Into The Darkness On Good Friday

Text:  John 19:1-42

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Tonight we travel into the darkness.  The altar was stripped last night.  Black has been laid upon our altar.  The pastor is wearing all black.  We will soon hear the jarring noise of the Strepitus – the loud bang that symbolizes the earthquake that followed Christ’s death.  Indeed, tonight we enter into the darkness of death; we hear the hammer slamming down upon the nails, and we hear about the blood and the agony and the groans and the pain of Jesus Christ. 

Now, it would be easy to think that we are somehow trying to recreate a funeral for Jesus in our service tonight; however, Jesus died some two-thousand years ago.  No funeral is needed or necessary.  Indeed, His death was long ago, but your death and my death is much closer, it is not too far away.  Yes, darkness will soon come to each and every one of us.  Darkness will come, and it will cast its heavy shadow over top of us; enveloping us and pulling us into the cold grave.   

And so, tonight we remember that death is our enemy.  Death is our problem.  Death is the great enemy of humanity.  There is no stopping powerful death.  Modern medicine has not found a solution to death.  Anti-aging creams can only prolong the effects of death.  Plastic surgery only conceals death.  We can run from death, but we cannot hide from death, for the older we get, the darker the shadow of death becomes.  And the darker the shadow of death becomes, the uglier and meaner death seems to be.  And the more death snarls at us, the more we feel powerless and even fearful of death. 

And just when we think that the shadow of death is as dark as it may be, from the shadows of death emerges sin.  Yes, sin creeps out of the shadows.  Dear friends, never forget that beneath death is sin.  When sin is fully grown is brings forth death.[1] Sin consumes and destroys.  Sin brings spiritual death, it brings forth diseases and miseries, and it brings forth eternal death.  So, when the shadow of death descends heavily upon you, realize that it is strangling the life out of you not merely from the outside, but from within because we all are infected by the virus of sin.

To make things worse, the Devil rejoices and parades around in the shadows of death.  He is the ruler of darkness.  And so when death presses upon us, the Devil is eager to press down upon us with accusations and scorn, and laughter as well.  The Devil digs out every sin that we have ever committed and casts it before our eyes and presses these sins upon our souls.  The Devil shows no mercy when the shadow of death comes.  He attacks, and he slanders, and he oppresses for he is the sly evil foe.  Even though he masquerades around as an agent of light, he is of darkness and is evil to the core.    

There is no doubt about it; death is indeed the biggest struggle that humanity knows.  There is nothing more powerful than death in this life under the sun.  And tonight we come face to face with this great power.  In fact, tonight we do not merely stare into the darkness of death, but we travel into the darkness of death in this Good Friday Service.  Yes, we travel into the darkness of death this evening because we know that the only way to make it through the darkness and not succumb to the despair of death is that we walk into it and through it with the Lord Jesus Christ! 

Dear friends, we must never forget that the death of Jesus Christ is our death.  Jesus, the righteous and innocent Man, “had to tremble and fear like a poor, condemned sinner and in His tender, innocent heart had to feel God’s wrath and judgment over sin, taste for us eternal death and damnation, and, in short, suffer all that a condemned sinner has deserved and must suffer eternally.”[2]  On that cross, Jesus had to experience hell’s fire and terror, the Devil’s fiery darts, and the painful bite of the jaws of death.  He experienced all of this for you and me – in our place and on our behalf. 

It is like this, for one time and only one time in the whole history of our race, there was a death of one whom sin had no hold – no hold whatsoever.  Death had no right to Jesus, yet as we celebrate this holy evening, Jesus gave Himself up into death.  And He did this, so that He could bring you out of it!

Are you beginning to see just how brilliant this is?  How masterful this plan of salvation is?  Into the darkness of this night, death swallowed down another apparent victim; however, Jesus was unlike all the others that death had eating before.   Indeed, Jesus was true human flesh.  He was nailed to the cross.  He bled.  He suffered.  He cried out.  From the perspective of death, Jesus seemed to act and die like ever else.  However, hidden under the flesh of Jesus was a light that no darkness could overcome.  Hidden under the flesh was no mere mortal, but the Divine Son of God.  And so, when the Son of God gave Himself over to death and when death licked its lips and devoured down the Son of God, it may have seemed that it was all over, that death had consumed another helpless victim.  However, this could not be further from the truth.  For into the dense darkness of death, Jesus let loose light, light that darkness could not overcome.    

Blessed Baptized Saints, your Jesus goes into the darkness that you will have to go into.  And because you will go into the darkness with Him, you have nothing to fear from the devil and his lies.  As the darkness could not hold your Jesus, so it will not hold you.  As the darkness had no claim on Jesus, so by the innocent shedding of His blood, darkness has lost all claims on you.  His blood has covered all your sins forever.  You are HIS.  Surely, your sins put you into the grave, but your baptism joins you to Jesus’ grave, a grave leading to the resurrection and new life.

Tonight we enter into the darkness; tonight we remember that Jesus went into the darkness before us and with us.   And so we go into the darkness of Good Friday, and we travel towards the darkness of our own death, knowing that we will go through darkness with Jesus.  We will go through the shadows of death fearing no evil.  We will walk into death and through it and out of it, for Jesus has overcome the devil, sin, and death. 

Tonight we remember the death of the Son of God, but we also remember the destruction of death itself.  We remember forgiveness of sins accomplished for us.  We remember all of this, and by faith, we confess,

“I shall not be afraid, for the Lord Jesus Christ is for me in His life and in His death.” 

Yes, we have gone into the darkness of Good Friday, and tonight we will arise from our pews and go forward towards Sunday where we will hear about so much more. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

[1] James 1:15.

[2] Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics: Volume II (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1951), 312. 

Portions of this sermon are indebted to Rev. William Weedon’s Good Friday Tenebrae Sermon.

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