Standing at the Cross in Forgiveness

April 14, 2017 – Good Friday

by Pastor Pete Scheele

Read Romans 5:6 – 11


Grace and peace to you as you stand at the cross to see your forgiveness, from God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

On this dark day five words make all the difference for Jesus. Those same five words also make all the difference for us. Those five words bring to our ears both mortifying horror and unbridled joy. The five words are: “… while we were still sinners …” The content of these five words is what nailed Jesus to the cross. These same five words unleash horror when we realize and recognize it is our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross to pay for each and every one of them. And yet, without the horror of death, there would never be the unbridled joy of the four words that follow these five: “Christ died for us.”

Words mean a lot of things. The weight of words can bring hurt or they can bring help; they can bring trouble or they can bring triumph. When words are strung together to form a sentence they can have the capability of changing the world. This one sentence written by God through the Apostle Paul certainly did that: “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

In Martin Luther’s fourth sermon for Holy Week of 1534, he said this to his congregation: “In Jesus’ greatest suffering, torment, and disgrace, He appears not to see or feel anything; His only concern, all that He sees and cares for, is your and my misery, our anguish, and great distress. Could there be any greater, more fervent love than this?” The love of Jesus is so self-less and sacrificial that it is difficult to put into words. But the words of Luther get right to the point. We are more valuable to Jesus than His own life. Can you say that about anyone you know? The Apostle Paul tells us, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Rom 5:7-8)

Words that come out of the mouth of God made flesh are weighted with unparalleled meaning. As Jesus was dying on the cross He spoke words that had a blatant disregard for His own well being, and yet a laser-like focus on our eternal benefit. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Those words echoed through time all the way down to us to deliver just what they say, the forgiveness that we don’t deserve for all our sins. Because those words were accompanied by blood flowing from His hands and feet they were filled with forgiveness that enters our ears and cleanses our hearts. It is Jesus’ words and His blood that washes away all our sins in the forgiveness He purchased for us on the cross of Calvary.

Forgiveness is what we need most because as we are doing just what the words Isaiah spoke about us over two thousands of years ago say: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way …” Without our shepherd we are lost. We don’t know which way to go. We can only follow our own wishes and whims. The words of our mouth and the meditation of our hearts, they have not been pleasing in the sight of the Lord God Almighty and thus we deserve His wrath.

Because of our sinful and wayward nature we often find ourselves in the midst of all kinds of hurt and pain. We see and feel every last bit of the suffering, torment and disgrace that comes our way. Yet, when we are in pain or suffering we find it impossible to focus on anyone but ourselves. We find ourselves especially tormented over the pain of death that we deserve because of our sins. Our words become weighted with doubt-filled worry about ourselves and our world.

Into this world and because of our worry and our pain comes Jesus. Throughout the course of His entire ministry He was thinking only of you and me. As He made His way toward our salvation His concern was for us not for Himself. In the pain and torment of the cross His focus was on you and me. His desire was for us to live and to live life to the fullest in our Heavenly Father’s love. That’s why He is willing to suffer what we deserve as we hear Him say: “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?

God can’t let us live in His presents because of our sins. When Jesus takes all our sins upon Himself he can no longer be in the presents of His Heavenly Father and that’s the hell that we deserve. The perfect Son of God suffers hell for us as He takes our sins upon Himself and gives us His perfect righteousness. Yes, Jesus knows the weight of our sins so He has some words of help to give to us. Listen to the weighty words that Jesus wants us to hear:

  • Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
  • Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27b).
  • Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
  • I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b)
  • Fear not, little flock, for it is your heavenly Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
  • If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37b).
  • I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15).
  • Truly, truly I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death” (John 8:51).
  • I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

In order to make all of these words certain for you and me, Jesus uttered three final words on that Friday so long ago that we call “Good.” He uttered these three words as He commended His spirit into His Father’s hands and gave up His life for you and me. He said, “It is finished!” With those words, everything necessary for our salvation is completed. All our sins are forgiven, because Jesus has suffered hell for each of us. The full debt is paid by His life in this world and His death on the cross for you and me. Life has been made new once again, because of what Jesus Christ; God’s own Son has done for us.

 Still, the incredible thing about all of this is that it all happened “while we were still sinners.” Christ died for us ungodly creatures so that our misery, our distress and our anguish would be replaced with the unbridled joy of forgiveness, new life and eternity with our Savior, Jesus Christ in the heavenly Home he has prepared for us. Jesus’ fervent love for us enabled Him to do everything necessary to rescue and save us from what we deserved, death and hell. “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” There are no more joyful words than these that could ever be heard or shared in this world.  And we have been given the privilege to know these words in our hearts and minds so that we can joyfully share them with others now and for all eternity. Amen.

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