Pastor Hopkins preached this sermon at the Tenebrae service on Good Friday, 4/10/2020. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 6pm, and is now available as a recording. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Tenebrae Bulletin
This year, on Ash Wednesday, we entered together into our 40 days, our quarantine. And as we did, none of us knew how difficult it would soon become.
We thought we might fast from chocolate or beer. We thought we might back off the social media. We thought we might come to church more. But despite our good intentions, none of that seems to have worked out.
By way of understatement: things didn’t go the way we planned. How could you possibly sum it all up?
Grief and anxiety, infection, seclusion, and exasperating death. Lent 2020.
Where did it come from, this disease that torments us? And what should we call it?
If you google that question long enough, somewhere on the fourth page of results, you may actually be directed to a reliable source. There you will find a real and trustworthy answer.
Far away, in a place you’ve never been, somebody you’ve never met, ate something he should not have. Patient zero became infected, and got sick, even if he wasn’t showing symptoms. From him the infection spread like wildfire, and the death count has been rising daily.
It seemed like a harmless enough thing, when Adam & Eve took and ate the food God had forbidden them. But it wasn’t harmless. Through them, we have all become infected.
But we are not victims. We took and we ate as well. This is what St. Paul writes to the church in Rome:
…[J]ust as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, so also, death was passed on to all men, because all sinned. Romans 5:12 NIV
And so, it turns out that all those terribly unnatural things, which so succinctly sum up Lent 2020: grief and anxiety, infection, seclusion, and exasperating death… It turns out we merit them. Deep down we know it. It’s only reasonable.
But this is what makes Good Friday so unreasonable: only one Man has ever been born who is immune to our disease. Humble birth and humble home notwithstanding, Jesus is the Sinless One. (1 Peter 2:22) He is the spotless Lamb of God. (1 Peter 1:19)
But He will not fare better than the lambs who went before Him and pointed to Him. Though He had no sin of His own, Pilate was wrong when he said, “I find no guilt in him.” (John 19:6b) For “[God] had made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf…” (2 Corinthians 5:21a)
Though He is the only One who is immune, Jesus has come for this purpose: to be infected. Jesus has, in fact and in flesh, come so near to you that you have made Him sick, too. But this was the point all along.
To take on your sin, Jesus has been born like you. He has breathed your poisoned air. Jesus has bathed in your dirty water in the Jordan.
Thus infected, He has undergone trials in the wilderness, 40 days of hunger and temptation, for you.
And now, tonight, the dreadful isolation; now the exile, now the distance; now Jesus, like all the scapegoats before Him, who bore sin’s burden into the wilderness, is cast out. Now the loneliness of the cross. Now the Father’s face is turned away. Now the cry of dereliction.
Now the grief and anxiety; now the infection and seclusion; now the exasperating death. Now, tonight, the death toll has reached its climax.
But not just its climax. Tonight, death has reached its terminus. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus, His death on the cross, means nobody else has to die from this disease ever again.
For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Romans 5:15
It is your death that Jesus has died. It is your tomb in which He has been laid.
Stay close. Keep watch. Prepare for a feast. The end of Jesus’ quarantine is at hand. Nothing will keep Him away from you.