Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Homily - John 19:1-42

March 29, 2013 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

“What I have written I have written.” Pilate’s words are meant to insult and anger the chief priests. They had stridden into his fortress at the crack of dawn, hauling along a Man who had already been beaten by them. He had found nothing in this Jesus of Nazareth to condemn Him. Corporal punishment was doled out to appease their demands. But even the scourging and the mocking were not enough to please them: “Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the Man!’ When the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law He ought to die because He has made Himself the Son of God.’”

Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back: “The Jews cried out, ‘If you release this Man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.’” Now they had threatened his political career. There would be no going home to Rome should this get out. Letting someone claim to be a king run free in Palestine would be the end of him. And so he takes the way out: “Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ So he delivered Him over to them to be crucified.”

But Caesar’s representative speaks one last word, fires one last salvo: “Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’” Rome would make the definitive statement on the matter. And even when Jerusalem complained, Pilate was unmoved: “So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but rather, “This Man said, I am King of the Jews.”’” Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’” That’s the last word in Pilate’s mind.

Yet, the last word in the matter of Jesus’ crucifixion does not belong to Pilate. What he wrote remains known even to this day. But what matters is not his inscription. Neither do the charges that were brought against Jesus by the chief priests. No, the last word belongs to the Lord: what He has written He has written. What the Lord has spoken determines the matter. You have heard what He has spoken—both in the Scripture readings and the responses from Isaiah’s prophecy.

“What I have written I have written.” That is the Lord’s statement to us. He says that to us who have made demands of Him. He says it to us who have taken liberties with all His graciousness. He says it to us who find that what He provides isn’t good enough. He says it to us who have run rampant over His creation. He says it to us who have found all sorts of things to condemn about Him, but find no fault in ourselves. He says it to us who have substituted our laws for His just decrees.

The Lord’s word is spoken: “I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth, and My judgment goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” The fault of the people is made known. That pronouncement stands written, even today.

The Lord has also spoken about Jesus and His work: Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for guilt, He shall see his offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the Righteous One, My servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” The righteousness of the Messiah is made known. That decree of the Lord also stands written.

The Lord speaks about the effects of Jesus’ work for the world: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” The benefit given through Jesus’ acts is made known. That statement of the Lord also stands written.

So the Lord says to us: “What I have written I have written.” He does not intend it to be an insult as Pilate meant his statement to be. No, He intends it to be the declaration that discloses why Jesus endured all the suffering and pain, the bitter griefs and woes. It is the final verdict in the matter of Jesus: there is no guilt in Him; He truly is the Son of God; salvation for mankind has been finished by His acts; His righteousness is meant for those who had none; by His not being released, we have become the friends of the Lord. This is the last word.

That last word informs what we say this night. We offer our prayers on the basis of what the Lord has said, on what stands written: “By Your dreadful crucifixion, by the raising of Your cross, by the anguish that You suffered, by Your prayers and tears, by the insults that You endured, by the shedding of Your most precious blood, by Your patience and humility, by the love with which You loved us to the end, O Jesus, deliver us.” And the Lord answers: “You are delivered. Your salvation is completed. You are forgiven. It is finished. The Scriptures have been fulfilled. What I have written I have written. I have spoken, the matter is ended.”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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