The Division Undone
Vicar Brad Akey


In the name of our crucified Lord. Amen.


What exactly was involved with being a high priest? He must be whole, without physical defects and holy in his conduct (Lev 21:6-8). He must be an overseer (2 Chr 19:11), knowing and discerning the will of God (Num 27:21). And most importantly he was to stand before God and make sacrifice for the people. For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. By God’s will, he was the link between God and man.


Man had lost the intimate relationship we had with God. In the fall, Adam introduced sin into the world, causing a division between God and us. And now we all sin because of that division. He told Moses: “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Death awaited those who did not heed God’s Word and would bring sin directly into His presence. For this reason He commanded Moses concerning the Holy Place saying: “And you shall put in it the ark of the testimony, and you shall screen the ark with the veil” (Exodus 40:3). This veil is the distinguishing marker of our division from God. Division caused by our sin and rebellion against our Creator. Division which leads to death.

 

Sermon for Good Friday at Noonday, March 25, 2016
The Division Undone
Vicar Brad Akey


In the name of our crucified Lord. Amen.


What exactly was involved with being a high priest? He must be whole, without physical defects and holy in his conduct (Lev 21:6-8). He must be an overseer (2 Chr 19:11), knowing and discerning the will of God (Num 27:21). And most importantly he was to stand before God and make sacrifice for the people. For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. By God’s will, he was the link between God and man.


Man had lost the intimate relationship we had with God. In the fall, Adam introduced sin into the world, causing a division between God and us. And now we all sin because of that division. He told Moses: “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Death awaited those who did not heed God’s Word and would bring sin directly into His presence. For this reason He commanded Moses concerning the Holy Place saying: “And you shall put in it the ark of the testimony, and you shall screen the ark with the veil” (Exodus 40:3). This veil is the distinguishing marker of our division from God. Division caused by our sin and rebellion against our Creator. Division which leads to death.

 

By breaking even one of His laws, we have broken His entire Law. We cannot bridge the gap our sin has caused. Division unto death. That death includes eternal separation from God, which Scripture describes as being thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur (Rev 19:20). There we should suffer the consequences of our rebellion. Because of our desire to place ourselves above God, to not love Him with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind and to not love our neighbor as ourselves, we shall be separated from Love.


But He who loves us does not abandon us. The Father sent down His Son – His Christ – born of a virgin for a purpose. Jesus, the Christ, is both true God and true man. A man able to be in the presence of God. No Separation! No Division! Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” He who comes to atone for all of mankind, was delivered up by those whom He has come to save. God, the Creator of all things, dwelt in the temple and became incarnate in Jesus, and in Jesus, God now dies. Betrayed and placed upon a cross, He fulfills His purpose.

 

Upon the cross He mediates on our behalf. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The one who died for our sin speaks for us. Jesus is the true High Priest. And the High Priest’s office was concerned above all, with the radical problem of human sinfulness and the need of the people for reconciliation with God. This is what Christ fulfilled, this is what Christ embodied. He is God’s love for the sin filled man, bringing Absolution, which puts man in right standing with God. No Division! No Separation! Praying to His heavenly Father, he speaks for all humanity. He is the only man who can come before God to plead for forgiveness for the sake of all people.

 

Yet the rulers scoff at Him saying, “He saved others; let him save himself.” What they speak is true! Christ has repeatedly saved those whom He loves: healing, exorcising demons, and providing salvation. Acknowledging the inscription over His head the soldiers join along saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” Even the unrepentant thief on the cross next to Him says, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But He did not come to save Himself because, as in Satan’s earlier temptations, to give in to the temptation to serve and save Himself would prevent him from fulfilling His purpose of tearing down the division and saving His people. Rather He endures our punishment, even though this man has done nothing wrong. He endures the wrath of God. He is the perfect intercessor, not looking out for Himself, but for His people. He is the bloody sacrifice which is pleasing before God - the High Priest which we require. We along with crowds call out that “His blood be on us and on our children,” (Matt 27:25) but we now make that cry in faith knowing His blood cleanses us.


While there is darkness and His life comes to an end, the curtain of the temple was torn in two. No longer must there be a divider between God and Man. Christ is the perfect High Priest, who fulfills all required of the Law, then dies the punishment not meant for Him. Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us.  Jesus, like the curtain, is torn, enduring God and man’s wrath. He died in order that we may be healed of our iniquity and the division undone! Yet God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it (Acts 2:24). Now through His sacrifice we again may be in the presence of God. No Division! No Separation! We may dwell eternally with Him, as His forgiven children.


The Division is undone - No longer does a Christian need to fear death! No longer will sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Rom 6:14), the grace of God, which sent His Messiah to be our Savior. Now we may enjoy the eternal fruits of His work. We are promised life eternal and it is through the Son of God that this promise is true! He is the true High Priest, God offering up His own true blood in the stead of ours. He is the true High Priest, God dwelling in our presence.


So what about our division from God? It is undone in Christ! The gospel itself has been a record of words and events that demonstrate that Jesus is the new locale for God’s presence because He is the very Son of God. We see this at the shift of God’s presence from the temple to Jesus in Mary’s womb, and publically announced at Jesus’ Baptism when the heavens were opened up and the Spirit descended upon Him. The ultimate demonstration of His sonship is his innocent suffering and obedient death, which He undergoes in order that we may be baptized into His death. Now God’s presence is wherever Jesus is. As the Christ covers us with the garment of our Baptism, there is no separation – no division. Rather we are now perfect, because Christ is perfect.


As we hear every Divine Service, “The Lord be with You,” we know this is not a wish, but a statement of fact. Just as it was announced to Mary that the Lord is with her, and to the thief on the cross, that “you will be with me in Paradise” He tells us as He serves us his true body crucified and His true blood shed that I AM with you. There is no curtain dividing us any longer, Jesus Christ is here, blessing us with His service. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a