Good Friday

Preached: April 10, 2009

How Unfair!
2 Corinthians 5:21

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to our crucified and risen Savior is 2 Corinthians 5:21

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our crucified and risen Savior:

It's not fair! Billy got more ice-cream than I did. It's not fair! I was only going five miles over the speed limit and got a ticket, but so-and-so races to work every day and gets away with it. It's not fair! I work and work to get ahead but still fall short, while those neighbors have money to burn. It's not fair! It's not fair that my husband was taken away from me so quickly. It's not fair that my wife lingers on in such dementia pain.

It's not fair! How often that complaint, in one form or another, lingers in our hearts! Even if we keep it from escaping our lips, self-pity is never too far from our thoughts. And isn't this complaint an underhanded way of blaming God? Twisted up in all the it's-not-fair's is the underlying challenge: “Why don't you make it fair, God! Are you unjust, unable, or just plain don't care?” And that's blasphemy.

We could take the hard attitude: Life's not fair, so just suck it up. But that doesn't change the sin inside us. Self-pity and the blaming of God still storm in our hearts. We just try to shout that old cliché loud enough so we can imagine that we're accepting life. But don't fool yourself. A part of you and a part of me figures we've got a bum deal from God in one way or another.

If you think your life's unfair, look at Jesus. He hadn't committed any crime, but was arrested in the middle of the night. And where was due process? The Jewish Sanhedrin trumped up charges against him. They browbeat Pilate to execute him. Pilate knows Jesus is innocent, yet he has Jesus whipped and humiliated, thinking that he could satisfy the people short of execution. How unfair that alone was! But the people kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” How unfair the crown of thorns and the purple robe! How unfair the nails and the mocking and the public shame. If you think life is unfair for you, look at how bad Jesus had it.

But if that's what Good Friday means to you, you're headed for hell. For Jesus did not come to be an inspiring example of how to bear up under unfairness. He did not come so that we could say, “Well, I guess I don't have it as bad as he did.” We are not here today to lament how unfairly Jesus was treated and find in his suffering an example of how to face the unfairness of life.

No. We are here today to see why Jesus suffered so. Why did he die? What caused him such anguish, pain, and affliction? You did. And you, and you, and you, and me. “Ah, I also and my sin Wrought your deep affliction; This indeed the cause has been Of your crucifixion” (Christian Worship “Jesus, I Will Ponder Now” 98:3). If you want fairness, if you want life to be fair to you ; that ought to be you and me on the cross. And I'm not just talking the nails and the shame. The physical torture and emotional trauma was secondary. You and I ought to be forsaken by God, abandoned by him, left for the unquenchable fire of hell. That's what Jesus suffered on that cross. He suffered our hell, yours and mine.

For you see, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus became our sin, every last one of them ; the big and the small, the known and the unknown, the open and the hidden, the inherited sinfulness and the sinful thoughts, words, and actions, our failures to do right and our stepping over the line of his law. Jesus became our sin. On that cross he suffered the full fury of God's burning wrath against every sinner. Hear it in his cry from the unknown depths of hell. “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The Lord God is a holy God. He is a consuming fire. He hates all who do wrong. And all that righteous hatred, all that just anger, all that holy wrath, he hurled at Jesus instead of us. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).

So on this Good Friday, examine your hearts. Confess your sin. Repent. See your sin for the horror that it is. Don't excuse it or dismiss it or downplay it. Repent. Believe that Jesus became your sin, even your most horrible sin. Believe, as unfair as it sounds, believe that God punished Jesus in your place. He punished him for all your sins, from the least to the greatest. He punished him instead of you. And Jesus knowingly and willingly accepted it all. That's why this is not a breach of justice. He went uncomplaining forth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter, he did not open his mouth. For he willingly carried our sin. He willingly suffered our hell. He willingly died our death. What a Savior he is! Your Savior!

And in exchange for our sin, God gives you Jesus' perfect record. He gives you Jesus' righteousness. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). See his righteousness, his perfect obedience. Even when forsaken by the Father on the cross, Jesus continued in perfect obedience, calling out to God, my God. What flawless righteousness! For Jesus perfectly obeyed his heavenly Father, fully completing the mission the Father sent him to do, declaring: “It is finished.” Mission accomplished! Sin is paid for.

So Jesus' righteousness does indeed stand up before God's holy justice. Jesus' righteousness will not fail you. Believe that because of Jesus you are right in God's sight. Despite the sins you know, despite the many sins we're oblivious too, nonetheless you are right in God's sight through faith in Jesus. For God has promised that Jesus' righteousness, his right status, counts for you. Faith takes God at his word.

Yes, life is unfair. But what great good news that is! How unfair that Jesus was punished in our place! But what good news for you and me! How unfair that Jesus' righteousness counts for guilty sinners! But what good news for you and me! And in the glorious light of this unfairness that saves us, we can face all the other so-called unfairnesses of this life. For Jesus has died to bring you eternal life. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313