The Best Day Of All
April 14, 2017
Verse: Romans 4:5
Christ Lutheran Church
April 14, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Earth’s Best Day
“God who justifies the ungodly.” Romans 4:5
The church calls this day “Good” Friday, not “Bad” Friday, and so we should be careful how we think about it, and how we observe it. It is not a funeral for Jesus.
Be emotional about it if you will, that’s not a bad thing on this Good Day. But be sure it is genuine emotion, and not the contrived sentiment that is so common today. We should take our cues from Holy Scripture. All four gospels record the most solemn of events ever to take place on earth: the death of God’s Son. They record some of the details of his sufferings, but not all, and never gratuitously. Never for the purpose of sensation like “passion plays”. Or like the movie from a few years back called, “The Passion of the Christ.”
But our interface with the Lord’s death is not by gory details, but by sacramental baptism where we are crucified with him, yet emerge without a scratch. Likewise our interface with the Lord’s resurrection is in the Eucharist where we feed, not on the dead flesh of Jesus, but on the resurrected and glorified Christ. On Jesus who is the Living Bread. And please be sure to know that this Holy Communion is not merely an illustration or analogy of the Messianic Banquet. But it is the factual manifestation of it, and participation in it, albeit with veils and symbols for now … the table set before us in the presence of our enemies. (Psalm 23:5)
Yes, today is a solemn day. But a Good Day. The Best Friday of all precisely because by it God justifies the ungodly. (Romans 4:5) That is what Holy Scripture says! “God who justifies the ungodly.”
However callous our world is become. However cold the love of men waxes. However ideological our population grows so that it lionizes criminals and demonizes the police. So that it can no longer distinguish between fact and fiction, right and wrong, male and female, clergy and laity. There is still something deep within the human core that senses injustice and hates it with perfect hatred.
We are bewildered when an innocent person is wrongfully imprisoned, and even more confounded when a person guilty of a heinous crime gets off on a technicality. When the law is powerless to act. Whenever that happens there will be no rest, until the matter is set right; even if it means acting outside the law; because injustice is intolerable. Nor is it just a slogan when people say: no justice, no peace.
But there are two reasons we call this day Good.
First, because on it the faithful reverently mark the most unjust death in all of history. On this day the God’s Beloved Son died the death of a sinner and made his grave with the wicked (Isaiah 53:9). Not his own sins, mind you, but ours. What you behold on the cross is the just deserts of every sinner. It’s what you merit, and what you will get lest you repent, for your little white lies, your big bold offenses, your secret sins, your ungodly schemes, your aggression both passive and active. Your self-pity, self-worship, self-absorption and self-righteousness. This is what it comes to. Death. Even the death of the cross. Jesus or Barabbas. Jesus or you.
But: “For the joy that was set before him,” says holy Scripture, Jesus endured the cross, despised the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the Most High; where he himself is our intercessor. His death means your life; his sorrow your peace; his shame your glory, and his reign at the Right Hand of the Most High your never-ending good.
Is it any wonder that our Lord said just hours before his suffering. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. I have called you my friends!” (John 15:13) If we honor those who have fallen in defense of hearth and home, who have made the Ultimate Sacrifice to preserve the life of others. How much more should we ascribe all blessing, glory, wisdom, thanksgiving, honor, power and might to our Lord? (Revelation 7:12) To him whose death liberates all humanity from its sin; restores us to the image and likeness of our Good God, and makes us truly human again!
The second reason it is called Good is because it is God himself who acted on this Good day and “good” is God’s word. In Christian theology “good” does not refer to behavior … at least not at first. But to the actions of God. Whatever he does is, by definition, Good. Thus after God had created the vast starry heavens, the earth with all its delicate and intricate functions, and multifaceted forms of life. When he created Man in his own image to be like him, look like him, act like him, and to rule over this newly minted wonder of wonders. Then God looked at all that he made, all he did, all he intended, and gave it his benediction! He declared it all Good! Very, very good!
But of all the Good things that God has done there is nothing “more good,” nothing more “God like, or like God” than the redemption he accomplished for his fallen creation by the death that we remember this night! “Mark that miracle of time, God’s own sacrifice complete. It is finished hear him cry. Learn of Jesus Christ to die.” (TLH #159)
This being the case there is only one thing for us to do. One response. To fall down before him in humble worship, honor, praise and thanksgiving. To love God as he loved us. And to love one another “ … for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)
Let us, moreover, conduct our precious lives not like sub-humans. Not like dogs! (Philippians 3:2) Not like insensate beasts. Not in a “virtual reality,” or from the bleak house of “social media.” But like God. Like the redeemed of the Lord. Alert and awake. Sober and vigilant. Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20). To him who is Good, who justifies the ungodly, and whose mercy endures forever! Amen.