Psalm 130 (Good Friday—God’s Gift of Forgiveness)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
April 6, 2012
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is Psalm 130:
A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
What would happen to us if God kept score? What would happen if our Lord had a divine record book where every good deed and every misdeed is added up? Every time you sin, it counts against you, and every time you do something out of completely selfless motives, well, then those count in your favor. What would happen? Would you win or would you lose?
If God kept score like this, we would all lose. We would all languish in hell forever. God reminds us of this again and again in His Law. Sometimes an event will happen in your life or a sermon or Scripture passage will hit you right between the eyes, and God’s Law slams you against the wall, as it were. If God kept score, we would be forever lost. “If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3). The answer, of course, is no one. If the Lord held our sins against us, no one would survive. If God were to enter into judgment against us, not one of us would remain. If God measured us by the severe examination His righteousness demands, you and I would not be able to stand before Him. If God required an exact counting for our life, we couldn’t give an excuse either for a thousand sins or for one.
This is why the psalmist cries, “Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord!” (Psalm 130:1) Along with him, you and I confess that before God we are only worthy of eternal suffering. We tearfully confess that we justly deserve eternal imprisonment. As we gaze upon our Lord’s Passion and death, it becomes clear that He is dying upon the tree of the cross because of you and me. You and I are the crowd crying, “Crucify Him!” You and I are Herod, who gawked and hoped for some show. You and I are Pontius Pilate, who committed Jesus to death. We are the soldiers, who nailed Him to the cross. We are the disciples, who scattered at the thought of being caught on the wrong side. It is our sins that put Jesus on the cross.
We see God’s Son hanging on the cross, streams of blood flowing freely. Those cruel nails are our sins with which you and I have pierced His hands. Those horrible thorns are our sins with which we have crowned His holy head. Those sharply pointed lashes are our sins with which you and I have scourged His faultless body. Truly, the wounds of our souls must be great and deadly if they can only be healed because God’s only begotten Son is so wretchedly struck down. Truly, the disease of our souls must be great and deadly if it can only be cured because the heavenly Physician, Life itself, dies on a cross. (Adapted from Meditations On Divine Mercy, Johann Gerhard)
Left to ourselves, we are lost, alone and dead. Left to ourselves, we lose and our sins win. But we are not left to ourselves. That is the great, wonderful message of salvation that comes to you and me today. “If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared”
We learn two things from seeing Christ die on the cross that Good Friday so many years ago. First, we learn that our sins did put Him there. Second, we learn that Jesus went to the cross because God forgives. Forgiveness. It’s a word that slips off our tongue like it costs nothing. Yet it is the most expensive word in the whole world. Forgiveness cost Jesus Christ, the Son of God, His life. Forgiveness sent Him down to earth to be mocked and killed for you and me. Jesus Himself cried from out of the depths as He hung on the cross. He was abandoned and smitten by God, so that we would never face that great pain and suffering that He endured. It is in Christ’s death that we have redemption. Jesus purchased and won us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with silver or gold, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death. It is only in the death of Jesus that we may rejoice in God’s forgiveness. For when Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is Finished,” He paid the full price for the forgiveness of the world’s sin.
In Christ Jesus, God fulfilled the words first spoken in Psalm 130, “He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities [from all their sins]” (130:8). God redeemed you. He bought you back from sin, from Satan, and from death with Christ’s death on the cross. Christ has completely conquered the devil. He can no longer accuse you for your sins and you can resist His temptation. Through His suffering, death, and resurrection Jesus has triumphed over death. He now gives you eternal life so that you need not fear death. And Jesus has taken your guilt and punishment upon Himself. He has freed you from the slavery of sin by winning your forgiveness through His shed blood on the cross.
Jesus’ work of forgiving your sins goes on to this very day. In the Word of the Gospel, forgiveness of sins is given to you. In the water and Word of Holy Baptism, your sins are washed away. In the Gospel Word of Absolution, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” you receive forgiveness from the pastor as from God Himself. In the eating and drinking of Christ’s true body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine, you receive forgiveness for all your sins! This is all because of God’s great love for you in His Son Jesus. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Jesus said Amen to God’s love for you and so He died on the cross for you—for your forgiveness, for your eternal life.
“If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared.” There is bountiful forgiveness for you through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Because of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice on the cross, God doesn’t keep a record of our sins. They are all paid in full through the shed blood of Christ and are therefore forgiven, sent away, gone forever. With God there is only forgiveness because of this Good Friday. Our greatest good was accomplished on this day so long ago by Jesus Christ through His death on the cross—our forgiveness and eternal life. Therefore, “[we] wait for the LORD, . . . and in his word [we] hope; [our souls wait] for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O [people of God in Christ], hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he [has redeemed you] from all [your] iniquities.” Amen.