Text: St. John Passion
Date: Good Friday + 3/25/05 | revised 3/25/16
John the Baptist announced the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ with the words, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The sacrifice of the Passover lamb every year was all about God’s deliverance of his people from bondage and slavery in Egypt. As God’s people were annually to remember their deliverance by means of the Passover, so all of that history pointed forward to the greater Passover and deliverance from mankind’s bondage to sin and death by means of the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God, Isaiah’s Suffering Servant, the Deliverer, the King, the Christ of God. One of the important details of the old Passover was as the Lord commanded through Moses, saying, “Your lamb shall be without blemish” [Exodus 12:5]. This detail would be fulfilled with perfection as the Lamb of God, the Messiah would be without blemish, that is, without sin, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
Yet now we view him brutally beaten and whipped, the raw gashes now displayed being nailed to a cross. But for all the outward blemishes, inwardly he is still without blemish. “Father, forgive them” is the prayer on his lips as he is hoisted to the sky.
Was Pilate mocking the Jews as he displayed the scourged one before them whom they, only days before, had hailed as King of the Jews? Who would want this man as king? He didn’t defend himself, proclaim his innocence or fight back. There were no last minute resolutions from congress to save his life. He was completely rejected by both “church” and state even though none of them could pronounce him guilty of even one infraction of the law, one evil deed much less anything deserving death. Isaiah called him God’s Suffering Servant saying,
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth. [Isaiah 53:7]
Yet this is not a picture of failure as those mocking and wagging their heads thought. This is the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world. That’s your sin and mine that disfigure him. For,
he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed [Isaiah 53:5]
Sin kills. And when it is the sin of the whole world it kills quickly, just six hours. And now they take his limp, lifeless body and bury it in a tomb. Yet, “just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” [Matthew 12:40]. We who believe that Christ was sacrificed for us and for our salvation, that as the Son of God he rises victorious over death and the grave will remain in prayerful vigil. For in the wee hours of the pre-dawn of the first day of the week he will rise and in his glorified body and soul descend into hell to proclaim his triumph, and then will appear to the women and to his disciples.
Now as the old Passover lamb was to be killed, the blood drained and the meat eaten, so now the new Passover Lamb having arisen from death gives us his very body and blood to eat and drink and in this way we partake of his deathless life. We started this three-day-long service by doing exactly that.
Tonight we fast and pray. Tomorrow we gather in holy vigil, awaiting the moment of that night which alone knew the hour of his rising. For tonight, let us pray and meditate on this most awesome moment when the very heavens covered its face, when the darkness of God’s judgment of the world’s sin covered the earth, when the Angel of death passed over all who were covered by the blood of the Lamb—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Oh, come, let us worship him.