Homily #1: John 18:1-9
The disciples witnessed many miracles - more miracles than they could include in the Gospel accounts. John the Evangelist admits this very thing near the end of his Gospel account with these words: [John 20:30 31] "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." These words teach us that the miracles of Jesus aren't just random acts. Instead, the miracles are signs that teach about the Christ - signs that the Holy Spirit uses to establish and maintain faith in us. On this Good Friday evening, we will consider seven of the miracles - the signs - that accompanied Jesus during the day of His crucifixion.
In modern times, we measure our days from midnight to midnight. The Jews of the first century measured their days from sundown to sundown. So we will begin with a miracle that Jesus did after sundown on the evening before His crucifixion.
Judas the Betrayer knew that Jesus would be alone with His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. He led a band of soldiers and some officers into Gethsemane for the purpose of arresting Jesus at a time when He was not surrounded by crowds.
No doubt, the soldiers came in numbers powerful enough to handle Jesus and the remaining eleven disciples. They need not have worried. The fulfillment of time had come. Jesus was prepared to go quietly. Never the less, a strange thing happened when they entered the Garden. AS Jesus identified Himself to the soldiers, they fell to the ground. Our text makes it clear that even Judas fell. It was not until the second time that Jesus identified Himself that the soldiers were able to arrest Jesus and lead Him away.
This little sign reminds us that there is no power that could FORCE Jesus to die on the cross. Jesus had the full power and authority to stop the events of that day at any time. Jesus could have had changed everything around so that His enemies would have ended up on the cross. He could have let the soldiers sleep and been far away from them by morning light. There were many ways for Jesus to avoid the cross, but He didn't.
This sign shows us that Jesus was passively obedient to His Father's will. This sign also shows us the incredible love that He has for us. He could have escaped at any time. Instead, He endured the shame, the pain, and the death of this day. This sign shows us the love that God the Father and God the Son have for us.
Homily #2: John 18:10; Luke 22:51
Here we see a different facet of love. Here is love on an individual level. At the same time that He is beginning to suffer for the sins of the entire world, He has time to deal with Malchus, a servant of the High Priest.
Simon Peter thought he would fight for the Lord. He was ready to take on the band of soldiers who came to arrest Jesus. He got in a lucky swing with his sword.
No doubt, Peter was trying to split Malchus's head right down the middle, but he missed. Instead of killing Malchus, he only managed to whack off Malchus's ear.
Jesus demonstrated the words of the Apostle Paul: [Romans 5:8] "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Not only does Jesus show His love on an individual level, but He also shows us what it means to love your enemy.
This miracle shows us that not only can we say that Jesus is the savior of the world - not only can we say that Jesus is our savior, but each and every one of us can say, "Jesus is my savior."
This miracle also shows us that no one can say, "My sin is too horrible for Jesus to forgive." No one can say, "I am too evil for Jesus to forgive." Jesus showed mercy to those who came to arrest Him. This miracle tells you that Jesus earned forgiveness for you as an individual no matter what sins you have committed.
Homily #3: Luke 23:39-43
The Holy Spirit is so generous with faith that we sometimes forget that faith is a miracle. We sometimes forget what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians. [Ephesians 2:1] You were dead in the trespasses and sins. Faith is a miracle of life from death. It is a miracle of resurrection.
What a miracle we have on the cross next to Christ's. The Bible tells us that Jesus was crucified between two criminals. At first, both of those criminals joined the crowd that was cursing and mocking Jesus. Even as they were about to die, these two criminals were trying to show that at least they weren't as bad as the guy who was crucified between them. Even in a criminal's death they were still trying to say that they weren't as bad as the other guy.
However, as time went by, the Holy Spirit worked the miracle of faith in one of the criminals. This miracle means that while this criminal was dying, he was also rising. The Old Man was dying and the New Man was rising to live before God in eternal righteousness and purity.
The New Man in this criminal rose up to confess his sin. And as he confessed his sin, he defended Jesus. Like the tax collector in the temple, the criminal understood that he deserved nothing from the Lord. He merely asked the Lord to remember him.
Jesus had sweet words of Gospel for this criminal. This criminal would spend that evening in paradise with his Lord and savior Jesus Christ. The man, who readily admitted that he was so evil that he deserved the cross, received forgiveness from the God-man who had done nothing wrong. With that forgiveness, came eternal life and salvation.
What a message of comfort we receive when we learn about the miracle of faith in the criminal on the cross.
