Good Friday—Tenebrae Vespers 2017 (John 19:1–42)

April 14, 2017
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

A Meditation on the Cross and Crucified


The cross. The cross. There’s nothing but the cross: offensive, yet beautiful. Offensive to the perishing but beautiful to the saved. The cross—not just the cross.

The Crucified. Him—He’s the true weight of the cross. He’s the true offense—God naked, bleeding, dying, dead. Who wants such a King? Who wants such a God? Could He not save Himself? Could He not call down 12 Legions of angels? Could He not come down from that cross? Yes, then what of you?

You. Yes, you. He does it for you. He’s your King. You don’t choose and elect a King. He is your King. He created from nothing and stops at nothing to save you. He knitted you together and gives up His seamless robe for you. He raises up and brings down nations and is sentenced to death by one of them: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” What joy! What wonder! What mystery! Your King, Your God, bleeds and dies. No expense too great. No cost too High. “His Holy, precious blood”? “His innocent suffering and death”? We thank you, Jesus, for what you did for us upon the cross.

The cross. Surrounded by in darkness. Its still silence fills the air. Its wood echoes with sound: not the creaking, swaying, rustling of other trees, as in its forest long ago—no, the peals of weeping, mocking, sighing. There’s no palms, no limbs, no fruit but Him who was grafted on to you.

The Crucified. The darkness without. The darkness within. The darkness of three hours is eclipsed. The darkness, the almost eternal darkness, the almost countless generations of darkness heaped upon Him. Centuries of sin piled onto You, O Christ. The very sins that took away the Lamb of God. He bears them silently, willingly: “To slaughter led without complaint, That spotless life to offer.” (LSB 438:1) He bears not just “the stripes, the wounds, the lies, the mockery,” (LSB 438:1) but more profoundly, more importantly, more deeply—“My soul is sorrowful unto death,” He says—He bears sinners’ guilt, sin, and shame. He’s “laden with the sins of earth, None else the burden sharing.” (LSB 438:1) No matter! He still replies, “All this I gladly suffer.” (LSB 438:1)

You. He gladly did it for you. For your darkness the cup would not pass from Him. The cup of wrath, kindling against all mankind, He drank—to the dregs! He takes every drop for your sake. “I thirst,” He says. When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. The Father’s cup passed from you to Him. His cup passes from Him to you. No wrath in that cup. There’s none left! He, the Crucified, the Forsaken, the Sinner, takes all the Father’s wrath: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? The wrath of God, His justice and judgment were swallowed up wholesale by You, O Christ, on the cross.

The cross. The cross. It’s no fruitless tree. It springs forth and blossoms. It’s gives light. It has a beauty all its own. But the cross (its nails, its rock, its wood) is nothing itself. It’s unimportant, yet most important; nothing, yet everything; lifeless, but full of life; vain, but full of truth. “Faithful cross, true sign of triumph, Be for all the noblest tree; None in foliage, none in blossom, None in fruit your equal be; Symbol of the world’s redemption, For the weight that hung on thee!” (LSB 454:4)

The Crucified. He’s the fruit, but more than fruit—the Gardner. There on that cruciform kiln, “the once for all” oven, the pot is tried and judge, but greater than a pot—the Potter. There, O Christ, You who are the Lamb of God we’re led to slaughter, but no just some silent, weak, shivering sheep. No, thanks be to God, “the Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander; The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him, Who would not know Him.” (LSB 439:4) His fruit abounds. He is fruitful and multiplies: He can’t not. He abounds and bestows life and love and peace to you.

You. Yes, you. FOR YOU, in fact. The fruit is yours. It’s no mirage that must be made real by works or emotions or thinking or preparation. His fruit cascades through time in a great river of mercy, love, and grace that bestows life and light, forgiveness and peace. It’s a river of the Lord Jesus’ delights to enliven you, to strengthen and keep you body and soul. It’s source is Him: “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.” His water, His blood, His Font, His Chalice, through His almighty Word, wash and sustain you.

The cross. The Crucified. You.


He is your Life. He is your Salvation. He is your Light. His cross of wood makes this day “good,” but only because “He is good and His mercy endures forever”—to cross, to grave, through empty tomb: His and yours! Yours given you in your Baptism and in the Resurrection feast of His Body and Blood.

The cross. The Crucified. You.


“It is finished!”


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