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Friday, March 29, 2013

Sermon 03292013 Good Friday


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

Let us pray!  Almighty God, Your Son Jesus Christ graciously suffered and died on the Cross of Calvary for we His family through our baptism into His life and death.  Enable us to see the Cross not as an end, but the ultimate sacrifice for our sins and the sins of all of mankind, for Jesus offered Himself freely and was watched by the Centurion in order for the plan of salvation to be complete.  Enable us to embrace the Cross of Christ as the ultimate payment for our sins and the sins of all mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this Good Friday.  AMEN.

There is an old hymn which asks a poignant question as we gather here this Good Friday evening.  Matter of fact it was the last hymn yesterday and one of the preludes that Marla played earlier.  It asks a simple question, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”  As an African American Spiritual the words as simple as they are clearly ask a question that all of us have to respond with ‘No’, but tonight we will hear about the Centurion in our series of People and Places of Lent that can respond, “Yes, I was there.”
Hear the story of the Centurion from Matthew 27 (Matthew 27:48-54)

48 Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49 But the rest of them said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

It is clear from our vantage point two thousand years after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that this Centurion and his friends were one moment doubters and the next moment, the Centurion showed mercy to Jesus Christ as He hung on the Cross by trying to quench His thirst.  And the next moment the Centurion spoke the most profound words of the entire Passion narrative.  The Centurion confessed, “Truly this was the Son of God!”  The Centurion had probably heard the stories about Jesus, seen with His own eyes His suffering at the hands of his comrades and possibly even his own blows or spit, but then after witnessing His final gasps for air, provided the most profound witness of confession in all the Passion Narratives.

Was it the Centurions fortune to be on duty that day?  Or was it God’s plan?  With Jesus Christ breathing His last and yielding His Spirit, the events of the last 16 hours were quite dramatic and traumatic and had taken their toll on Jesus.  Not only had Jesus eaten with His disciples in the Upper Room, He had prayed into the late hours of the night, been captured in the Garden, tried by the Jewish High Council, brought before Pilate and Herod, condemned, beaten and scourged to the brink of death and had hung on a cross during the noon day.  And now after all the torture, Jesus Christ was thirsty and this Centurion moved with compassion brought sour wine to quench His thirst.

Once Jesus breathed His last and yielded His Spirit the plan of salvation was now complete.  Jesus Christ had died on the Cross of Golgotha, bearing the sins of the entire World.  The ransom for all of mankind had been paid.  In the eyes of Satan, the victory was his, he was doing a victory dance.  Jesus Christ was dead.
But is the story complete?  For Satan it is, for the Centurion with Jesus life, death and Jesus story as he knew and understood it was complete, for the disciples who witnessed His suffering and death, it appears the story is complete, but for we who sit here tonight/today it isn’t complete.  The story has only begun.  With Jesus Christ being nailed to the Cross, suffering and dying for our sins the story is incomplete.

For from the Old Testament prophets and even Jesus own words, the story is not complete, because the story ends not with death, but with eternal life.  Jesus Christ promised His disciples and we who gather here today eternal life.  And we find eternal life through His death on the Cross for all of mankind.  We also find eternal life when we confess like the Centurion the truth that “Truly this was the Son of God”.  We find eternal life when we look to the Cross of Christ and understand that we are not only baptized into Jesus Christ life, but also His death for us and ultimately the completion of the story of salvation.  But the rest of the story is still three days away.  Tonight/today we with the Centurion confess the truth of Jesus divinity and await the rest of the Gospel story of salvation that will be revealed in three days for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel to mourn Jesus death on Calvary this Good Friday.  AMEN.
//trial script