Vicar Kyle Backhaus


Sometimes, we are the Jews who refused to go into the judgment hall so that we will not become unclean.  The hypocritical rulers of the Jews feared becoming unclean by entering the Pilot's Hall.  They feared missing out on the Passover festival because an unclean person cannot partake in the festival.  So they refused to enter Pilot's hall not wanting to risk becoming unclean. 


Where did they get this idea?  Perhaps from the book of Numbers where it says that if you enter a home with a dead person inside, you would be unclean.  The Jews took this principal and twisted it slightly with their man-made regulations.  They said that if you entered a house where a man was to be sentenced to death that would make you unclean. The Jews may have also thought that any contact with a Gentile defiled you.  Or perhaps they thought that there would be any number of unclean objects in a Gentile's house that would make you unclean just by touching them. Although God did not make such commandments, the Jews followed them and a multitude of others, to the T. How careful they were in their behavior!  What sticklers to detail!  They so strictly respected the traditions of the elders that they treated entrance into a Gentiles' hall as a horrible sin! 

 

SERMON FOR GOOD FRIDAY EVENING, 3-29-2013 Vicar Kyle Backhaus

Sometimes, we are the Jews who refused to go into the judgment hall so that we will not become unclean.  The hypocritical rulers of the Jews feared becoming unclean by entering the Pilot's Hall.  They feared missing out on the Passover festival because an unclean person cannot partake in the festival.  So they refused to enter Pilot's hall not wanting to risk becoming unclean. 

Where did they get this idea?  Perhaps from the book of Numbers where it says that if you enter a home with a dead person inside, you would be unclean.  The Jews took this principal and twisted it slightly with their man-made regulations.  They said that if you entered a house where a man was to be sentenced to death that would make you unclean. The Jews may have also thought that any contact with a Gentile defiled you.  Or perhaps they thought that there would be any number of unclean objects in a Gentile's house that would make you unclean just by touching them. Although God did not make such commandments, the Jews followed them and a multitude of others, to the T. How careful they were in their behavior!  What sticklers to detail!  They so strictly respected the traditions of the elders that they treated entrance into a Gentiles' hall as a horrible sin! 


Meanwhile, these hypocrites were betraying an innocent Man.  They were sending a man who had committed no crime to His death. They were handing Him over to the same gentile for which they had such contempt.  As Christ said of them, they strained a gnat yet swallowed a camel.  They obeyed useless and unimportant rules of morality, yet crucified the Son of God. 


We have our rules as well.  We look down upon others if they do not follow our rules.  Perhaps our rules are drawn from Holy Scriptures, perhaps not.  Perhaps our rules are drawn from our own experiences. Sometimes, we feel incredibly guilty for our actions when our actions are not really sinful at all.  We strain at our own gnats. Sometimes, we excuse our own sins as if they were minor things yet we magnify the sins of others as if they were terrible sinners.  Meanwhile, we are all murderers in our hearts, since we hold inside us unrighteous anger and spiteful words.  We have hate inside us, even if we delude ourselves into thinking that surely we could never hate anyone. So we pretend that we are righteous.  Yet we are so unrighteous that it was our sins, our foul trespasses that betrayed the Son of God into death.  It was for our vile misdeeds that Christ was crucified.  “The Holy Spirit is at work to convict us of our unbelief and shows us our sin that flows out of it.” Instead of strutting about with our so-called goodness like the Jewish rulers, we should hang our heads in shame for all that we have done. 


Sometimes, we are Peter, who cuts off the ear of the servant with a sword but Simon Peter, on the other hand, should have known better.  He was told in advance by Christ that all these things would happen.  Peter should have expected the betrayal, the arrest, the trial.  But he was somehow taken off guard. Peter's true error was that he was a theologian of glory.  He thought that Christ must succeed, Christ must be loved, Christ must live and prosper.  He could not imagine that it was necessary that Christ be rejected and suffer and die for the sins of the world. So Peter thought that he must defend his Lord at all costs.  He drew his sword and hacked away, in his own fashion.  In Peter's mind at that moment, he must have thought that he was very courageous.  Perhaps he thought that he was sacrificing his life to protect his dear Lord. 


We also have a theologian of glory inside us.  We want to judge things with how successful our lives are and how successful the Church is.  We want to judge by what we see, and we want to be the guardians to protect and make things right. But the Cross tells us that Christ alone makes things right.  We cannot, by any earthly tools, make this life the way it should be.  The shed blood of Christ alone justifies our lives.  The success God wants is not measured by anything we can see. We should look instead to the Cross, and see God's holiness there.  We should be content that His Sword, the Word, strikes us in our ear, cutting away all of our sickness and sin, so that there would be room for the Gospel 


When we try to make life right by our actions, we end up flailing about frantically, like Peter.  We only make things worse.  Everyone in the Passion story who tried to accomplish something instead caused harm.  Everyone who tried to make justice happen ended up instead causing injustice or injury.


The passive ones in the Passion receive grace.  A woman and a disciple at the foot of the Cross receive comfort and mercy.  A centurion who watched the One whom he crucified die, was able to recognize the Son of God.  And Barabbas, scoundrel and criminal and murderer that he was, gets life and freedom - not by trying to escape or defending himself in a court of law, but by standing still and doing nothing while another Man is exchanged for him. We don’t have to make things right, because God by His grace and mercy made everything right by the cross.
 We are liberated like Barabbas from the prison of our sin.  Our death penalty for our sin is given to the pure Lamb.  We also recognize that the bleeding Man who died is the Son of God.  We receive the comfort and mercy of Christ's Word spoken from the Cross. As Pontius Pilate said, "Behold the Man!" On the Cross we see the only true Man.  All other men, women, and children have been untrue to what they should be.  All others are false, having turned to ways and deeds that no human should follow.  The Lord created us holy, to be the image of God on earth.  But we fell short of the glory He intended for us.  We went astray to corruption.  We broke the image He put upon us. 


Man should have been the glorious and wonderful pinnacle of the entire universe.  Our sins made it otherwise.  But in Christ, the image is put right.  Pure, untainted and uncorrupted humanity stood in the flesh before Pilate.  "Behold the Man!" - the true Man, Man as man should be. But when Pilate identifies the true Man, it is not Christ in His beauty.  It is not Christ in exaltation.  It is Christ, whipped and beaten.  It is Christ, blood pouring out of His broken body onto the ground.  It is Christ, so swollen and disfigured by the beatings that we must turn away in horror. That is the Man.  The suffering Christ is the true Man who restores humanity.  An un-suffering christ restores nothing.  But our Lamb bled and was crushed and torn to pieces, and in this way He has restored us.


That is where you must find your humanity.  Look not to your deeds.  Do not compare yourself to others.  Do not search your feelings.  Instead, look to the awful, cruel spectacle of the innocent Son of God, crucified for you.


Many thought that looking upon the crucifix would save their soul. But Luther was right to say that we cannot go back to the cross. Looking to the cross is not as a saving act, but a reminder that you have been baptized into the death of Christ. See the blood that once flowed from His flesh. That blood is now poured out for you at His table, for the forgiveness of your sins. That is where your life is, and your glory, and your righteousness – In the Lamb of God whose blood sets you free.

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