GOOD FRIDAY AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Text: So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Mark 15:31
He saved others; He cannot save Himself. That’s what they yelled at Him, as He hung there with nails piercing the feet that He had taken on, so that He could seek them out. He saved others; He cannot save Himself. That’s what they taunted Him with, as He hung there with nails piercing the hands that He had taken up, so that He might touch and heal them. He saved others; He cannot save Himself. That’s what they mocked Him with, as He groaned with the voice that He had taken up, so that He could proclaim the good news of the kingdom to them.
He saved others; He cannot save Himself. Here was their proof they thought, that He wasn’t who He said that He was, that He wasn’t what He claimed to be. Come down from the cross and we will believe. Save yourself now and we will acknowledge that you are the Christ. Prove that you are the Son of God with a show of your power and we will acknowledge you. Release yourself from your cross and overpower your enemies and we will follow you.
But He just hangs there in silence. He does not open His mouth. He gives no answer. The nails remain in His hands and feet. He continues to suffer agony in every inch of His body. He continues to pant out His dying breaths. His mind reels with the sins of the whole world that now rest upon His thorn crowned head. His heart aches and cries out under the judgement of God as it bears the guilt of the whole world. His soul withers beneath the shame of every dark deed ever committed by man.
He could have made it all stop. In an instant. The bodily pain. The mental torment. The spiritual anguish. He could have put an end to it all in an instant. Only those who have suffered agony in every part of their bodies … only those who have wrestled with and languished under the torments of the mind … only those who groaned in the dark night of the soul … can begin to grasp what Jesus endures on Calvary, and even then, we can only ever have the smallest taste of it.
If we suffer such things we suffer only what is our own - what is proper to our own life. We feel what is our own to feel. We may groan for another’s pain but Jesus actually feels it. We may feel for someones’ mental anguish but Jesus knows it. We may grieve for the darkness that envelops another soul but Jesus enters it. And all of this He does not just for another but for all. He endures the fullness of all human pain, all human anguish, all human despair. All of it, at once.
He saved others; He cannot save Himself. They thought they had there proof that He wasn’t who He said He was, that He wasn’t what He said He was. And yet, beloved, what greater proof could there be that He was the Christ - the only begotten Son of the Father? What surer grounds could there be to back up the claim that He was I AM made flesh. Who other than very God of very God could endure all that, without simply screaming out in utter madness? Who but the Almighty could bear all that upon his head and shoulders, without loosing all control and lashing out at everyone?
Who could bear it but God? And even more so who would choose to bear it but God? Ask anyone who suffers in body, mind or spirit if they would choose it for themselves? They normally long with all their being for relief and release. I know I did, and at times still do. They might be willing to endure it for those that they love - a child, a spouse, a parent. They might even wish that they could suffer in their place. But how many would choose it, embrace it for their enemies, for those who would mock and make fun of them in it. How many would endure all of that for those that hated them and took glee in bringing such suffering upon them?
Why doesn’t He save Himself? Because He truly is the Son of God. Why doesn’t He save Himself? Because as very God of very God He does what God does - He saves others. Believe it or not God didn’t have to create us. He didn’t have to call this world into being out of nothing. He didn’t have to take up the dust of the earth and form Adam out of it. As He didn’t have to knit each one of us together in our mother’s wombs. We only are because God wanted us to be. You only are because God wanted you to be. Love and love alone moved Him to create you and so that same love moves Him to save you. God is love and so God saves.
In Eden Satan deceived us into believing that being God meant looking after yourself - that that was what God does. Sadly, Adam and Eve didn’t ask why then did He create us? If they had, they would have seen that to be God actually meant to look after and care for another. If the Chief Priests and scribes had asked themselves, “He saved others; why doesn’t He save Himself?” they might have come to the true answer. You see Jesus in this moment is not only overcoming our sin and its consequences, He is overthrowing the very lie that got it all started.
As He hangs on the cross before your eyes this morning He wants to overthrow it for you. He wants to destroy its hold on you - to overcome its consequences in your life. He hangs before you bearing all your sin and all of its consequences. He groans with all your pain. He endures all your anguish. He suffers all your shame, as He is weighed down with all your guilt. He lives it all out to the deepest depths to finish it all for you. He takes it all into Himself to bring an end to it for you, because He is your Lord and your God, because He loves you and wants to save you.
This is what it means to be God, beloved, this is what it means to be Lord of all. It’s not about being served but serving and giving your life up as a ransom for the many. The Lord sets this before you on this Good Friday, so that you might know the depths of His love for you - a love that did not come into the world to condemn you but to save you. He sets this love before you, so that being loved you might also learn to love, so that knowing who God is you might know what it means to live life as His children. On this Good Friday He sets His love before you, so that you might reflect it to others.
Why didn’t He save Himself? Because truly He was the Son of God. Why didn’t He save Himself? Because He loved you. Why didn’t He save Himself? Because He was made man to finish sin, death and hell for you. He saved others why doesn’t He save Himself? It’s a good question, beloved, one that we’d be wise to ponder this day, as we gaze on Him whom they pierced. May the Spirit fix our eyes on Him on this Good day, and every day throughout our lives, so that we might be transformed into all that He created us to be and enjoy the eternal salvation, that our dear Lord Jesus won for us, by not saving Himself that He might save us. Amen.