Behold, Your Dead Hero!

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Death is ugly.  It is messy.  It is painful.  And it is scary.  As a result, most people try to avoid it. 

And so, we try to avoid death in a number of ways.  The easiest way to avoid death is to simply not think about it or talk about it.  But quite frankly, this does not work all the time.  Death is always hovering in the background.  Death is always on our minds – even when we don’t know it.  Death seems to be very present in our subconscious mind.  

This is the reason why we try to live life to the max.  That is right; we humans strive to have our lives free.  We try to escape shame and guilt.  We aspire to high and lofty things so that we can try and transcend death itself.  Don’t believe me?  Consider a moment how we Americans make everything ‘super.’  In other words, nothing can be just ordinary in America – everything has to be ‘super.’  Our vehicles must have super-sized engines.  Our meals must be super-sized.  Our toilet paper and paper towels are super-sized and extra strong.  Our houses are big.  Our beds are king-sized.  Our children cannot be ordinary but must be super and special in all they do.  
We can also see the need for things to be super in the movies, shows, and books that we consume.  Consider our movies, shows, and books for a moment.  In our stories, everyone is super-powered.  The children’s ‘Power Rangers’ are not just ordinary Power Rangers but ‘Super’ Power Rangers.  The dogs in the children’s show ‘Paw Patrol’ are not ordinary dogs but ‘Mighty Pups,’ or ‘Super Paws.’  Later in life, our children transition into other Superheroes such as ‘Super Spider-man,’ or ‘Super Man,’ and ‘Mighty Thor.’  To the point, we love the stories that we do because they are an alternative universe – a fantasy world – where our heroes transcend death.  We like to identify with these heroes because we want to be super-powered, like them, to escape the threat of death.  It feels good to be super - free from the sting of death.  

Now, please understand, I am not advocating at this point to do away with superheroes.  I am not advocating for us to boycott Paw Patrol or Marvel Comic.  It is fun to escape into an exciting story of might and power, where the superhero defies death and overcomes evil.  But instead, the point that is being made is that throughout our days and in the daily grind of our lives, we seek out things that are super and mighty. From morning to evening, we are drawn to stories and events that apparently transcend death.  We read books that tell us how to achieve our best life now.  We watch movies where the heroes have great victories.  We surround ourselves with people who are movers and shakers in life – people that are going places.  We sing songs with great musicians that say we are invincible, powerful, unstoppable, strong, a survivor, and can’t be held down. In a word, we Americans attach ourselves to things that are mighty, big, powerful, courageous, and brave, because we are not mighty, brave, powerful, and courageous in the face of death itself.  We are not immortal but mortal, which is the reason why we grab ahold of things that can make us feel immortal – if only for a brief moment.   

Considering all of this, Good Friday presents a very big problem for you, me, and America. It is problematic because tonight all of our super-powered endeavors – our attempts to escape death – come to an end.  Tonight we stare at the bloody cross of Golgotha.  Here tonight, Good Friday destroys our appetite for the super and mighty.  Good Friday does not allow us to transcend or escape the reality of death.  Tonight, we do not hear about a super-powered Jesus who escapes the jaws of death.  

No wonder why it is not uncommon for many Christians to want to skip Good Friday church services.  Good Friday ruins everything for us Americans.  No wonder why so many preachers skip over the darkness of Good Friday and preach Resurrection Sermons on Good Friday instead of focusing on the bloody cross.  

Dear friends, we must understand that there is a very big temptation for us to go straight from the festivities of Palms Sunday to Resurrection Sunday.  Deep down, we want to take a bypass around the darkness of death on Good Friday.  The obvious reason why?  The reality of death ruins everything for us – it brings us back to reality.  

That is why we struggle with the real Jesus of Mt. Calvary. A bloody Jesus tends to ruin the games we play.  A sorrowful Jesus tends to blow up our fantasy worlds.  A bleeding Jesus tends to strip us of the silly and puny power that we think we have.  The Christian faith – unlike the world – does not say, 
“You are mighty and powerful - you have greatness within. You are cosmically special.’ 
But instead, the Christian faith points to Jesus – dead on a cross and says, 
“Behold, your dead hero.”  
Christianity says, 
“Behold the bloody cross.  It was the will of the Lord to crush your hero.”
If you are shuffling in your pews right about now – good.  You and I should be.  If Jesus is our superhero, and if He died on a cross, it should undue all our silly power grabbing games.  The reason why?  By giving Himself into death, Jesus did not transcend death but walked right into it.  And if Jesus walked right into death – death on a cross – it reveals the sting of death to you and me.  Again, no wonder why so many Christians despise Good Friday and clamor to quickly get to Resurrection Sunday.  The death of Christ reveals the terror of death, and it brings us face to face with our deaths.  

Dear friends, frankly stated and as previously said, much of our existence is lived in fantasy and fairytales where we try to avoid the reality of death.  We say, “I am not afraid to die,” but in truth, we really are afraid to die.  Our actions betray us.  The worry we have at the doctor’s office, the fear that we have amid a pandemic, the ways we try to mask the decay of our mortal bodies, the books we read, the stories that we listen to, and the pep talks we give ourselves about being mighty and powerful, all reveal our terror of death. 

And real Christianity – not some half-baked positive-motivational-pseudo-Christianity – well… it brings us down to reality.  It shows us that death is real because sin is real.  Sin has real consequences in this life, which is death.    

Dear friends, tonight, look straight upon the cross of Christ despite what you feel and think.  See reality.  It is uncomfortable to do this – no doubt about it.  But it is good. 

Tonight, live in reality.  Behold your dead hero on a cross – Christ-crucified. 

Do not cover your eyes.  Do not bow your heads.  Do not scurry to find might and power apart from the cross of Christ.  

Baptized Saints, hear this tonight, the power of Christ is not in Him somehow avoiding or bypassing death. The super-power of Christ is not in Him dodging or fending off death itself.  But instead, the might and power of Christ are in Him willingly giving Himself into the jaws of death – for you.  The cross is the dynamite power of God – for your salvation.

Baptized Saints, tonight, do not cling to Christ because He somehow avoids death on a cross.  Do not celebrate Christ as if He is a hero who has the inside scoop on how to skirt around Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday's victories.  Never forget, the way to Resurrection Sunday is not around Good Friday but through Good Friday.
Tonight cling to the bloody Christ because His cross is your cross.  His death is your death. Your sin becomes His sin – on that cross.  

Yes, behold your hero whose death poured forth blood and water for you.  

Behold your hero who takes away the sin of the world by bleeding and dying.  

Behold the death of Christ – the death you are baptized into.   

Behold Christ’s death, which is your sanctuary in the agony of sin and hope’s anchor amid life’s afflictions.  

Behold Christ’s death which is the end of sin’s guilt, death’s fear, and the devil’s power.  Do not look around Christ’s cross, above it, or behind it, but right at it.  

And as you look directly at the cross of Christ, hear the words of your hero.  Hear words of reality, 

“It is finished. It is done. All is complete.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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