Good Friday Tenebrae 2014. “No rest except in the death of Jesus.”
Lamentations 1:8 + April 18, 2014
“There is no rest except in the death of Jesus”
This sermon begins with the grief of Jerusalem, with her groans and her wailing, because it is really your groaning, your lamentation.
“Do not weep for me, daughters of Jerusalem, but weep for yourselves and for your children, because the days are coming when you will say ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never gave suck. Then they will begin to say to the hills—fall on us!’”
Thus says the Lord Jesus your husband as he bears his cross on his blood-soaked back to die, naked and forsaken, lifted up in agony for all the world to gaze upon His shame. He says:
“Do not weep for me. Weep for yourselves, daughters of Jerusalem.”
And after all it comes much more easily to us to weep over ourselves than over Jesus.
Weep for yourself, then. Because the anguish experienced by Jerusalem, the city of God, is your anguish, St. Peter Lutheran Church of Joliet, Illinois.
It is yours, each one individually.
It is ours as a congregation. Didn’t you hear?
How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she who was great…The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the festival; all her gates are desolate. Her priests groan. Her virgins have been afflicted, and she herself suffers bitterly…The Lord has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions, her children have gone away, captive before the foe…(Lamentations 1)
That’s how it is for our congregation. Where are St. Peter’s children? Captives of the foe, the old evil foe, Satan—except for a little remnant.
Can we say we are innocent? Our hands are clean? None of this sadness has come to our church because of our sins? If nothing else we are guilty of saying nothing while our neighbor went astray; while the leaven of malice and evil worked through the whole lump of dough.
You may not have been here very long or been very involved. But that doesn’t matter. You’re here now. We all share in the fate of this church just as the people of Jerusalem were all bound together in the city’s destiny.
But we don’t weep. The children are gone, captive to the foe. But as long as it is someone else’s family—even if it is our own family, often—we can barely come up with a tear, much less carry the grief of the congregation on our own souls in prayer.
And yet the tears we ought to have and don’t are not just for the congregation. We should be weeping for ourselves.
Jerusalem was taken captive and brought to Babylon. God’s house was burned. People watched as their children were killed in front of them, their daughters outraged.
For the wages of rebellion against God, the wages of sin—is shame, humiliation, pain, and rejection, at last by God. To be forsaken as we have forsaken Him.
That is not just the wages of conscious, willful sin. Not just the wages of gross immorality and wickedness. It is the wages of all sin; of lack of love for God. Of love for ourselves more than our neighbor. It is the wages for honoring ourselves more than God and seeking what is comfortable and pleasant for us instead of seeking the glory of God.
The wages are to have your shame exposed not merely before God but before the whole universe (as if having them exposed to God weren’t awful enough.) To suffer anguish and to have not relief. To cry to God and receive no comfort from Him. Forever.
Weep for yourselves, daughters of Jerusalem, says Christ as He looks out at us from under the cross, blood running in swollen eyes from the crown of thorns piercing His divine, innocent head.
If what I am experiencing is bad, what is going to happen to you if you don’t die to sin and arise to righteousness?
We are the same as the Jerusalem that rebelled against her Lord and finally experienced rejection by God.
But there is no rest. The evil that brought this upon us is within us, and it never rests. It is always fighting God. This is why you come to church and often find that Christians hurt you worse than unbelievers. Why? Because it is the truth that Paul tells us in Romans chapter 7: I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—His testimony is true, and He knows that He is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of His bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
There is no rest from ourselves except in the death of Jesus. As long as we are doing what is in us, what we are able to do, we are heaping up wrath for ourselves, heaping up unprofitable deeds that we will weep about later. We are building siege engines against our own city and forging the chains that our children will wear into exile. Jesus says: Weep for yourselves, because unless you die to sin your grief will be worse than mine.
But do you see how Jesus is put to shame? How He is slapped in the face by the priests who are supposed to serve Him? His priests spit on Him.
Do you see that? He is dying with the full punishment your sins deserve.
In Him and only in His death you find rest from yourself, because in Him the punishment that is in you is fully poured out by God.
So He is mocked by the soldiers. He wears the piercing thorns that our father Adam brought on the earth. He wears them as a piercing crown for His brow. For Adam the thorns drew sweat from his face; for Jesus, blood.
The soldiers mock His claims to be king because we have claimed to be king and God with the right to do as we pleased. Now Jesus is punished and mocked by God through the soldiers for our false and arrogant claim.
The crowd rejects Jesus and calls for Barabbas. God the Father should have rejected us forever and let His Son go free. That is what Barabbas means—Son of the Father. But Jesus went to be driven out from God’s face and we were taken in as sons of the Father. We were clothed with real splendor, the righteousness of Jesus, not with stripes and a soiled purple cloak clinging to our wounds. No, instead we are clothed now with His righteousness, His obedience as our spiritual cloak. And in our resurrection we will be clothed with a glorious, ever-living, resurrected body.
The crowd cried out for Jesus’ death so that all creation would not rightly scream for ours.
He was nailed to the tree because we had been killed and slain and put to shame for eternity by putting our hand to the tree of the garden. Adam freely chose to eat corruption and death, but Jesus was bound to death and shame by nails to redeem the sons of Adam.
Adam sought glory from that tree, but Jesus received shame on the tree of the cross.
As the beloved disciple witnessed, the soldier thrust a spear into His side and out poured water and blood. As it flowed onto the ground, all hope that He might survive this ran out in streams from His heart.
There is no rest from ourselves except there in the death of Jesus. Where hope flowed out for Jesus to live through this, hope flowed to us, the hopeless, who are dust returning to dust. That is why the beloved disciple says, “That you may believe.”
Not that you may work. Not even that you may feel, or weep, or decide. Only that you may see and believe that to which he bears witness.
That the almighty and infinite Lord died for our sins. His heart was pierced.
That is where we have rest. In the piercing of His heart the wickedness in our heart is pierced, put to death, and begins to stream out. It is no longer counted to us, because in the water of Baptism and the blood of the testament we share His death.
He died our death. It is finished. John wrote this that we might believe.
We have pierced Him to His heart. Not only with our sins and evil, But with His love for us that pierced His heart; that made the Almighty die and destroy our death.
Relief from your guilt and shame and the peril of your sin is found only in His death; not by denying your sin, but by coming and taking your place beneath the cross as one who held the spear.
John and Jesus’ mother held a spear too. Love pierced His heart for them. It pierced His heart for the daughters of Jerusalem He told not to weep for Him. And it pierced His heart for you also; so deeply that He died from love and pours out rest from the restless evil in your heart from in the water and blood that flow from His. There we were buried with Him in Baptism, and there we rise to new life until new life is perfected in us at the resurrection.
Soli Deo Gloria