April 3, 2015
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bossier City, LAA
INI + AMEN.
It’s all come down to this. Good Friday. All of history had been waiting for this moment. It was a promise a long time in being fulfilled: “He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” The ancient serpent would be undone. The Lord God Himself must do it. “Truly no one can ransom another, nor pay to the LORD the price of his life.” It was foretold, but, more than foretold, it was promised, sealed, and delivered. YHWH says, “They will look on Me whom they have pierced.” We sang of it at Christmas, “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you.” And here it is, we remember it this day, when the Eternal and Everlasting Son of God, by whom all things were made, who upholds all things, “the wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Prince of peace” is beaten, bloody, nailed naked to a cross. Something so glorious angels can’t look at it. Something so horrid that creation itself hides its face: “Darkness was over the whole earth from the six hour to the ninth hour.” Yet humanity is there mocking Him, rejecting Him. But let’s not mourn. This is our salvation, our deliverance from sin, our conquering of the devil, our victory over death. As the Psalmist says about Good Friday, “This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
(3. God is good, but is rejected.)
When the Lord God created everything, it was “good,” even “very good.” Once He finished creating everything, there was nothing “not good.” The Lord had created all things for man and woman to enjoy. He gave sun, moon, and stars to tell time. He gave all plants for food to be enjoyed. He gave the Tree of Life to be eaten and the Tree of Knowledge to be not eaten. It was all good. All the animals were given for Adam and His wife to care for. But then it was not good. They rejected the Lord and His Word. Their hearts turned away, and they ate what was given to them to not eat. In that moment all of humanity became enemies of God: hiding from Him, blaming God and each other, finding our own ways to clothe ourselves. Yet, He remains good. He is still good to give gifts. He gives the promise to mankind but to the devil it’s a curse: “He will crush your head, and you will strike His heal.”
That’s the Lord. He’s good to give good gifts. It was that way in the parable. He built a magnificent vineyard: “A certain man planted a vineyard, and He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower in it.” It was Passover time, and there would have been need for a lot of wine. This man gets it all ready. Grapes. Wall and tower for protection. Winepress for wine-making. He would’ve shared its bounty. What else would the LORD do? He gives good gifts. He’s not stingy. He doesn’t hold back. “He leases it to tenants and goes away.”
He would’ve shared its bounty with them. They would’ve gotten their fair share. How could He not give it to them? “When the season for fruit drew near, He sent His slaves to the tenants to receive its fruit.” He wanted its fruit. But the tenants are selfish. They think this man isn’t as generous as He seems to be. “Surely He’ll keep something back. He won’t give me the good things that I want or deserve. I won’t get what I’ve worked for.” “The tenants seized His slaves and bound some, killed others, and stoned others.” The Lord of the vineyard’s prophets are locked up, killed, and stoned. He should be angry. But again, this is a merciful Lord. He wants to give good gifts. So He gifts the tenants with more servants, more opportunity to share in the bounty of harvest: “He sent other servants, more than the first, and they treated them the same way.” The Lord of the vineyard is rejected again, and again, and again.
(2. Jesus is God, the Rejected One.)
The Lord of the Vineyard still wants to give and share His good gifts. All His prophets had been rejected at some point along the way: from Moses to Jeremiah. “The blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah” had been shed and was crying out. At this point, the Lord of the Vineyard does the unthinkable. He should give it up, but He can’t, He won’t. He wants His fruit, He wants to share it. “Finally, He sends them His Son, saying, ‘They will respect My Son.’” Really? But “in the fulness of time,” not just a season, but all time had been waiting for this moment, all of history was geared towards it: “In the fulness of time God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law to redeem those under the Law.” Surely, they will respect the eternal Son, the Lord of the Vineyard’s one and only Son.
But they don’t. Their selfishness knows no bounds. They want the vineyard for themselves. “When the tenants saw the Son, they said, ‘This is the Heir. Come, let’s kill Him and let’s have His inheritance.’ Seizing Him, they cast Him outside of the vineyard and killed Him.” There it is. We see what happens when God falls into the hands of angry sinners. The finality of it all. It’s all over. Nothing else for the tenants to do. The Son was dead.
Seized and struck down, Jesus was cast out of Jerusalem, taken to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, and there He was crucified. There Jesus was “despised and rejected by men.” They mock Him to His face. “He saved others. Let Him save Himself. Come down now from the cross, and we will believe.” He’s the Rejected One. He’s the Despised One. Truly, He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He was the Cursed One. “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” He is the Lord of the Vineyard’s Son, crucified, rejected: “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews.”
We reject Him too. We live our lives as if He didn’t die and rise. If we truly believed that Jesus died for our transgressions and was raised for our justification, why do we treat our fellow believers with contempt? Why do we accept them to their face but reject them behind their back?
Why do we withhold our forgiveness from them when God hasn’t withheld His Son from them or us? The Lord’s good gifts come to us all: His gifts of love and forgiveness. Why do we withhold it from others? But it was for this very reason that He was accursed. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us,” being rejected for us, shedding His blood for us, that we might have a smiling heavenly Father. Not for our sakes, but for Jesus’ sake.
(1. Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith.)
This fills us with joy. Now every day is good. Once again things are good between the Lord God and humanity. We screwed it up, but He fixed it. Good Friday turns all the bad that God had for us into good. “This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” For this is the day that the stone was rejected by the builders. The Psalmist saw it beforehand: “The stone that the builders rejected.” “He was despised and rejected by men…despised and we esteemed Him not.” But the Lord was not done with this stone. “The stone that the builders rejected, this same one has become the cornerstone.” He was raised from the dead. The Eternal Son of the Father couldn’t stay dead. It’s impossible for death to hold Him. “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” He sends His Son, He dies, but then He is raised from death, never to die again.
How marvelous and wonderful it is that the Lord does all things well. That He wants His good gifts given out, and so He still does. It’s all come down to this. Good Friday. It was foretold, but, more than foretold, it was promised, sealed, and delivered. Here it is. We’ve more than just remembered it. The Lord has delivered it to you. Jesus’ cross does you no good unless it’s delivered to you. He’s delivered it to you in the Word preached tonight. He delivers it in the Waters of your baptism, and in His crucified, raised, and eternally living body and blood in His Supper. That’s the cornerstone of our faith, Jesus, coming to us to continually build us up in Him.
He may have been rejected. But He was raised up.
JESUS, THE REJECTED ONE, IS YOUR CORNERSTONE.
This is what Psalm 118 has said all along: “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Jesus crucified for you. What other good day is there besides Good Friday? “We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
INI + AMEN.