Text: St. John’s Passion
Date: Good Friday + 4/14/17
Finally, what we have been praying for has come. Oh, maybe some have thought the Kingdom of God would be the answer to all our problems. Thy Kingdom Come. Or maybe you have thought God would begin ruling in your favor against all the unfairness and shortcomings of everyday life in this world. But tonight we pray again, “Thy Kingdom Come.” And, to our surprise, here it is. Complete healing? Success? Wellness? No. The surprise is this is the kingdom of God: the blood drenched cross. Pilate couldn’t see it. His responsibility was to provide some sense of governmental justice both for Jesus and for the Jews. And we continue to struggle with the realities of living in this world, this work-a-day world of hours and wages and deductions and taxes. Pilate asked Jesus repeatedly and with wonder if He were the king, not of Israel, but of the Jews. And why doesn’t He look like or act like a king? “My kingdom is not of this world.”
The kingdom of God does not come with worldly success and honor and applause. It comes as God “sent his Son, Christ our Lord and Savior, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil and to bring us to himself and rule us as a king of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience” (Large Catechism). Those are our real, universal enemies. It is the kingdom of God the Creator, the Redeemer, the Sanctifier, not the kingdom of a god of haphazard caprice, an awesome, oppressive Judge who only condemns. It is the kingdom that deals not only with our daily frustrations but with the ultimate frustration and fear: death and the devil and our eternal destiny.
The kingdoms of this world cannot deal with death. Recently I heard the attorney of the forgotten Jack Kavorkian renewing the issues of assisted suicide. It seems the only way the world can deal with death is to bring on the inevitable sooner, closer, faster; to give in and give up. Recently it was reported that a Michigan state representative, Kevin Hertel, has reintroduced a so-called “Death with Dignity” act to the Michigan House of Representatives attempting to make a last granting at least to mentally competent adults to die with dignity, yet with a 20 year felony if it is coerced. It is not “physician assisted” at least insofar as the person administers the deathly dose to himself. Of course the doctor’s signature is still on the prescription. It is the world’s refusal to accept God’s Word, God the Creator’s diagnosis and remedy that makes for our increasing culture of death.
So when we pray “Thy kingdom come” we are pleading for God’s deliverance from an enemy over which we have no power. In fact it is because we have no power that God’s kingdom comes to us “all by itself without our prayer.” That is, God knows the true enemy and culprit behind death. Deliverance from death means crushing the serpent’s head. That deliverance requires a Deliverer, someone stronger than us and stronger than death itself.
That Deliverer is and had to be God Himself. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity took on our human nature, incarnate by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary He was made man. In our flesh and blood His was the only blood holy and pure enough to atone for the sin of the world, as “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb 9:22). His journey began in the wilderness. “If you are the Son of God command these stones to become bread.” The same temptation echoes today, “If you are the Son of God come down from the cross.” Our Deliverer refused all temptation accepting fully and only the will of His Father.
Even though He prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39) still this is the baptism He came to endure, the cup of suffering He came to drink as Isaiah the prophet records, “yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief” (Is 53:10). By His death, tomorrow we sing the mystery, “O necessary sin of Adam that is wiped away by the death of Christ! O happy fault that was worthy to have so great a Redeemer!” (Exsultet).
Who is this Redeemer? Who is this King of Glory? “When the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’” (Mark 15:39). So only when you see the kingdom of God here, at the foot of the cross, only when you understand and know the true enemy, the real battle, and look upon the Savior there, lifted up for all to see, only here and then does faith awaken and the saving confession expressed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
Yet, even better. As death passes over the confession becomes “Truly this man is the Son of God!” For even death could not hold Him. Now the old evil foe has been barred from accusing us before the Father anymore, as the Son of God, Jesus, our eternal king once again takes His place at the right hand of God the Father where He now lives and rules in grace for all who will have Him.