Good Friday—Vespers (2 Cor 5, 14–21)

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“The love of Christ takes hold of (συνέχει) us, because we have concluded this: that One died for all, therefore all died.”

᛭ INI ᛭

“We preach Christ crucified.” This isn’t just a Good Friday thing. It’s an all the time thing, but Good Friday makes it clear why it’s an everyday thing. It’s all wrapped up in the Love of Jesus.

The Love of Jesus is on display at Calvary. There “God the Father was reconciling the world to Himself” in the death of Jesus. The death of Jesus reconciles us to the Father because Jesus Himself is the eternal Son of God. Jesus is God—“God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” Jesus Himself says, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM.” And so it’s the death of Jesus that lets us know who He is.

That Jesus is God is seen at Calvary, but that’s also where God’s Love is seen. Makes sense: “God is love,” John tells us. But this also lets us know something else about God’s Love, who Jesus is, and what we should believe about all these things.

“Preaching Christ crucified” is keeping the First Commandment. It’s cherishing that the true God is the God who saves His people and gathers them around His mountain. “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the Land of Egypt. You shall have no other gods” is what the LORD said at Sinai. At Calvary the Lord says the same thing, “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods.”

And so, tonight we’re remembering that the God who saves us by dying—“was there ever love like this?”—this God says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” His love, His cross, His death do that very same thing within us, or to put it another way:

JESUS’ LOVE TAKES HOLD OF OUR HEART, SOUL, MIND, AND STRENGTH.

(I. Jesus reconciles our heart, soul, mind, and strength to God.)

At Calvary we fully understand, we grasp the “breadth and length and height and depth” of God’s love, “we know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” (Eph 3) “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” Christ worked this reconciliation by “making peace through the blood of His cross.” (Col 1:19)

This is broad strokes, John 3:16 stuff. It’s very good news for a world full of sinners, but its implications are that if God’s not counting the world’s trespasses against, it means that God’s not counting each individual person’s sins against them. He’s not counting your sins, my sins. Jesus made peace for us all by the blood of His cross.

This is what makes Good Friday so Good, and the reason why we constantly “preach Christ crucified.”

JESUS’ LOVE TAKES HOLD OF OUR HEART, SOUL, MIND, AND STRENGTH.

Jesus, in love, redeems and reconciles each and all, even you! “He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death to present you as holy, without blemish, and blameless before Him.” (Col 1:22) Jesus takes hold of heart, soul, mind, and strength to redeem, to reconcile you, all of who you are—heart, soul, mind, and strength.

That’s the depths of what Paul means when He says, “The One who did not know sin, for our sake God made sin, so that we would become God’s righteousness in Him.” Jesus took on all our sins, all our sinfulness as His own. God wasn’t reckoning our sins against us, but He did reckon them to Christ, accounted those sins as His, credited them to His account.

Your sins, all your sins, each of your sins Jesus took as His own. It doesn’t matter if you felt the sin (“heart”), thought the sin (“mind”), acted out a sin (“strength”), or even are just a sinner in the depths of your soul. Jesus took the whole lot for you. In ourselves we’re top to bottom sinners. Luther says on Genesis 3, “We are infected with the poison of original sin from the bottom of the foot to the top of the head.” (SD I 62) We are sinner in “heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

But this is the very thing Jesus comes to reconcile. He doesn’t do piecemeal work. When God Himself decides to fix a problem, He has the ability and, in fact, does fix it all. He had no sinfulness, no sins of His own, but He took the curse for us. The price of reconciliation? His own death. His blood.

But He, again, reconciles your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He redeems you, brings His reconciliation to bear on all of you. This is why Jesus instituted, as Paul reveals in 1 Corinthians, in counsel with the Father, “the ministry” and “message of reconciliation.” Jesus takes hold of you, all of you, when you were Baptized. He’s doing it this evening through “preaching and His Word.” He does it through the Supper of His body and blood, which is “for the forgiveness of sins.” “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,” Calvary and Altar.

(II. Jesus enlivens our heart, soul, mind, and strength with His love, to love.)

This love of Jesus further takes hold of you.

JESUS’ LOVE TAKES HOLD OF OUR HEART, SOUL, MIND, AND STRENGTH.

So we are enlivened by His love. “We love because He loved us.” Our love is the result of His love working within us. We love not only “in word but in deed and in truth.” We love with heart, soul, mind, and strength because we’re baptized: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom 5) “The Fruit of the Spirit is love.” (Gal 5)

Since Christ has thus died for all, and His love has been poured into us by the Spirit, first at Baptism, then continually through preaching and His Word and Jesus’ Supper, we then feel, think, and act as if all are died for by Jesus. “The love of Christ takes hold of (συνέχει) us, because we have concluded this: that One died for all, therefore all died.”

(Conclusion.)

“God is love.” (1 Jn 4) God’s love is seen at Calvary. The Father giving up His Son, reconciling the World to Himself. The Son taking on the sins of the World—your sins, too.

Such love takes hold of us, and creates love within us—in our hearts, in our soul, in our mind, and in our strength.

JESUS’ LOVE TAKES HOLD OF OUR HEART, SOUL, MIND, AND STRENGTH.

He cleanses our hearts with His blood, which we receive by faith. (Acts 15:9) We then feel love toward our neighbor. We also “no longer regard anyone according to the flesh,” according to their sins. We “love in deed and in truth” our strength.

When Jesus redeems us, we are completely redeemed in His sight, though the flesh still clings to us in this life, and that wants nothing to do with reconciliation with God or with each other. But thanks be to God that He not only reconciled us with Christ crucified, but He also gives the ministry and message of reconciliation, delivered in Baptism, in Absolution, in His Word, in Sermons, and in the Sacrament.

“Jesus’ love takes hold of you,” even as Paul’s Words from 1 Thessalonians also come true for you: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thess 5)

᛭ INI ᛭

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