Good Friday – St. John 18-19
This Lent, we have focused on the lies that the Devil tells you in an effort to draw you out of Christ’s Church, away from saving faith, and into the gates of hell. The Devil does this seemingly innocently by giving you rewards for good behavior; he does it not so innocently telling you that the things you believe do not make any sense at all; and he does it down right maliciously by distorting God’s Word at every turn.
And so each week, both on Wednesday’s where we have examined these lies, and on Sunday’s in the regular worship service, as we have confessed our sinful nature, we have hopefully seen where these lies are potentially leading, and that something, perhaps even many somethings, need to change.
And as you left each of these services, perhaps you resolved to do better. Perhaps you resolved that you were not going to fall for Satan’s lies any longer. Perhaps you called the proverbial Satan in and laid out the case against what you were doing, and how from this time forward, you are going to do better.
And so hopefully, as we conclude this Lententide in the darkness of Good Friday, you can go home and look in the mirror, and realize that in the middle of the sackcloth and ashes, there is a tiny glimmer of cleanliness, for you have managed to scrub off a little bit of the filth of sin that you have so long carried with you. And perhaps in the coming weeks and months, through prayer and meditation and holiness of living, you can manage to scrub a few more spots of dirt off, and slowly you will once more be clean.
And so when you go home tonight, when you call Satan out on the carpet and scold him for lying to you all these years, and you inform him that you are going to do better, do not be surprised if in the course of apologizing to you for leading you so far astray, and while humbling acknowledging that you are a far stronger Lutheran than he had ever imagined, do not be surprised if the devil does not have a sly smirk on his face.
For he has, once again, fooled you. He has lied to you, just as he has lied to you so many times before. He has once more told you something that is not true. He has convinced you of something that will not help you, but will only harm you.
The Devil has lied to you your entire life; he has told you that you can find God in places that He cannot be found; he has told you that God will do things that He has not promised to do; he has told you that God has said things that He has not actually said.
But the truth is that these lies were not about God at all; the truth is that these were all lies about you.
The Devil has convinced you that you can do things, be things, say thing, know things, feel things; and the truth is that they are all lies.
And so tonight, when you go home and you look in the mirror and you tell yourself and others that you are going to stop believing the lies, and you are going to pick yourself up and walk away from the mountain of deception that you have been led to believe; well do not be surprised if the Devil laughs.
Because he has once again convinced you that you can save yourself. He has convinced you that the answer to the lies that he has told is you. He has convinced you that there is something that you personally can do to get out of the mess of sin that you have created. If you scrub a little harder; if you pray a little stronger; if you sing a little louder; if you give a little more; if you move a little faster; if you just stop sinning, then you can pick up the pieces and move forward, and you can get to God on your own.
The ultimate lie that the Devil tells you each and every day, is that you are not sinful from the time you were conceived in the womb; that you do not sin daily in thought, word and deed; that you can stop sinning any time you want; that you can get to God on your own; because the Devil whispers softly, there is good in you.
And you believe it.
But today, is proof that the devil is lying.
There is no good in you; there is no hope of you scrubbing yourself clean; there is no chance of you redeeming yourself.
Because if you could; if you could keep the Law; if you could fix the mess yourself; if you could pick yourself up and move on, then there is no need for Jesus to hang on the cross and suffer and die. If you can do it yourself, then there is no need for Good Friday or Easter.
The reality is that you cannot save yourself. You cannot undo the sins that you have already committed; and no matter how genuine your desire, you are going to sin again tonight, and tomorrow, and every day after that.
Today, Jesus hangs on the cross, taking the sins of the world upon Himself, because that is the only way to save you. Jesus, the holy and innocent Son of God, has come for this very reason. Jesus never fell for the lie that you could somehow save yourself, He knew all the way back in the Garden of Eden that this was the plan, this was what needed to be done, that is what it was going to take to save you.
Jesus dies, so that you might live. That is how you are saved; there are no other options. The stain of sin that covers you will only come clean when it is soaked in the blood of Jesus. The gates of Paradise will only be opened when the lock is destroyed by the cross of Jesus. The lies of Satan can only be overcome by the simple words that: Jesus died for you.
When you go home, when you look in the mirror, when you reflect on this Lent in the coming weeks and months, do not think for a minute that you did something great these past 40 days. You did not.
Instead, recall that you are a child of God, redeemed solely by the blood of Jesus that was shed for you on Calvary’s cross. Something great did happen here: and it was Jesus on the cross, for you.