O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Judgment Day Paradise
Judgment Day Paradise
Based on Luke 23:27-43
Preached on November 20, 2016
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Fellow baptized saints, that’s an odd reading - for the end of the church year – don’t you think? Normally, we’d expect a parable of judgment – like the sheep and the goats or perhaps the wise and foolish bridesmaids. But instead we get Luke’s picture of the crucifixion. Odd to have a Good Friday text on the Last Sunday of the Church Year, the Sunday when we consider Jesus’ appearing in glory to judge the living and the dead.
But if you look and listen closely, you’ll recognize that Good Friday is a kind of snapshot, a pattern, a picture of the Last Day, just as last week we saw that the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple was a pattern picture of the Last Day. And Jesus - is the One who teaches us this – still teaching as He trudges down the streets of Jerusalem on His way to the place of the Skull, Golgotha. The women were weeping and wailing over Him, but Jesus says to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and your children.” His eyes look to the coming days when Jerusalem will be overrun by the Roman armies and laid siege, times when it would be worst for pregnant women and women with infants, when people would say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.”
And that isn’t the worst of it. “If they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry.” No question. The ends times go from bad to worse to worse even still. And yet, amid all of it, there is Jesus, praying “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” That’s not only HIs prayer over those who crucified Him and cast lots for His clothing, but His prayer over all of humanity in its collective insanity. Forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing. It’s His prayer for you and me, living in these latter days, where the “wood” seems to be drying up. Forgive them.
He is mocked by the religious, as He is mocked by Religion today. No religion of this world tolerates free grace, unconditional pardon, forgiveness of the sinner. Even we sometimes recoil at it. The soldiers too, mock Jesus with their cheap, sour wine and sarcasm. “Save yourself, if you’re the King of the Jews.” Politics and Religion always mock Jesus, always crucify Him, always want nothing to do with Him.
But even here on the cross - especially here on the cross, Jesus is King of all kings, Lord of all lords, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, Son of God, Savior of the nations. This is the last image the world gets of Jesus – bleeding, dying, persecuted, ridiculed, mocked. Five hundred would see Him risen from the dead, but not the general public. Eleven would see Him taken up in the clouds. But this spectacle – this cross - is for the whole world to see. This is the King in His kingdom as it appears in this world. In your minds freeze frame that picture of Jesus on the cross, between two convicted criminals, mocked by church and state. That’s the last image the world gets until He appears in glory on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead.
That picture - is also a picture of judgment day. In Jesus, the world is already judged. He is all of humanity in one Man, the second Adam. His death is humanity’s death; His death is the death of the world. This is the world’s last Day in picture form.
The two thieves separated by Jesus are the sheep and the goats, the wise and foolish, the believing and the unbelieving. They too are a picture of what has come in Jesus and what will come on the Last Day. Two sinners, separated by the crucified Sinless One, one on his right, the other on his left.
Both men were guilty as charged. Their deaths were intended to be an example for the general public. Both were guilty, just as you and I stand guilty under the law, guilty of insurrection against God, guilty of wanting to be gods in place of God, guilty of willfully violating His law. Equal guilt. Both criminals were equally guilty, deserving not only their death sentence but deserving condemnation before God. Those who are saved and those who are condemned are equally guilty, as these two were. There is no distinction. All have sinned, all fall short of the glory of God, all are condemned by the Law of God.
And isn’t that the picture? Two guilty men dying next to Jesus. One rails against Jesus in unbelief. “Aren’t you the Christ? What sort of Messiah are you, anyway? Save yourself, save us.” Here’s the irony – in not saving Himself, Jesus saved us and the world, including the one who railed against Him! This one is the unbeliever, the old Adam who refuses the salvation that is next to Him, who mocks the only Savior that there is. Even in the despair of death he’s full of hatred and mockery and joins his voice with those who stood at the foot of Jesus’ cross. His salvation is right there next to him, but he refuses to see it. In this Jesus - is pardon for his sins, acquittal before God, the promise of Paradise. But he would not have it. Instead, he mocks Jesus even in death. A life of rejection culminates in a death of rejection.
The other one - believes. He is faithful. He bears witness to his fellow sinner. “Don’t you fear God? We’re under the same sentence. We’re damned as much as anyone. We are receiving the due reward for our deeds. We deserve this.” The wages of sin is death. There is no escaping this. Each of us is the guilty man dying next to Jesus.
“But this man, this Jesus, He has done nothing wrong.” Faith confesses Christ. That He is innocent. More than that. He is sinless. And yet in the mystery of God’s mercy, God made this innocent, sinless Jesus to be sin for us. Christ became the criminal, the terrorist, the murderer. He became our sin, the sin of the world. Every crime against humanity, every homicide and genocide and fratricide is focused upon Him. He becomes our Sin, so that in Him we might become His righteousness, the righteousness of God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the judgment of humanity. God has judged Sin in the death of His Sinless Son. “This man has done nothing wrong,” and yet this Man dies as one who has done everything wrong, forsaken by God, condemned, persecuted, mocked, ridiculed, damned. He gets what we deserve so that, in the end, we get what He deserves
Rev. Cameron Schnarr