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Good Friday Vespers

by pastorjuhl ~ March 20th, 2008

Text is St. John’s Passion

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Blues singer Reverend Gary Davis wrote a song called “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”. Reverend Davis sings about how death will come into a house and steal a child’s mother, brothers, sisters, and ultimately the whole family. Death will leave you standing and crying. It won’t be long until death takes you.

We joke about death being one of the two sure things in life; the other being taxes. But death is a sure thing for each of us, unless the Lord returns soon. Death is an equal-opportunity event. Death knows no race, creed, or color. Death is on our tailbone from the minute we enter this world.

Genesis chapter 3 tells us that the Seed of the woman will put an end to death by crushing the head of the satanic serpent that brought doubt, fear, sin, and death into the world. Prophets and psalmists speak and sing of the forthcoming Emmanuel Who will take on our flesh and blood to pay the ultimate sacrifice for sin and death.

The Incarnate Word prays long and hard that this cup be taken from Him. He meditates on what is before Him while He is kept prisoner all night. He doesn’t say much, but what He says is enough for the Roman Governor to pardon Him. Nothing Pontius Pilate says and does will stop the Jews from having their way, and having it right now before the Passover Feast begins.

Death don’t have no mercy on God’s Son. God’s boiling, seething wrath for sin and death falls not on us, as it should. God’s wrath falls on His only-begotten Son. The Words of the prophets and patriarchs come to pass according to plan. Jesus knew it would happen. He allows it to happen. It has to happen because it’s all for you.

Every year we are confronted with Christ’s death and we still wonder why. Why did He have to go through all the shameful treatment and torture? Couldn’t He put and end to it another way? Why would Jesus want to put an end to sin and death any other way?

The answer is in the hymn, Jesus, I Will Ponder Now:

Yet, O Lord, not thus alone

Make me see Your passion,

But its cause to me make known

And its termination.

Ah! I also and my sin

Wrought Your deep affliction;

This indeed the cause has been

Of Your crucifixion.

Your sin put Jesus in the crosshairs of death. But all is not lost. We sing further:

Grant that I Your passion view

With repentant grieving.

Let me not bring shame to You

By unholy living.

How could I refuse to shun

Ev’ry sinful pleasure

Since for me God’s only Son

Suffered without measure?

If the world only knew how bad sin really was, there would be a lot less sin and a lot more people in church. But what about you? What about your shameful living and the lack of repentant grieving? You cannot shun every sinful pleasure. You couldn’t even begin to try. God’s Son goes through the worst torture, dies a death worthy of public enemy number one, and you keep going about your business.

Don’t be afraid. Death don’t have no mercy. But Jesus Christ does.

If my sins give me alarm

And my conscience grieve me,

Let Your cross my fear disarm;

Peace of conscience give me.

Help me see forgiveness won

By Your holy passion.

If for me He slays His Son,

God must have compassion!

Did you catch that last couplet? God’s compassion, His mercy, is found in the death of His Son. That’s crazy talk. But it’s mercy talk. And it’s all for you, just as He planned it when God walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day playing hide and seek with the man and the woman.

It is finished. The graves are open. The books are closed. The balance sheet is reconciled. Paradise is yours. Hope is restored. Your sins are forgiven. Go from God’s House with joy, knowing that you shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. Live in God’s peace declared in the last stanza of Jesus, I Will Ponder Now:

Graciously my faith renew;

Help me bear my crosses,

Learning humbleness from You,

Peace mid pain and losses.

May I give you love for love!

Hear me, O my Savior,

That I may in heav’n above

Sing Your praise forever.

Death don’t have no mercy, but Jesus does. It’s free. And it’s for you.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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