Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on Good Friday 4/2/2021. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 9am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Good Friday Chief Service Bulletin
The texts for the sermon were the day’s gospel and Old Testament lessons. To read the Bible texts for Good Friday, click here.
Jesus is not described in the Gospels as “happy.” As Isaiah foretold, He was a man of sorrows.
He’s not happy, per se, and yet we are told twice, once by Luke and once by John, that Jesus rejoiced. Luke reports that,
Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” Luke 10:21 KJV
This doesn’t seem to be a happy thing, that the Father has hidden Himself from the wise and prudent. But it causes Jesus to rejoice.
John tells us that Jesus said to His disciples,
Lazarus is dead. And I rejoice that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe. John 11:14-15
So next time you see a picture of Jesus rejoicing, I dare you to imagine that He is telling the disciples, “Lazarus is dead.”
Jesus rejoiced. And I don’t doubt that He also laughed. But overall, Jesus wasn’t a happy man. He was a man of sorrows.
Jesus’ sorrow, however, is not feeling sorry for Himself and the pain He must endure. Jesus’ sorrow is compassion.
Compassion is “com,” meaning “with,” plus “passion,” as in the passion of our Lord. Passion means to desire so intensely that it causes suffering. Compassion means to suffer with.
Compassion is more like your sister telling you at Thanksgiving that she has had an abortion. You can’t eat. As you mourn for the child you never knew, food loses its flavor. You realize the violence done to your sister and the baby came from ignorance or fear, but that it can’t be undone. That frustration and pain is Jesus’ compassion.
That’s what He has felt every day. He looks about this fallen world and loses His appetite. He sees unnecessary sadness and pain everywhere, and it hurts worse than nails and spears.
He sees the futility and stupidity of pride, greed, and lust. He watches us make bad decision after bad decision, out of ignorance or fear. He watches us hurt ourselves and those who love us, and it kills Him. That is compassion.
Jesus’ other high-frequency emotion in the Gospels is anger. Sin actually does make God mad. Mad enough to destroy the whole world in a flood, mad enough to bring the waves down on Pharaoh’s head and turn Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt, mad enough to make things so bad that the people would think barrenness was a blessing and beg the hills to fall upon them.
Like it or not, Good Friday is at least partly about God’s wrath; wrath that is revealed as He casts it upon His Son on our behalf – not just on Good Friday but throughout our Lord’s ministry, we see His frustration, sadness, and anger over sin.
He has no sympathy for the demons. And remember the fig tree He cursed. Remember the violence He inflicted upon the money changers. Remember how He called St. Peter “Satan.” The lion of Judah, meek and mild, goes as a lamb to slaughter without complaint, but He is no house pet. He is the stronger man, and He is angry.
Then there is love. Rightly do we sing with our children, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” In truth, there may be no more profound statement in all the world than that. But that love is not what we tend to think. That love is not Jesus sitting in heaven thinking happy thoughts about us. That love is sorrow, pain, and death.
Our problem is that we tend to think that ideal love is romantic love. Not every culture has thought in this way. Aristotle thought the highest form of love was friendship. But most movies about friendship today are made for children.
That’s because our ideal love is more like “La La Land” where love is magical and out of control. It can’t be explained, and should certainly never be suppressed. We can’t help loving whom we love and we can’t be held accountable for crimes if they are meant to serve that ideal.
“All you need is love,” pined the Beatles, and we sang along as though we did not need clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, etc.
What we think of as love is really the contentment, peace, or happiness that others cause us to feel inside ourselves. What we are looking for in love is a soul mate who completes us, satisfies us, with whom we connect, so that when we spend time together the hours slip away in deep pleasure.
Herein lies the cause of many a divorce because this kind of love is pure fantasy, and while it can be found for a short time during the stage of infatuation, it is not real and does not last…
The problem with what we consider to be love is that it resides in the emotions of the lover. In large part, love is how the lover feels about the beloved, but it doesn’t take much of an examination to discover that what we really mean is how the beloved makes the lover feel, and that feeling is always good, positive, and enjoyable, or we would not call it love.
You do not look at the man who raped your daughter and feel your heart grow full of joy and peace and contentment. You do not gaze at him longingly and say, “I love him. He is so sweet.”
But this is how God loves you. God’s love hurts Him. That’s why we speak of the last days of Jesus’ life as His passion…
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10 KJV
This is how the Lord loves rapists, abortionists, liars, back-sliders, and all the rest. This is how the Lord loves you. He gives Himself to death for them and for you. That love is sadness and anger, sorrow and pain.
Divine love, and the human love that imitates it, is self-giving. It does not serve itself, but it serves the beloved. God’s love for us does not fill Him with happy thoughts or make Him glad to see us.
His love is service, action, and death. God’s love hurts Him, causes His heart to break and water and blood to pour out. We do not rightly understand love, in God or in ourselves, when we think of it as an emotion or a feeling. The emotions of Jesus in the Gospel are mainly sorrow and anger. I don’t include love in that list because love is not how He feels but what He does, who He is.
And yet, what the Gospels don’t report in terms of emotion, the prophet Isaiah does:
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied. Isaiah 53:11
The Gospels don’t describe Jesus as happy, but Isaiah describes Him, in the end, as satisfied. That is something pretty close to happy. The Lord is satisfied because He has fulfilled His mission. It is finished, perfected, complete. By His love, He has defeated death.
Here is the great and wonderful surprise: you are the labor of His soul, the plunder of hell stolen away, the reward of the Father returned to its rightful place and beyond. You are His seed, the sons of God, the brothers of Jesus, the immaculate bride chosen in perfect grace.
In this, in you, He is satisfied. By grace, you have believed our report and rejoiced in it. You are God’s own beloved, whose iniquity is removed, whose sin is gone, whose shame is no more. Jesus the Christ, King of the Jews, lifted up from the earth, has drawn you to Himself and is your Lord.
This isn’t a bad Friday or a sad Friday either. It is Good Friday, and it is the day that the Lord has made; so let us rejoice and be glad in it. This is not a funeral for Jesus. We mourn for our sins, to be sure, but we also rejoice in the love of God revealed and showered upon us in the death of His Son.
This is the way God has loved us: He has given Himself to us in death in order to give Himself, His crucified and risen body and blood, to us in the Holy Communion.
If He had not died, there could be no testament. If His blood had not poured forth, it could not fill our chalice. And there is no remission of sins apart from the blood.
When the faithful went to the tabernacle or the temple, they did so for blood, that their sins might be forgiven. So also, we come to church. We come for blood, that our sins might be forgiven.
God loves us in this way: He pours His blood onto our hearts through our mouths that we might be circumcised where it counts, that we might offer sacrifices not of blood, for that is offered to us, but that we might offer sacrifices of praise.
So we should love and embrace today, even as a bride embraces and loves her wedding day, for that is precisely what it is. And soon comes the consummation, the departure of sadness, not just when the stone is rolled away and Jesus is missing, but when Jesus enters into us with His risen body and blood and takes us for Himself, in the breaking of the bread.
Jesus, who loves you, is satisfied in you, for today by His cross and passion, you who were stolen away by the devil, are His, once more and forever.