Homily #4: Mark 15:33-36
My grandfather's farm had a barn with a hay mow. A rail ran the length of the barn hanging from the peak where the angles of the ceiling met. A Pulley system and hooks hung from the rail for the purposes of lifting hay into the hay mow. We cousins found the ropes that hung from those pulleys to be as much fun as any playground swing set you could dream of.
We cousins were swinging around on those ropes one time when I saw a bee land on one of the bales. I immediately called to my brother to see if he could take a swing on the rope and land on that bale. I thought it would be a great joke to scare my brother. I figured the bee would be just as frightened of my brother as my brother was frightened of the bee.
Well, my brother was an excellent athlete and he hit the bale dead center. Then the unthinkable happened. A cloud of stinging wrath rose up out of that bale. As I stand before you this day, I tell you the truth. I did not know that the bees had a hive in that bale. Even now as I tell you this story, my stomach is tied up in knots. I know that for the rest of his life, my brother had a pathological phobia of stinging insects.
God the Father put that sin on Jesus. Jesus experienced the very wrath of God that I earned with that sin. He experienced the wrath of God at each and every one of my sins. One by one, in a way that I can't possibly understand, Jesus experienced the punishment for the sins I have committed and the sins that still lie in my future. He also experienced God's punishment for the good deeds that remain undone in my life.
Jesus even paid for the big sin. King David wrote, [Psalm 51:5] Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Jesus experienced the hell I deserve for my original sin - my own sinful nature - the sin that meant that I deserved hell from the very beginning of my existence inside my mother. He paid for it all.
Jesus not only experienced the punishment of God for my sin, but He also experienced the punishment of God for every human being who will ever have lived. Billions and billions of times, He paid for the sinful mischief of childhood … the more sophisticated sins of the adult life … One by one, sin by sin, Jesus suffered the eternal wrath of God. From the sin inherited in the womb to the sin committed at the time of death, Jesus dealt with them all. Jesus absorbed the wrath of God for sin after sin after sin.
The members of the Holy Trinity relate to one another with bonds of absolutely pure agapé love. How does God the Father forsake God the Son? I can't understand it. Nevertheless, that is what happened on Good Friday. God the Father saw Jesus as He carried the sin of the world and God's holiness forced Him to turn away from that sin in disgust.
No mere human being can rightly understand the horror and pain that Jesus experienced at that time. All we can say is that the physical pain and suffering of the crucifixion were mere child's play when compared to the forsakenness that Jesus experienced on the cross for us. This is Jesus paying the penalty for our sin.
Jesus paid for each and every sin of each and every person. He paid for actual sins and He paid for original sins. He paid for sins of omission and sins of commission. He paid for it all. As the omniscient Son of God, He knows our every sin. As God in the flesh of man, He experienced the punishment for every sin. We cannot possibly understand the quantity or the quality of the punishment that Jesus endured when God the Father forsook Him. Is it any wonder that the sun itself refused to shine on this horror of horrors?
It is a miracle in itself that Jesus was even able to endure the eternal wrath of God for each and every one of our sins including the original sin we inherited at conception.. How much more of a miracle is it that He was able to do this all in three dark hours?
Homily #5: John 19:28-30
Jesus' work on the cross was a battle. This battle didn't happen only on the cross or even during Jesus ministry, but it started much earlier. It started before Jesus was born.
The battle passed through Eden. There, Adam and Eve sinned for the first time. There too, God makes the first promise of the savior.
The battle passed through the Ark that saved Noah and his family. There, God promised not to flood the earth again.
The battle passed through Abraham who offered up his only son Isaac and foreshadowed the sacrifice we remember today.
The battle passed through Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery, but God used him to save his family from starvation.
The battle passed through Moses. God used him to lead Israel from Egypt into the Promised Land.
The battle passed through David. God used him to make Israel into a great nation.
The time Jesus said, "It is finished." He was saying that he finished the battle that passed through all the history of this sinful world.
Satan started the battle in Eden, but Jesus finished the battle on the cross. The word, "It is finished," is a shout of triumph.
The word from the cross, "It is finished," is a comfort to us. It means that the terror of sin, death, and Satan have no power over us. Jesus defeated them and that is the great miracle of this day.
Homily #6: Matthew 27:51-53
The Bible frequently reminds us of the barrier of the law. Ever since Adam and Eve ate the fruit in Eden, there has been a barrier between us and God - the barrier of sin. Since God is sinless and we are sinful, we cannot be in God's presence.
