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Good Friday Chief Service

March 29, 2024; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz, Pastor

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What our Lord does for us in 
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Behold, My Servant

It is a gift that you see Him the way that you do. “Behold My Servant” says the LORD, and you have a picture in your mind of what He looks like—a handsome, bearded man, dressed in comfortable robes. We behold the Servant of the LORD washing the disciples feet, as in the Gospel reading from last night. We see Him riding peacefully on a donkey into Jerusalem as we played out in our minds during Sunday’s palm procession. How else do you see Him?


You see Him carrying a lamb on His shoulders, don’t you? You see Him welcoming the little children onto His lap. You see Him raising Jairus’ daughter by the hand from death. You see Him anointing the eyes of blind Bartimaeus. You see Him sitting respectfully talking with the woman at the well and with Nicodemas. You see Him calling Zacchaeus out of the tree.


In a few minutes we will remove the veil and you will see Him again, hanging on the cross. It is a rather pleasing sculpture—very smooth with no harsh edges, a soft, sleeping expression on His face. You see Him at peace in a death pose more gentle and pleasant than any mortician was ever able to accomplish. When you leave the chapel you see Him on the opposing wall of the narthex, a more gruesome depiction of Christ on the cross. That one is contorted and diseased, not exactly a welcome sight for us or for our visitors, but that is not how we see Him in our mind anyway, so no big bother.


It is in grace and mercy that the LORD bids you “Behold, My Servant.” You behold Him with love and tender thoughts. He is your dear Jesus, and you only have the LORD to thank that you behold Him that way. It is on account of your faith, a gift He gave you by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word. With eyes of faith we behold a dear Jesus, the Servant of the LORD, who willingly accomplished the will of His Father for our salvation.


But our Old Testament reading paints a more grim picture. It depicts a Jesus who looks radically different from lovingly sculpted statues. No soft edges there. It is the Jesus that the unbelieving world sees, the Jesus that the LORD presented through the prophet Isaiah to His people who had turned away from His gracious care.


It is the Jesus that your sinful nature sees apart from the eyes of faith. It is the Jesus that was in your view when you were an enemy of God, dead in your trespasses and sins. The way we saw Him before our baptism, before the Holy Spirit called to us through the Gospel, when our eyes were darkened and there was no antidote in us to put the virus of our sinful nature into remission. It is the Jesus that you will see if you depart from the faith revealed to you in the Scriptures and proclaimed in the Church.


“Behold My Servant,” says the LORD, and your jaw hits the floor. Words fail you at the sight. He was a gory sack of flesh, barely recognizable as a man. You had never heard of anything so horrifying. You had never seen anything so sickening, for that which had not dared been spoken, you saw. You saw a tortured and diseased dead man thrust before you eyes without any warning.


The sight was unbelievable. You didn’t know that the LORD was accomplishing anything good through that. It was repellent. You cannot help but turn your head toward a car wreck, but this you couldn’t force yourself to watch. What on earth did He do to come out looking like that? What evil did He get caught up in? Who did He get riled to give Him such a beating? What was He messing around in to end up in that condition?


You don’t want to look at Him, because He might see you and then make some appeal for your mercy and compassion. But you wouldn’t be able to bring yourself to talk to Him, let alone touch Him. The bitter vomit would rise in the back of your throat. What did He do that God would treat Him like that?


Your sinful nature wants nothing to do with this man. It shares that opinion with the unbelieving world. And the fact that you don’t want to look at Him the way He really is on the cross confirms that your sinful nature is still a force within you. You don’t want to see what really happened to Him, how disfigured He was on the cross. You want to shut your eyes and close your mind.


You don’t want a God like that. You don’t want a Saviour who looks like a pile of maggoty meat. You don’t want a heavenly Father who would do anything like that to His Son. You want that soft, smooth sculpture unveiled again. You can look at a soft Jesus. He doesn’t look too bloody and disfigured there.


The reason your sinful nature hides its face from a true, realistic picture of Christ on the cross (the picture that Isaiah paints of Him) is that it doesn’t want to acknowledge why Christ looked so horrible and disgusting. You don’t want to acknowledge that it was not of any fault of His own that He looked that way, that He suffered so, that He was stricken, smitten, beaten, not just by frenzied Jews and cruel Romans, but that He was afflicted by God.


And the reason of course is not that He was into anything evil, but you were. It was your diseases that infected His body. It was your pains that tortured Him. He was beaten for your transgressions and crushed into the ground for your iniquities. That is why you don’t want to look at the full extent of His injuries.


You don’t want to see the sickening puss weeping from His wounds. That is the infection of your sin that He has taken into His own body. The punishment that He endured at the hands of Jews, Romans, and His heavenly Father, was so severe that it was the full punishment for every sinful thought, word, and deed that you will ever do. You don’t want to look at Him as He really is on the cross because you don’t want to look at yourself, who you really are on account of your sin.


“Behold My Servant” says the LORD, reaching out to you and to a lost world with His grace and mercy. Behold, so that you will know your peace does not come from Jesus carrying a lamb on His shoulders. Good feelings come from the Shepherd, and we are so grateful that He does seek the lost, and rescue them and bring them home. But we somehow see this Servant accomplishing this without getting a single grass stain on His tunic. Thank the LORD that you can see Jesus that way, strong and smiling, and clean.


But the lost can only have peace because Jesus, the Son of God in the flesh, was bloodied and beaten to death. That is the only reason that His arms open wide to little children has any true eternal significance. Without the image of Jesus that we don’t want to look at, the ones that we enjoy are impotent, powerless, and perhaps appealing to our sinful nature trying to push out of our faithful sight the glory of God on display at the crucifixion, the love of Jesus as He laid down His life for His friends.


“Behold My Servant” the LORD says. I have laid on Him the iniquity of you all, and look what it did to Him. Those who do not believe, and our sinful nature that does not want to acknowledge this, would pay Him no regard. Let Him be dead and taken out of sight. Come and collect the body. Clean up this mess so that we don’t have to avert our eyes.


He had done no violence. There was no deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to do this to Him. He was delighted to crush His Servant. It was His good pleasure to set the life of Jesus to be the reparation for your sins. God was glad to do it. He was content to gaze upon this horror on the cross. It was delightful because it brought you into His arms. It is reason for rejoicing because this is how He has carried you upon His shoulders. He has opened your eyes to behold His Servant so that you might see your salvation. He calls to you to share in His pleasure, delight, and joy at this Servant, the one that Isaiah describes.


That sacred head so wounded, though despised and gory, has become your joy. There is nothing sweeter than the face of Jesus. The gloomy mask of death has become a repose of peace. “Behold My Servant” that you might see the horror that He has suffered in love for you, and forever find beauty, glory, and majesty in the cross of Christ.

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