I posted this sermon on Castle Church Door – April 6, 2012
“Even though you were dead God made you alive together with him, when he forgave your trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians. 2:13b-14)
Nothing stands but a cross today. No illusions. No illustrations. No anecdotes. No places seen nor visited. No memoirs of things learned by experience. No personal tales of triumph or of woe.
There stands only one image… Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, the King. He hangs there on the cross to suffer and to die. He hangs there with pierced hands & feet & side. His blood spilled in his innocence, his blood spilled for you and for me.
There will be no explaining away the violence… No skimming over the cruelty. No passing by the paradox of God made flesh; entering our world; living in our world; reaching out in our world. To Suffer for the world. To Bleed for the world. To Die for the world. To Save the world.
We are bombarded constantly by the philosophies of our time… Jesus did not die; he just went into hiding. Jesus was not God; he was just a teacher. Jesus lived long ago; he does not matter now.
We are told repeatedly… If it feels good…do it. If it looks good…idolize it. If it tastes good…consume it. If it is trendy…popularize it. If it is different…reject it. If it is racy…sell it. If you want it…buy it.
But we don’t see that today… There are no commercials, nor clichés.
There are also no false notions… That if we are strong enough, work hard enough, live long enough, we can aspire to all that we dream, we can tread our way to success and we can conquer all.
All that we see on Good Friday is abandonment, betrayal, forsakenness, and God’s amazing plan all along. We see instead God’s gracious gift to us, God’s abundant love for us, shown in how far God is willing to go for us.
What we see is a cross: a Painful cross, a Lonely cross, a Deadly cross, a Saving cross.
The simplicity of these verses show us a different reality than anything shown to us on TV…
It is a reality of who God is and claims to be. It is a reality of who God wants to be in your life. On this cross God shows us who he really is: outstretched, broken, and given for you. Jesus the Christ is nailed to the cross; nailed to the cross by those who hate him, nailed to the cross for those he loves.
What would you have him nail to the cross? What is your betrayal? What is your indifference? What is your brokenness? What is your cruelty?
It is nailed with Christ here. Jesus wants it to be nailed here. Jesus came for it to be nailed here. Jesus lived for it to be nailed here. Jesus suffers for it to be nailed here. Jesus dies for it to be nailed here. So with him, those things die. So like him, we die too.
Pay attention to this cross… See the nails. Know the nails. Believe the nails. Each one brings pain and suffering. Each one brings death. Each one brings us closer to God.
These nails stand for more than the cause of death. By them Jesus reaches to us, to you and me: to bring us back to God, to see God, and know God, and believe.
The first nail is the nail of betrayal… It pierces Jesus in the right hand. It is the hand we use to greet and make deals as we connect with each other. This nail was driven in by the bad deal of Judas, the denial of Peter, the fear driven disciples who ran away, and you and I every time we deny him. Every time we betray him, every time we run in fear from Christ rather than cling to him in faith, that nail is driven in him once again.
But Jesus took this nail upon himself. So that by its pain, we would know… that God would not deny us, that God would not betray us, that God would not run away from us.
But Jesus uses that nail to stay close and reassure us, that even in his fear – Jesus loves us more.
The second nail is the nail of indifference… It pierces Jesus in the left hand. It is the hand that panders to the crowd rather than take a stand. This nail was driven in by Pilate who lacked both courage and strength. It is the nail that allows doubt to overwhelm us. It is the nail that allows the loudest voice in a room to get its way, even when we know it is not right. It is the nail we drive into Christ every time faith is laid aside for success, and our own self-centeredness blinds us, from the injustice around us.
But Jesus took this nail upon himself. so that by its pain, we would know… that God would not doubt us, that God would not be silenced in an indifferent world, that God would not look at our sin blindly.
But Jesus uses that nail to show us that even in the plight of injustice – Jesus loves us more.
The third nail is the nail of brokenness… It pierces through Jesus’ feet. Feet once mobile to care and respond with joy, made now stationary by the spike of pain. This nail is tended to by those who did not run: his mother who mourns for her Son, the beloved disciple who tends to her, the other women who watch their Lord die, and later tend to his body for burial. Mourning is Joseph who gives Jesus his grave, and Nicodemus who once asked what it meant to be born again.
But Jesus took this nail upon himself. That by its pain, we would know… that God would not leave us in mourning, that God would not leave pain unanswered, that God would not leave us stranded and alone.
But Jesus uses that nail to show us that even in the midst horrible suffering- Jesus loves us more.
The fourth nail is not a nail at all… It is his beaten back, and speared side, and crown of thorns. They are the markings of cruelty and violence. The religious ones who stopped at nothing for death, the soldiers who whipped him without mercy, and those who taunted and mocked him, these markings show us that sin is indeed real. They remind us that there are consequences, but not everyone gets what they deserve. Every time we treat each other poorly another lash is added, the crown upon him still. Water and blood spill out. Our sin caused his death, and he hangs upon that cross.
Jesus took those markings upon himself that by its pain, we would know… that God would not deal with us to smite us that God would not deal with us in wrath that God would not use cruelty against us but Jesus uses those markings to show us what grace is.
These markings show us that even in our cruelest intentions – Jesus loves us more.
Nothing will be left tonight, but these four nails. These four nails pierce hands and feet. These markings hit back, head, and side. They stand for betrayal and indifference. They stand for brokenness and cruelty. They stand for what we did, and what he does for you.
“Even though you were dead God made you alive together with him, when he forgave your trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Col. 2:13b-14)
Now we watch, nails in hand, waiting for what God might do next. AMEN
A Sermon for Good Friday – Geoff T. Sinibaldo, 2005.