect complement to one another. They lived in the pinnacle of perfection. Everything was very good.
But then war broke out in heaven. Satan and the evil angels rebelled. They thought God had it all wrong. He may have made things perfect, but He didn’t establish the right order. Man certainly shouldn’t be on top. These fleshy things, whose bones could be broken, whose skin could be torn certainly shouldn’t be the greatest part of creation. Certainly the angels, the spirits, exceedingly beautiful and perfect, should be the top. But this rebellion against God’s created order was crushed. Michael and the good angels destroyed the ancient dragon, and he was cast to earth. Heaven was once again perfect.
But in his exceedingly great anger, Satan set about proving God wrong. He slithered into Eden to begin his work of de-creation. He had to show God that these people He had created weren’t as “very good” as He thought them to be. So he tempted Adam and Eve. He twisted the command God gave and they took the bait. Adam and Eve plunged the world into eternal darkness, into sin and death. De-creation began with one tiny bite. “Very good” was then replaced with thorns and thistles and sweat and enmity, all culminating in death. Now man was cursed: “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” De-creation is now the lot of all.
But God promised that this de-creation would not be permanent. The Father would send His Son, to be born of woman’s seed, the One who would fill our greatest need. Not needs of the flesh, our whims and desires, but one who would make this Satanic de-creation temporary. So Jesus Christ was Incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary. Jesus took on the very flesh He came to re-create. In this flesh—your flesh—He lived a perfect life. He was actively and passively obedient. He fulfilled every Law, both in letter and in spirit, and did what we could not. He did what our decaying, sin-filled flesh could not.
And then on the sixth day—Friday—Jesus set about the ultimate act of re-creation. He allowed Himself to meet an unjust execution. He allowed His Blood to be spilled and His flesh to be torn to prove to Satan that this fleshly body is not a divine mistake, but the means by which God brings peace and forgiveness and wholeness. Jesus, in His flesh, endured every punishment earned since Adam and Eve in Eden. And as His Blood left His sacred veins, as His breath labored, He declared “It is finished.” This does not mean “I’m dying now,” but “all things are now accomplished.” His act of re-creation was completed as He died. The Father’s wrath was appeased. Perfection could now be restored to human flesh.
And now all who believe in Christ await that day when Eden’s perfection will again be known. Because of death, because of resurrection, because it is finished, you will again be perfect and whole. Because of the sixth day, the day of man’s re-creation, because of the seventh day, God’s perfect rest in the tomb, you receive the eighth day, the dawning of the new day, the eternal day, when there is no sin, no death, no thorns and thistles, no sweat of your brow, no enmity, only perfection. Because of this day, this Good Friday, Jesus re-creates His dying children.
That makes today good in every sense of the word. Good Friday is the day when God once again made His creation very good. By His three-day rest in the tomb He sanctified your tomb. Now your death is a blessed slumber. Because of Jesus, what awaits at the end of that slumber is a new heaven and a new earth. Because of Jesus, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with us, and we will be His people. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. You are re-created, you are perfected by the crucified and living Son of God.
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.