In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Are you nervous? Are you full of anxiety? Are you terror-stricken? This past week brought some sobering news from Luther North. Everyone around has known of their financial troubles, some from Luther itself, other debts and troubles from the redistribution of debts from other schools. But for many, it has felt like we are watching a beloved friend suffer. The anguish feels unbearable. We pray that the Lord provide the financing miracle that Luther needs to teach the Gospel to yet another generation!
That Friday brought some sobering news. No one understood the trouble of Jesus’ sin; none from Himself, all of it from the redistribution of the debt of sin from every other human onto the Savior. One disciple had taken his own life, ten were in hiding, and one was faithful, with the women, watching their beloved Friend suffer. The anguish felt unbearable. And though they did not understand, it was through that suffering and death that God would give the miracle of forgiveness, life, and salvation – for all generations.
That Friday brought some sobering news…to the devil! He had delighted in causing His divine Enemy to suffer. Christ’s anguish was not only bearable, it was delightful – that is, until our Blessed Redeemer exclaimed, “It is finished!” It is complete. It’s done. And nothing and no one can undo what Christ has completed. No one can unravel the saving sacrifice of Jesus. At that moment, the wicked glee of Satan in hurting and harming Jesus came to a screeching halt. The Lord was victorious! He accomplished what He had come to do. And he who had overcome by the tree in the garden, had now been overcome by the tree of the cross. The devil was terror-stricken.
Are you terror-stricken? Your Old Adam should be! The terror of realizing the cross is our fault is what originally drove men to monasteries. The terror comes in recognizing that it is your hand that hammered the nails, your spit that stung Christ’s face, your arm that cracked that whip, your thorns that slashed His brow. St. Peter knew this well. In his Pentecost sermon, St. Peter judged his hearers and said: “This Jesus whom you crucified.” The blame is not on some small group of Jewish leaders, nor on Pilate or his soldiers. The blame is on every single man, woman, and child, for we are sinners all!
Are you terror-stricken? And there is nothing you can do. No list of prayers to say that will make it right. No acts of repentance to remove any guilt. No amount of fasting or abstaining that will win God’s favor. The guilt, the blame, the trespass is yours, completely. Helpless, terror-stricken, and sober, you stand before the cross.
Nothing you can do, indeed! Praise God that He has great compassion and boundless love, doing what you could never do! Are you terror-stricken? The very sight of Jesus dying, which can bring about fear and terror, is actually the work of God to remove fear and terror! Christ pays the price for sin – all sin, of all people, of all time. He gives His Body and sheds His Blood to defeat sin, death, and the devil. Now the Holy Spirit brings you repentance and brings you forgiveness, life, and salvation. And He brings you the gifts from the cross! Yes, since you can’t do a thing, He brings it all to you!
Often we hear the phrase, “Take it to the foot of the cross.” But you can’t! You can’t get in some time machine. You cannot alter history. You were not there when they crucified our Lord. And that is OK. It’s more than OK; that is part of God’s plan. Since no one can go there, He brings there here! Our Lord takes the forgiveness, life, and salvation purchased and won on the cross, and delivers them to you, now. He doesn’t just zap you in thin air with His forgiveness, He washes you in it. He fills your ears with it. He feeds you with it.
The Holy Sacraments and the proclamation of His Gospel are God’s methods of delivering His mercy, forgiveness, and life. In other words, they are His means of grace. No matter how wretched you have been, no matter how terror-stricken you have been – or should have been, our precious Savior comes and works repentance into your heart and cleanses you and claims you and brings to you His redemption in His blood.
Dear friends in Christ, you don’t have to go to the foot of the cross, because the Lord Himself brings the blood of Jesus to you! He washes you in His blood at Baptism. He proclaims His blood to you in His Gospel. He pours His blood into your mouth.
Are you terror-stricken? You don’t need to be! The sobering thoughts and events which struck terror in you are the very moment of Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and hell. We are not gathered here for some somber funeral; we are gathered here to commemorate the victory of our Lord Jesus as He exclaimed, “It is finished!” We are gathered by our Lord as the blood and water continue to flow from His side, cleansing and quenching His Bride, the Church.
You are freed from terror! You are redeemed. You are given the joy of Jesus’ victory that pulls you out of deep sobriety. He comes to you and brings you the fruits of the tree of the cross – forgiveness, life, and salvation – along with His Body broken and Blood shed for you! Indeed, “It is finished!” And with centuries of Christians, we can join the refrain: “We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You. By Your cross You have redeemed the world.” Amen.