One of the greatest signs of this separation was the curtain in the temple. The curtain formed a separation between the two main rooms in the temple. The room that was by far the one with the greatest significance was the Most Holy Place, sometimes called the Holy of Holies. This room was regarded as the very dwelling place of the true and living God in all of His holiness.
The curtain was 6 inches thick; it no doubt was a double curtain. It stood 60 feet high and was the width of the interior of the temple. This curtain formed a separation that reminded the people of the words that the Holy Spirit gave to the prophet Isaiah. [Isaiah 59:2] Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you.
This curtain was not the only form of separation by any means. Around the temple were walls, curtains, and courts, which separated the people in their sins from God in His purity and holiness.
This separation, of course, meant that the people had no access to God. Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place, going through the curtain, only once a year on the Day of Atonement with the blood of a bull or goat that had been sacrificed. The other priests had no access to the Most Holy Place. The laymen had no access to the Holy Place and only on occasion were allowed to enter the Court of the Priests. The women could go as far as the Court of the Women and no further. The Gentiles could go into the Court of the Gentiles, but could go no further. If they did, they might receive a death sentence.
The moment Christ died, all separation came to an end. One artist painted a picture that portrays the Holy Place at the moment of Christ's death. It shows the Holy Place as being in shambles. The curtain was being torn. The appointed furniture was toppled over and out of place. The priests were in the state of confusion. What the artist was trying to convey is the truth that the Ceremonial Law—with it's foreshadowing sacrifices, separation, and lack of access to God—had come to an end. It had been replaced with the reality of Christ crucified through whom we now have access to the Father.
The tearing of the curtain in the temple, the earthquakes, the open tombs, and the resurrections were all miraculous signs of the heavenly Father's welcome - the welcome that comes to us through Jesus Christ, His Son who shed His blood for us on Calvary. Through the faith worked in us by the Holy Spirit we have access to eternal life.
Homily #7: Mark 15:39
Earlier this evening we saw the miracle of faith in the thief on the cross. Now we move to the other end of the spectrum of crucifixion - the officer in charge of carrying out the sentence.
The officer was a centurion - an apt title for one who had the command of approximately one hundred soldiers. By the time a soldier reached the rank of centurion, he had proven that he was an above average leader. A typical Roman soldier was pagan, very coarse, very seasoned, very callous, probably very detached, unemotional, and uninvolved. A centurion on the other hand was more likely to be an officer and a gentleman. Don't get me wrong, a centurion could be absolutely brutal on the battlefield or in any other situation where he was commanded to kill, but he had the reason and sense to know that there must be a difference between battlefield behavior and behavior in normal society.
It is very likely that this centurion assisted Pontius Pilate during the trials - handling prisoners - crowd control - and the like. It is very likely that he witnessed every step of the sham trial before Pilate. He saw how Jesus carried Himself. He heard all the words Jesus spoke from the cross. He witnessed the darkness and the earthquakes. His duties required him to attend to every detail of the trials and the crucifixions on that day. He witnessed it all.
Throughout all of these events and words, the Holy Spirit was at work. We see the fruit of that work in the confession of the Centurion. The Bible tells us that the centurion saw the way that Jesus died. The Holy Spirit used this to work faith in the centurion. This was a faith that confessed, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"
Such saving faith is a miracle. It was a miracle in the thief. It was a miracle in the centurion. It is miracle today as we believe in Jesus Christ our Lord.
The confession of the centurion is such a miracle that the Holy Spirit inspired Mark to use this very confession as a statement of the main theme of his account of the gospel. The main response of human beings throughout Mark's Gospel account is the question, "Who is this?" It is only after the grand climax of the crucifixion, that a human being finally confesses the truth about Jesus - and it is a Gentile centurion. When the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" This Gentile centurion is the first human being in Mark's Gospel account to tell us that Jesus truly is the Son of God.
Webster's dictionary defines the word miracle as "an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention." The Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write, [1 Peter 3:18] "Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God." Here is the divine intervention upon which all other divine intervention depends.
The word used to describe the motive behind the pure and holy Christ taking our sins onto Himself that we might be the forgiven children of God is love — agapé love. Agapé love is God's type of love. It is a totally unselfish type of love. When Christ was hanging on Calvary's cross, He was thinking not of Himself but rather of you, me, and the world.
As we consider some of the miracles that surround the suffering and death of our savior, Jesus Christ, we see the miracles of suffering that earned our forgiveness. We also see the miracle of the word that delivers that forgiveness and the miracle of faith that receives that forgiveness. All of these miracles of the cross work together to bring the eternal blessing of God's love to us.
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