Three Words From the Cross – April 7th, 2023

Sermon for Good Friday, 2023, Random Lake 4/7/2023
Text: John 19:16b-42
Introduction. For centuries Christian people have claimed the privilege
of hearing the words of the Passion Narrative according to St. John. Tonight,
we remember the dramatic account of Jesus’ suffering and death for us.
There is a majestic tone, as well as real tension,
throughout the arrest and trials of Jesus. The dialogue involving Jesus with
Pilate is crisp, painfully real, and dripping with irony. But most of all, St.
John makes it clear that Jesus is in control. Throughout these events, Jesus
seems to be marching to the cross. He goes freely in fulfillment of his
destiny as Son of God and Savior of all humanity. He, not Pilate, is Lord.
John’s Passion Narrative does not omit the disrespect
shown to Jesus. The psychological assaults on him are actually drawn out
and magnified. The physical beating, the mocking, the crown of thorns are
not ignored by the evangelist. But the amazing strength and dignity of our
Lord dominates the account.

Jesus stands up to every challenge. He never flinches
from his adversaries—the religious and governmental elite. He goes the
way of the cross that he has predicted in fulfillment of the Scriptures and
most of all in love for all people. In John’s account, there is no agony in the
garden, and Jesus carries his own crossbar to Golgotha. The “place of the
skull” is at the public crossroads. Jesus is stripped of his clothing, but
certainly not of his divine glory or true humanity.

To the end of his dying, even when blood and water gush

from his side, he is as John wrote in the beginning of his gospel:

The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his
glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and
truth…From his fullness we have received grace upon grace.
Notice that John reports three times that Jesus spoke from
the cross. Tonight, I invite you to think with me briefly about these THREE


I. The FIRST WORD Jesus spoke to his mother and “the disciple
whom Jesus loved”—widely believed to be St. John. He said to his mother,
“Woman, here is your son. Then he said to the disciple, “Here is you
mother.” “From that hour” records the Evangelist; “the disciple took her
into his own home.”
I propose to you this night that we are his beloved disciples. Our
Lord was in the process of forming new relationships for everyone. He was
giving his life to mend all the broken relations—all the terrible failures in the
human family—caused by sin and death. He was doing away with all that
separates us from one another. The strife in families, the tensions and pain
we all experience from time to time, but most of all the life-destroying
violence that plagues our planet—all was dissolved into his brutal death.
A new family was being formed—men and women, people of every
generation, ethnic origin, and social status—all being made one in the death
and resurrection of the Son of God. The broken hearted are made whole.
God is reconciling the world to himself. And we are made family.
II. The SECOND WORD that Jesus spoke from the cross (recorded by
John) is “I thirst.” The evangelist says that Jesus spoke this simple sentence
to fulfill all the Scriptures. “Jesus’ thirst shows that he shared the basic
needs of humanity. What is more basic than water?
Some in the early church questioned whether The Christ was a true
human, arguing that God could not in any way be involved in suffering and
dying. They focused only on Jesus’ teaching and miracles. They claimed
that the God-part of Jesus entered into him at his baptism and left before the
Passion. Jesus saying, “I thirst” puts an end to that speculation.
Dehydrated, exhausted, and at the edge of the abyss, Jesus takes a sip of
wine—wine that will resonate in sacramental celebrations of the Church.
III. The THIRD WORD that Jesus spoke from the cross was: “it is
finished.” You may remember the time when James and John asked Jesus
for the privilege of being on his right hand and on his left when he entered
his kingdom. Jesus told them then that they did not know what they were

asking. Tonight we see what he meant, as we recall that two others, robbers
or terrorists, were hanging on either side of Jesus.
At the time of his disciples’ naïve question, Jesus told them that he
had a baptism to be baptized with and how he was constrained until it was
accomplished. Tonight we see his baptism into death accomplished.
“Finished” and “accomplished” translate the same Greek word.
It was all finished. Jesus had modeled for us the perfect servant life.
He did everything necessary to rescue us from sin and death and bring us
into the family of God, forgiven and whole.
Here are some highlights of Jesus’ complete life according to John.
[1] Jesus turned water into wine—signaling joy to be the hallmark of God’s
gracious rule. [2] When a Roman centurion travelled twenty-five miles to
ask this Jewish teacher to heal his son, Jesus sent him back home with a
promise that his son would live. With amazing faith, the Roman officer
went all the way home with just that promise. And the child lived. [3] At
the pool of Bethesda, Jesus called a lame man back to health out of his
depression and whining. [4] A blind man received sight. [5] Lazarus was
raised from the dead after four days. All human blindness and death were
doomed in the courageous, faithful obedience of the Son of God.
In the end, nothing could stop Jesus from accomplishing his mission.
The betrayal of Judas, the denial of Peter, the cowardice of those who ran
and locked the door—nothing could stop God’s saving work in Jesus.
Neither the political maneuvering of Pilate nor the conniving of religious
leaders could thwart God’s plan to rescue humanity. With regal confidence,
perfect humility, and trust in God’s glory, Jesus said, “It is finished.”
IV, People of God, do you realize God’s gift this day? Are you willing to
put all your sins, failures, and frustrations on the cross with Jesus? Are you
willing to say goodbye to all that holds you back or drags you down? In
Christ, all the bad stuff is past. The future glows with possibilities for
forgiveness and good choices. Go forward in faith. Serve in joy.
Conclusion. One Good Friday I came back from college burdened
with the weight of the world’s folly. Perhaps I had learned too much about

myself as well as human history. The brokenness of society and even the
failures of the church weighted heavily upon me. Then I went to church.
It was when the choir sang, that God’s truth lit up my

brain and my soul with the words of Isaiah:
All we like sheep have gone astray, we have all turned to our own
way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
That’s it, I suddenly realized. We are all here, brought together at the
cross. Broken by sin, each part of the ruined world, we are included in
Isaiah’s words:
Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows…but he
was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon
him was the punishment that made us whole and by his stripes we
are healed.
Jesus knows all about us, and we are still destined to drink forever of
the water of life. Like Mary and John, we are all baptized into the death and
resurrection of Christ. We are all in the new relationship of brothers and
sisters in Christ, a new humanity. His thirst tells us that he understands. To
all our ills Jesus says, “It is finished.” Grab these words and take them deep
into your heart: THREE WORDS FROM THE CROSS.

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