We’ve been preparing to hear about Jesus’ Death for over a month now. We’ve heard the Passion account from all 4 Gospels combined over these last few weeks; tonight we’ve heard the account of His Crucifixion and Death. This is the center of our faith. If He hadn’t died and rose, we’d be wasting our time sitting here tonight. But since He died for our sins and rose again, He speaks to us through His Word to strengthen our faith in Him to bring us to everlasting life.
Pilate didn’t want to kill Jesus. He felt like all Judea had forced him to kill Jesus. Yet God had preserved many who did not want Him to die for crimes He had not done. He also had preserved Pilate’s wit. The Jews weren’t happy when he wrote out the notice for The Cross. The Romans would tell you on a sign why the criminal deserved to die so you wouldn’t do it too. So Pilate himself wrote out: INRI – Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.
The Jews didn’t want to be confronted with this. They wanted Pilate to say He merely claimed to be King of the Jews. They didn’t want Him to be their King. They wanted, at least for that day, Cæsar to be their king. They didn’t really want Cæsar to rule them. They just didn’t want David’s Son yet David’s Lord to rule them. They proved that when they rebelled less than 40 years later, an event that led to the destruction of their Temple, just like Jesus had foretold.
They didn’t want Him to be their King. They wanted a King to rescue them from Rome, but He had no intention of doing that. They had no desire to be rescued from sin, because they believed they had no sins for God to forgive. They believed God could never be Man, man to deliver. But that is precisely why He is King, our King.
Pilate discovered He had no intentions to rule Judea. He mocked Him for claiming to be King of truth – apparently Pilate was a man of our time who believes in nothing being absolutely true, but each person can decide what’s true for himself or even think that everything is a lie and we’re in the matrix. But Jesus is King of truth. He decides what’s true and what isn’t. Truth is on His side. Falsehood is on Satan’s side, for he said the first lie. Falsehood damns. Truth saves.
But He is King of the Jews. The genealogy that begins St. Matthew’s Gospel shows Jesus is the rightful heir to David’s throne. He would have been their earthly ruler had He not allowed the throne to be overthrown by Nebuchadnezzar nearly 600 years before. And Jacob himself foretold that when the scepter departed from Judah Shiloh would come. So when the Maccabees were no longer in control and Esau’s descendent Herod the Great was ruling, Shiloh came as long foretold.
Then Jacob says that the peoples would gather to Him. When? When he got off the donkey and her colt to wash His garments in wine. That’s the image of The King of the Jews Jacob wanted his descendants to have. When He rode the donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday He was signaling that the time had come to bathe Himself in His own Blood. “And I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people to Myself,” He says.
He bathed Himself in His Blood when He was lifted up on The Cross. This is what has drawn you to Him. You are not drawn by His Spirit to a new lawgiver, someone who teaches you how to love people by just getting along and letting everything go so license is called moral. You are not drawn to someone who tells you that you better do this, and this, and that other thing exactly right if you want to be saved. You are not drawn to someone who is out for your money or someone who just wants to control the mindless masses, or who even just wants you to feel good about yourself all the time. You are drawn to Him Who died upon The Cross.
It’s strange that you are drawn to Him. He’s ugly, a worm and no man, despised by the people. Nothing attractive about Him, after all, He’s a crucified convict Whose own people laughed Him to scorn. He tells us to repent of our sins. That’s really the least attractive part of it, that and that He says we can’t do anything about our sins but He has to do it all. He tells us to repent of our sins, all of them, and that’s just not something we like to do.
You can see that in the Jews who crucified Him and the thief on His left who kept on taunting Him. The other thief just didn’t get it. Why would you be taunting Jesus when you’re suffering the same punishment for crimes you actually did? It makes no sense. But that is what sin does. It taunts God. How? They told Jesus, “If You’re God’s Son, come on down!” The devil only 3 years before said something very similar: “If You’re God’s Son, make these stones bread!” And some 4000 years before that he said to Adam and Eve: “Did God really say?” And when they ate, they said: “God doesn’t care about me, and I don’t care about Him. What’s He gonna do about it?”
Isn’t that how sin works? “God’s not right here; He won’t see me sin. My mom’s not going to see me put my hand in the cookie jar. The cop’s not watching, so I can go as fast as I want. The government won’t catch me cheating on my taxes. Dad’s not going to see me hit my sister. My boss won’t care if I’m lazy all the time.” That’s taunting God and His Law. We all know we’ve done it. Repent. Our sins have earned for us eternal tortures.
But this Jesus is the one Who bathed Himself in His own Blood, not for His sake, not because He took some sick pleasure in pain, but for your sake, to rescue you from eternal pain. The Law demanded that blood pay for sin, human blood, sinless blood. None of us can pay that. So God took on flesh and blood and bathed His flesh in that Blood. It started trickling when He was circumcised. It began to flow when He was flogged and crowned with thorns. He was covered in it as He hung, a worm and no man, upon The Cross.
Yet our Lutheran forefathers made paintings that show angels there, catching that holy, precious Blood in chalices. Why? To bring it to you, right here, at this Altar and font. For He bathed Himself in Blood that He might bathe you in that same Blood. What the Jews said to Pilate as a curse He meant for a blessing, a promise for you and your children and all who are far off, all our Lord God shall call.
Holy God shed His Blood as He suffered for your sins. So when He bathed you in that Blood, you were cleansed of sin. Whenever you drink that Blood, your sins are forgiven, all your sins of word and deed, no matter what they have been. He shed His Blood and died, and you who wear and drink that Blood live eternally. His Blood flows through you – unites you to Him, and He dwells in you.
So your sins are forgiven, God is your Father, you will not be forsaken eternally in hell. You will be with Him in paradise, your debt for sin is paid in full, and He will take your soul into His hands when you die. He thirsted for your salvation; you drink His cup and are saved. He is your King, your Good Shepherd. He is leading you, His sheep, to the eternal pastures.