John 19:28-34 (Good Friday)
“A Real Death for You”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
April 10, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text is from John, chapter 19:
28After this, Jesus, knowing that now everything is finished, in order to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I thirst.” 29A jar full of sour wine was there. Therefore, the put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30When, therefore, he received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is finished.” And he bowed his head and gave up the spirit. 31Therefore, the Jews, since it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies might not remain upon the cross pm the Sabbath, for that Sabbath was a high day, they asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and they should be removed. 32Therefore, the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus, as they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, 34but one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water.
Jesus’ death was real.
He had not merely passed out or fainted. He had not “faked it” in any way.
The soldier’s spear pierced Him. It is thought that this spear pierced the pleural cavity near the heart and opened a stream of blood mixed with water. Jesus was dead and was pronounced to be so. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate himself, had it confirmed to him that Jesus “the King of the Jews” was deceased, allowing Joseph of Arimathea to take away His lifeless body.
The death of Jesus was real.
And Good Friday gives us all a much-needed opportunity to look upon Jesus, who was crucified, died, and was buried. The death of Jesus was real, and it was for you. It was for you who needed from God what you could not attain for yourself.
It was for your sins and mine, for our iniquities, for our falling short of the glory of God that Christ suffered and died on the cross. Sin is serious. It separates forever people from God. It merits for us only everlasting death and hell, an eternity of suffering. There is no way possible that humanity could save itself. There is no way possible that you and I could fulfill any of the Scriptures since we can’t even keep the Ten Commandments. For example, you and I don’t always expect only good from God in every situation. Rather, we worry, doubt, complain, and feel unfairly treated when things go wrong. Not one of us has always trusted God to answer our prayers according to His good and gracious will. How often in our lives have we despised or angered our parents and other authorities, failing to honor, serve and obey, love and cherish them, even when we disagree? We haven’t always spoken the truth in love. No, we gossip, listen to rumors, and take pleasure in talking about other’s mistakes and faults. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All of us have failed to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
That’s sin—every thought, word, deed, and desire that is contrary to God’s perfect Word for us in the Bible. The Bible says that we were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1). Our death to sin was real, just as real as the death of Jesus. Dead is dead. No life. No salvation. Only punishment. Only hell. Only separation from God forever and ever. “Just as a dead body cannot raise itself to bodily, earthly life, so a person who by sin is spiritually dead cannot raise himself to spiritual life.”
For this reason, our heavenly Father sent us His One-of-a-Kind Son to complete, in our place, what we could never accomplish. Christ, as True Man, fulfilled (completed) God’s Law for us. Where we daily sin and fall short and fail, Jesus succeeded. Jesus kept the Commandments perfectly. He fulfilled the divine law to love the Lord and to love our neighbor. So, to fulfill the Scripture, Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Gal 4:4-5)
Because of our sins and utter failure to fulfill God’s holy Law, Jesus also had to satisfy the demands of God’s justice: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). And, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). So the Son of God, Jesus Christ, took on human flesh and dwelt among us without sin, full of grace and truth, for the very purpose of completing the salvation of all people by shedding His holy, precious blood in death. Only Jesus Christ, true Man and true God, could accomplish this. The salvation of a person costs too much—the very blood and the very life of Jesus, the Christ, God-made-flesh. The fact that it was God in Christ who fulfilled the Law and suffered for our sins, gives infinite value and saving power to the work our Redeemer completed, finished, on the cross.
So as it reached the three o’clock hour on Good Friday, Jesus knew that now everything stood completed regarding our salvation. He had carried our sins in His body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds [we] have been healed (1Peter 2:24). He was forsaken by God the Father, abandoned to suffer hell as He hung on the cross in darkness. His blood had been poured out to cleanse all people from their sins (1 John 1:7). Our salvation had been won. Forgiveness had been purchased. And there was only one thing left to fulfill Scripture, “I thirst.” Psalm 69:21, “For my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” And from Psalm 22, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” (Ps. 22:14-15)
When, therefore, Jesus received the wine he said, “It is finished.” And what He meant was this: “The work of saving people from their sins is done. I have suffered their punishment of hell. I have shed my blood to buy their forgiveness. Now, I will also endure death for them so that I might forever defeat death by my resurrection.” And bowing His head He gave up the spirit. Out of love for you and me, sinners all, Jesus willingly gave up His soul into real death so that you might live forever with your God and Savior. Death now has no power over you. Because . . .
It is finished! Your sins are forgiven. Everlasting life is yours. Sin, Satan, and death have been vanquished by the perfect sacrifice and real death of Jesus, the Son of God. But that’s not the last word—Jesus lives, and the victory is won! Amen.
 Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 478.