O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Wounds that Heal
Wounds that Heal
Based on Isaiah 53:1-6
Preached on March 29, 2013
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We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, for by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world. Amen.
Crucifixes make us uncomfortable-and well they should. We squirm before them, and it has nothing to do with any anti-Catholic bias. It is simply painful to look upon our Lord suffering so and to know the reason for His suffering. We shudder before it. We sing:
Mine, mine was the transgression, But Thine the deadly pain.
In the darkness of that Good Friday, the totality of human sin-from the first sin of our first parents to the last sin of the last human being alive-all of it was gathered up, pressed together, and then off-loaded onto this Man. He bore the whole weight of it and owned it as His own. Thus He also bore its penalty-both temporal and eternal death. Look upon Christ's cross. See His wounds, the nails affixing His hands and feet to the beams. See the blood running down His face from the thorns. Behold the quivering mass of His mutilated back as He is forced to rub it against the tree, pushing up against the nails to take in a breath of air. Look, seek, realize: this wounded Man, dying in agony, is not suffering for a single wrong that He has done. As we have seen, His whole life was only love. He was the only human being who completely loved the Father with His all and His neighbor as Himself. Yet it is because Jesus is love that He is now upon the tree. Love will not leave the sinner in his sin. Love takes that sin upon Himself. Love is wounded to grant us healing. He is offering atonement for all the wrongs that we have done.
Yes, it is hard to look a crucifix in the face, for it is hard to accept the truth we sing:
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! 'Tis I deserve Thy place.
Yet it is salutary to look-salutary to fall on our knees before His bleeding image and to ponder it. It is good even to beg Him to imprint this image on our hearts, so that we might carry it with us wherever we go, so that it can be before our eyes also in the moment of our death. You see, when the moment of your death comes to you, Satan will press hard. In that moment above all, he will seek his last chance to snatch you away from God forever, and he has a powerful weapon to use. The cunning serpent minimizes sin when he would lure you into it with temptations, but then he maximizes your sins in your memory in the hours of despair. When death is coming for you, he will happily set up the DVD player in your mind and replay for you the many sins you have forgotten all about. He will taunt you, then, that you are no Christian. He will declare you unfit for the kingdom of God. He will tell you that you are his and that you willed to be his with every sin you committed along the way. And all those sins will be playing all the while in vivid detail and color before your eyes as you are struggling in death.
And that is why it is vital to train yourself in life to look upon the crucifix, to behold your Savior's wounds, and to hold them close to your heart, counting them as your most precious treasure. In the hour of your death, they will be your only weapon against the despair of the enemy You will be able to look at all of your sins as the accuser brings them before your eyes, and you will be able to acknowledge their hideous nature as an irrefutable testimony to your countless failures. But against them all you will set another image: the image Isaiah holds forth for us today-the image of the Crucified One. And it is this image that will shatter the devil's attempts to draw you into despair before your death. Thus we sing:
Remind me of Thy passion When my last hour draws nigh. Mine eyes shall then behold Thee, Upon Thy cross shall dwell, My heart by faith enfold Thee. Who dieth thus dies well.
The image you want before your eyes as they are closing in death is the image of the Son of God in His last agonies, fully owning and answering for your every sin, pouring out His blood to blot out the accusations of the Law that Satan would use against you. For awful as your sins are, each one has been accounted for, covered over in innocent blood, the blood of your Lamb, your Jesus. "And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:11). In that hour, you will say with boldness: "Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not" (AE 48:12).
Thus you indeed will be prepared for death when the image of the Crucified One hangs before your eyes and you know that His life is now your righteousness; His death, your forgiveness; His wounds, your healing; His sufferings, your crown and glory. People, you have been loved by God. God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, has indeed proved your dearest Friend, and He would make you His forever. Look upon His cross boldly, confidently, continually, and you will see.
We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, for by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr