Good Friday: John 12:32-33: When the I Am is Lifted Up

The nails pierce, thorns stab, and blood feeds the ground.  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin, its poison, is the Law.  For what God commands from us requires perfection, but promises life to all who do what He demands.  For those who can’t, one finds only death since God’s Law also accuses and kills, dogging us to our demise. 

“Like Moses lifted the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted” (John 3:14).  Later, Jesus will reveal, only when He is lifted from this earth, will He draw all people to Himself (John 12:32).

So, God’s fallen, finagle and collude to hoist Jesus on a cross, above this earth’s soil.  In ages past, those of unclean lips, impure hearts, killed the Prophets, over and again.  Now, the coup de grace, of murdering the Prophet-Sender Himself.  Now caught, we cannot rationalize our greed and lust, if we are honest.  The unyielding Law presses us for payment, for we nailed God to His death.  What hope exists for such people as us?

Amid such sorrow and injustice, divine mercy still bleeds through for us.  In Jesus, we find a picture of righteous justice—for our iniquities.  Neither you or I pay this price, which reveals to us an incomprehensible grace, beyond the makings and markings of mortal men.  In the God made flesh, doing what we are unable, comes the antidote for failing to live as a holy people. 

Once, Jesus promised, referring to Himself, “Demolish this Temple, and in three days I will rebuild it” (John 2:19).  Destroy, we did.  Still, this must be so because the cure for sin resembles the sickness.  “The sinless One became sin for us so, in Him, we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

The Holy incarnation all comes down to this.  So, God the Father marshals every weapon of mass destruction against our Savior.  Selfish, self-serving men line up to satisfy their sinful wishes, Judas, Pilate, Herod, to name a few.  A wayward creation congregates to hurt and harm their Creator with thorns, nails, and spear. 

No escape for Jesus, as hammers pound and nails penetrate, piercing skin and tearing sinews.  Oh, the praying and pleading.  Still, these must take place.  So, Jesus grieves the abandonment of His Father, as He prays Psalm 22 in Aramaic.  How can He not?  All the sin of the world, including yours, falls on Him, on God’s Son made Man. 

Nailed to a Roman cross, lifted high, all within eyesight can catch this horrific execution.  Here, we witness the image of our sinfulness and God’s wrath.  The Son hangs, forsaken by His Father, damned in our place.  How appalling His wounds!  The people turn away and hide their faces. 

Do not turn away, not now, for here, you find your healing and understand mercy.  Realize, this is the meaning of this evening hour—deep and broad and awesome to behold.  The gloom of God’s Friday is not accidental.  No, these events are planned and purposeful.  The intent of the Christ-child, the goal of His calling and task, is to be the sacrificial victim, to offer His life as a stand-in for others, including you.  So, heaven’s Son comes into His world to fulfill a God-ordained purpose. 

Neither is this night of death some unfortunate, but needed, prelude for Easter.  For faith clings to the proclamation of St. Paul, “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).  So, Jesus’ death becomes the culmination of His Father’s plan to redeem the world—the pinnacle of creation history!

Tonight, faith acclaims this cross!  For in this implement of slaughter, faith finds, not only the display of undeserved kindness but also triumph.  So, as we wait for the final revealing of Christ at His return, we find our life in His cross, as He delivers to us what He achieved!  Such is the message and glory of the Son hanging on the killing tree. 

Though this punishment appears to be but rejection and weakness, His death-bringing cross declares our redemption.  For victory hides beneath His demise.  Though sounding forth as foolishness, death suffers the defeat, not Jesus.  The agony, anguish, pain, and death serve a preordained purpose.

Many Christians don’t like Jesus’ body dangling from a cross, asserting this denies the resurrection.  Only in God forsaking His Son, is our salvation.  Once, three crosses scarred the land, and each of them became empty.  A vacant cross tells us of a removed body, which may, or may not, rise forth from death’s entombment. 

Only one of the three will save—the stained cross, discolored by the divine blood of sacrifice.  Fixed to the wood, because the torment He endured, Jesus absolves us in His death.  A rough-hewn cross with a dead Jesus recognizes and rejoices in Him saving us from our sins.  For nothing else will. 

The empty tomb raises the banner of our liberation to and for eternal life.  The faithful Christian celebrates both, never playing one against the other. 

On this night, the Cup of Wrath drains, the prophesied Messiah dies for us, a renegade people.  Yes, this is the Day, which the Lord also made.  The Day Jesus died is the Day of your forgiveness.

Receive St.  John’s words on this:

Now my soul is troubled, and what should I say?  “Save me from this suffering, Father”?  No, for this reason, I came to this time.  For I, if I am lifted above this earth, will draw everyone to myself.  [John 12:27, 32]

So, what does this mean?  The hope we live in is because of Jesus’ innocent death, for He isn’t like His accusers—or us.  Never does He do what is convenient and expedient, like Pilate did.  Ponder what Your Lord does, while He suffers violence and scorn, as He perishes, He pardons His perpetrators!  Those who murder Him, He forgives, promising Paradise to a criminal, ensuring a home for His mother after He dies.

A love so selfless, so concerned for another!  A man lays down His life for His enemies, and God takes back those who kill His only Son.  The Messiah foretold from of old, the Savior of the world, is this Man. 

Encounter the heart and will of Christ, which you discover in His dying breath.  The flesh-born Son of the Father dies so we can live, becoming our deliverance.  So we are spared and can delight in fellowship with His Father, He endures Hell.  Forsaken, so we reprobates and miscreants can find acceptance in eternity. 

All retribution died in our Savior’s death.  Now, all is grace, forgiveness, and peace.  Through gruesome to take, we glory in this holy cross, because of what Jesus achieved.  For the Almighty, who killed His Son in our place, will not kill us.  The Son reveals the Father’s will and love for us, though wayward creatures, each and all.  Such is our Redeemer’s purifying sacrifice, which cleans and cleanses and declares us righteous before God.

So, we arrive at this place and time of the ending.  Out wheezes one last word, tetelestai, “All is complete!” The mission is a success, atoning for our every sin. 

The incarnate God, wearing our flesh and bones, finishes what He came to do.  To His final breath, He loves and placates His holy and irreproachable Father.  The ransom paid and the justice served.  Empty is the condemning cup.  The serpent’s head, now crushed.  No more does Satan smirk and accuse with slanders and lies. 

Though we are fallen creatures, Jesus reconciles us to the Father.  The achievement is real, and hell’s arsenal is now empty.  With nothing more to demand, He did everything!  Not over but accomplished!  The heaven-sent Son entered His creation, took on your human nature, to die in your place to save you. 

Now, He entrusts His soul to God.  Trained soldiers come to break His legs, but they find Him dead.  The centurion wants certainty.  So, He takes His lance and spears the side of Jesus.  Out gushes His water and blood.  Yes, Jesus is dead. 

The substance of His life pours out, from Him to us.  Silent now is Abel’s blood, this fallen world’s first murder victim.  For forgiveness now reigns, as Christ douses the smoldering fires of revenge. 

Now, hanging dead, gone are the groans and twitching of muscles.  The blood, drained from Christ’s body since He completed all.  Nothing is as bottomless as a pit, lifeless as a grave, hopeless as a tomb — the mildew, blood, and stink of flesh.  Devoid of breath, confined and constrained in the coldness of death.  Now, only darkness and the sealed stone.  All is ended, crucified, dead, and buried. 

Do not wallow in defeat, for this is a triumph.  Without Crucifixion Friday, Easter will never be, with Easter serving more as the vindication than the victory.  Only affixed to a splintered cross, does our enfleshed God vanquish death, proving His innocence, verifying His Word. 

The empty grave announces the Father accepted His sacrifice as payment in full.  Now, death has died, and the devil is impotent.  Now, Christ’s blood, which proclaims a better Word than death, enters our ears and purifies, justifies, and sanctifies.  Now, baptism is valid, communion is real, and faith saves.  Today, spoken words of pardon do their deed.  All because of Jesus, His perfect life and death for our imperfections. 

Soon, He will rise so He can resurrect us to immortality on the Last Day.  The Victor over the grave will bust out of earth’s belly to bring peace to God’s creation, to welcome us back into His Fold.  Today, death is dead.  Now, you can live.  Blessed is the saving Lord, who does all things well.  Amen.

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