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Good Friday Tenebrae 2011 – Psalm 51

22. April 2011
Good Friday Tenebrae
Psalm 51

Why death? Why the death of our Lord? Why death of the only and holy God incarnate? It is total scandal. Total absurdity. Totally unbelievable.

No one wants death, for themselves or for others. No one wants their friend, master or mentor to die. A dead God is a worthless God. Death is the end. Curtain call. The last candle extinguished. The final breath.

The death of Jesus is only scandal if we ignore ourselves. Peer deep within the recesses of your soul and tell me, is there light? Or is all that you see darkness, decay, corruption, and death? The scandal of the cross is not that God died. The scandal is that he died for you.

We are a prideful people, boasting in our goodness. We love how we keep the Law, parading our good lives before our family and friends. We are polite, honorable people. We pay our taxes. We help the little guy. We support our church and those in need.

God doesn’t care. Even the heathen, the pagan do those things. Some of the most noble men are rabid atheists. They hate God and hate his church. And still, they live noble and virtuous lives… on the outside.

God does want you live a moral and upstanding life. That’s a good thing with him, to be sure. But his Word is more concerned about why you look Christian. Is it because you fear, love, and trust in God with your whole heart? Is it because you love your neighbor as much as yourself? Do you honor our Lord’s name because in it you find all your comfort, wisdom, and joy? Do you attend to the Lord’s sabbath rest because in His Word there is life and salvation?

If you’re honest, you’ll confess the answer no. You’ll confess that you haven’t done enough. You haven’t love enough. You haven’t prayed enough. You haven’t attended to the Word enough.

Good enough doesn’t cut it. That’s the way of the Law. The Law that says what we must do, making no exception. Either it is kept or not. Black or white. Do or do not, there is no try. If you have failed at one point, you have failed at the whole. Even a brief slip of the tongue, a forgotten prayer, a brief neglect to love is enough to bring down the severity of judgment on your head.

Be like the Psalmist. Confess that you’re not good enough. You haven’t been as lawful as God demands. You don’t make the cut. You haven’t made the grade. Despair of yourself.

Don’t end there. Don’t ignore the scandal of your flesh. Run to Christ and receive healing in the blood. Boast in the death of Christ. Let that cross have its way with you. The Gospel is the power to save you from yourself. Let the horrible Gospel sight of our Lord dead blot out your iniquities. Let the water that poured from the side of our blessed Lord wash and cleanse you.

Let the Jesus take to his cross your worst fears, your greatest shame, and dirtiest thoughts. Let him suffer for you, that you might be clean. Let him drink from the hyssop laden with the sour wine of vinegar and gall for you and so make you clean. Let the cross be the truth, the wisdom of God. Hear his weak voice of victory, declaring “tetelestai” which means “it is finished.” The spirit is given up for you. Its breath is your breath, the very life of God. His blood is your blood, brothers and sisters in Christ. His flesh is your flesh, you, the body of Christ.

Its only scandal is to those who perish. But in Christ’s death you live. In the death of God’s own son, you are made his own, redeemed children of the heavenly kingdom. Why death? So that you will never die.

In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
Dyer, Indiana


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