Sermon for April 3, 2015, at Luther Memorial Chapel
Good Friday Chief Service
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


What is truth? Pilate asked Jesus this very question. What is truth? This question continues to be raised today. Our lives are bombarded with others telling us what truth is. Often, companies use advertisements to make us aware of a “hidden” problem that only their product can solve; or at least solve it better. Major companies spend millions of dollars a year in attempting to bring us to “full awareness” of a hidden problem and the so-called truth of their product.  


Also, the media is anxious to answer the question, “What is truth?” Often, they undermine the opposing perspective and embellish their own view. Many times the media feeds into, or even creates issues to divide certain groups of people. Culture wars develop and the media has more opportunities to promote their name. This can result in people being outraged, assumptions being made, their words twisted, and lies. In the aftermath of mass propaganda, we are still left asking, “What is truth?”

Sermon for April 3, 2015, at Luther Memorial Chapel
Good Friday Chief Service
Vicar Zachary Marklevitz


What is truth? Pilate asked Jesus this very question. What is truth? This question continues to be raised today. Our lives are bombarded with others telling us what truth is. Often, companies use advertisements to make us aware of a “hidden” problem that only their product can solve; or at least solve it better. Major companies spend millions of dollars a year in attempting to bring us to “full awareness” of a hidden problem and the so-called truth of their product.  


Also, the media is anxious to answer the question, “What is truth?” Often, they undermine the opposing perspective and embellish their own view. Many times the media feeds into, or even creates issues to divide certain groups of people. Culture wars develop and the media has more opportunities to promote their name. This can result in people being outraged, assumptions being made, their words twisted, and lies. In the aftermath of mass propaganda, we are still left asking, “What is truth?”


Pontius Pilate found himself in the middle of a culture war. The high priests were pushing their agenda to have an innocent man executed. In the Gospel of Mark, we are told the high priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release a murderer rather than Jesus. Pilate recognized Jesus’ innocence, but to go against the masses would have been career suicide. Pilate was face to face with Truth, but handed Him over. Pilate released Barabbas against his conscience to remain Caesar’s friend.


Good Friday is a reminder that we romanticize the answer to the question, “What is truth?” Ancient philosophers and wisdom of the world tells us that truth will liberate us. Truth will give us happiness and a new perspective on life. Truth will bring us full awareness. Indeed, the forgiveness of our sins in Christ does liberate us, giving us a full awareness of our nature, which leads to a new perspective on life, but this is not the world’s message. The world is eager to tell us that truth is different for everyone. As Isaiah proclaimed, “[They] have turned every one to his [or her]…way.” The world’s wisdom encourages us to find our own journey and do whatever makes us happy at that moment.


This Good Friday we come face to face with Truth. Not the so-called truth we hear in the propaganda messages, but Truth that came as man. Truth is not how we imagined it. Behold the man that is dead on the cross. There is nothing romantic about this. His hands and feet are pierced with nails to hold Him up on a tree. He hangs there with a crown forced on His head. Not a crown of gold and silver, but of twisted thorns that cut into His flesh. He is beaten, bloody, and now dead. Truth is lifted before us.


Truth is not hidden. Jesus manifested Truth. Jesus said, “I have said nothing in secret.” There is no hidden problem. Our problem is clear; we are poor, miserable sinners. This is our truth. This is everyone’s truth. Truth does not have different kings. Truth serves one King, the King of the Jews. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus’ kingdom is not to establish a political presence or to fulfill our personal plans or priorities. His kingdom is beyond this world.

 

Like Peter, we make the mistake of wanting to promote God’s name in an earthly way and we draw our swords in defense. His actions were not the will of God. Peter’s actions left him standing outside at the door of the court of the high priest. Peter thought that Christ must succeed on earth. He thought the name of Jesus had to be promoted the same way as earthly kings through military strength and earthly kingdoms. Yet, his intentions led him to be helpless.  

 

We too draw the metaphorical swords and begin to establish kingdoms in the name of God. We use different means to promote His name. We intend to be the earthly strength for God. Yet, our intentions make us helpless. We watch as a society that promotes tolerance show intolerance to some Christian convictions. We watch as churches lose membership each year. And this Good Friday, we are reminded that Jesus’ “kingdom is not of this world.”

 

Whom do we seek? Do we seek the One who was arrested, bound, questioned, struck, flogged, mocked, beaten, and crucified? Do we seek Truth? Our truth is that we need Jesus to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. We need to be liberated by Truth. We have been crushed in our transgressions. “…[W]e like sheep have gone astray [and] turned everyone to his [or her]…way.”1 We need to be made right before God.


Jesus is the Truth. He was violently crucified, “although he had done no violence.”2 He drank from the cup that the Father gave Him. “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him.”3 On the Cross, Jesus had “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”4 “For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”5 The Cross tells us that Christ alone made things right. We are justified before God because of the blood of Jesus. It was His sword, His living and active Word that struck our ears and cut away all of our sickness and sin. His Word, sharper than any two-edged sword, that struck the chains of sin and now we are liberated like Barabbas from the prison of our transgressions. 

 

It is those who stood at the foot of the Cross that heard the words of Jesus. It is at the foot of the Cross that we find Truth. It is here that we are fully conscious of our sinful condition. It is here that we are fully conscious of the love of Christ. Here we become a new creation and fully human in the forgiveness of our sins.

 

“In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting [our] trespasses against [us].”6 Our salvation is secure in the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus manifested Truth to all people. Christ turned death into eternal life. He killed death by death, punishment by punishment, sufferings by suffering, disgrace by disgrace. In faith, we poor, miserable sinners are washed clean in the blood of Jesus Christ. In the waters of Baptism, we have been made a new creation in His kingdom. “The old has passed away, behold, the new has come!”7 In Christ, punishment is joy, suffering is pleasure, and disgrace is glory! Now, we drink from the cup the Father has given us. He has given us His Son and we receive “the ministry of reconciliation.”8 In our Holy Baptism and at the Altar of Holy Communion, God never leaves us or forsakes us.

 

Good Friday is good because a promise is fulfilled. This is the center of history. Our King “poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors.”9 God’s promise throughout scripture has been made fully aware in Christ. “He died for all”10 and we have been baptized into His death. This day, Jesus bore our sins and made intercession for us. “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.”11 On the cross, the King of the Jews revealed His kingdom in love for all people.

 

“It is finished.” Then He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a