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Were You There? - John 19:34/ Pastor Ted Giese / Good Friday

Posted in 2015 / Audio Sermons / Good Friday / Holy Week / Lent / Pastor Ted Giese / Sermons / ^John

Were You There? - John 19:34/ Pastor Ted Giese / Good Friday

Were You There? - John 19:31-37 / Good Friday Sermon / Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / April 3rd 2015

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of His bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on Him whom they have pierced.”

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. There is a 19th Century African American Spiritual which is in our Hymnal, we aren't singing it today but we've sung it here many times. The Hymn asks the question, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" "Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?"[1] The tree is the cross, Saint Peter while preaching about Jesus' crucifixion in the book of Acts said, "They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree,"[2] the hymn writer is picking up on that.

What do you think of the question, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" "Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?" Were you there? Your first response will likely be no. No I wasn't there, in fact I also wasn't there, "when they laid Him in the tomb," and I wasn't there "when God raised Him from the tomb." Even if the thought of it "sometimes causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble," I'm quite certain that I was not there. At least I wasn't there the way that I am here right now. Right now I am witnessing this Service, I am participating in it, singing, listening, seeing, touching the pew, smelling the church all my senses tell me that I am here and later if someone was to ask me, "were you there at Mount Olive for the Good Friday Service this year?" you could say yes. Maybe you've guessed where I'm going with this.

What if I told you that you were there on Good Friday when Jesus was crucified? When He was nailed to the Tree. In Colossians chapter 2 Saint Paul says that Jesus cancelled the record of debt that stood against you with its legal demands nailing it to the cross.[3] Saint Paul says that Your sin was there at the cross: You likewise know that your Jesus was there. Saint Paul tells us that there at the cross you aren't expected to nail your own sins to those wooden beams, no Jesus nailed them there for you. Sins that had not even been committed yet, sins that seemed long dead and forgotten, all sins of every earthly type and variety all find their way there to Jesus at the cross. In 2 Corinthians chapter 5 saint Paul also says that, "for our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Christ Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God."[4] How did Jesus nail your sins to the cross? He nailed them there in His own Body. So this means that every terrible thing you've ever done was there at the cross, every terrible thing you will ever do is nailed there at the cross; all your lies, all your anger, and selfishness, all your laziness and coveting, your lack of trust, your infidelity, all of it - every evil thought, every mean word, every deed that hurt - and all of it died there with Jesus. In Romans Paul says you were "baptized into [Christ Jesus'] death?"[5] That puts you there at the cross. "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" Yes I was there, I was there with every one of my sins, Me and my sin were crucified there in Jesus so that I could be free from it, free from all of it.

The writer of the Hebrews tells you that Jesus came to die at the cross, "once for all ... to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ,"[6] faced death and judgement in your place and being found perfect, for He was innocent and without sin of His own, He has now exchanged your sin for His righteous perfection. And this is why that Friday is good - Why we call it Good Friday - because at the cross we see the promise that when Jesus comes again in Glory, when He appears a second time, in His second coming He does so "not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him."[7] And even now as we eagerly await His return He gives His forgiveness as a free gift, costly to Him, free to you; receive it with joy.

If Jesus had not died that day your sin would still be alive and your sin would then be your condemnation, but with your Jesus dead on the cross you have been given recue from the grip of sin upon you. The hands of sin are dead and can no longer cling to you. The nail pierced hands of Jesus are alive and no one can snatch you out of them.[8] At the cross you died with Jesus, and you were buried away with Him in the Tomb - but here is the question, is there only death at the cross? Did you receive life there? There at the cross in the midst of the pain and death? Could that also be a place of life for you?  

On Palm Sunday I talked to you about Jesus as the Bridegroom of His Bride the Church, how His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem was Him coming to meet His Bride. John's Gospel has a detail in it about Jesus' death that points to the springing forth of the Church in the midst of death. John tells us that, when the soldiers came to Jesus to break His legs to speed His death they saw that He was already dead so they did not break His legs. "But one of the soldiers pierced [Jesus'] side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water." In Genesis Moses records how when God had made man, man was alone, "so the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while [Adam] slept [God] took one of [Adam's] ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

          “This at last is bone of my bones

                   and flesh of my flesh;

          she shall be called Woman,

                   because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."[9] This text from Genesis is used at weddings and "in marriage we see a picture of the communion between Christ and His Bride, the Church."[10] So today in John's Gospel look and see: As Christ fell into death’s sleep on the cross, from the opened side of His body flowed blood and water—the two Holy Sacraments: Baptism and the Lord's Supper—from which the Church, Christ’s Bride, was built up.[11]  In death the Church comes forth from Jesus' side just as the woman, Eve, was taken vis-à-vis the rib from Adam's side.   

In our wedding service we ask the groom, "will you have this woman to be your wedded wife, to live together in the holy estate of matrimony as God ordained it? Will you nourish and cherish her as Christ loved the His body, the Church, giving Himself up for her? Will you love, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others remain united to her alone, so long as you both shall live? The say I will." At the cross you have a picture of Jesus giving Himself up for the Church, He will not break from His Bride, nothing will tempt Him away from Her, not even the pain of death, nothing.

All we Christians (Men, Women and Children) are born out of the water and the blood that poured from Jesus' side at the cross. There we are springing to life because Christ "humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."[12] At the cross we look upon a profound mystery,[13] in it we see our baptism in the water flowing from Jesus' side,[14] in it we see the Supper we are graced to receive, His very Body and Blood for heavenly food. "Were you there when they crucified my Lord" Yes, I'm there in my baptism, I'm there in Holy Communion, I'm there in my sin - and for the sake of His innocent suffering and death I'm there in Christ - sins forgiven - I'm there with Him in my new life, a gift given to me out of His great love.

There is another Hymn in our Hymnal where we sing, "Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee;[15] let the water and the blood, from They riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure: Cleanse me from its guilt and pow'r."[16] Jesus is the Rock of Ages, the "water and the blood," is in reference to the water and blood that John speaks of in his Gospel. In Christ, in life and in death you are hidden away in Him, Saint Paul says you were baptized into His death, but Saint Paul also tells us that you and I were also baptized into His resurrection:

In Romans Paul writes: "For if we have been united with [Jesus] in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with [Jesus] in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with [Christ Jesus] in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."[17]

On Palm Sunday Jesus, the Bridegroom, arrives unexpectedly for the wedding, at the cross the Church, His Bride, arrives unexpectedly flowing from His side in death and at the cross the Bride is prepared by that blood and water, washed clean of sin so the Church (and you in it) can be presented "in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."[18] As part of the Church you are hidden away in Christ. "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" "Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?" "Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb," Yes, dear God, yes: Today we thank You dearest Jesus, we thank You that we abide with You at the cross and that You abide with us in our sufferings and troubles here now and every day, and at the hour of our death, and in life everlasting. Amen.    

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

Here's a version of "Were You There" by Johnny Cash and the Carter Sisters.


[1] Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, Hymn 456.

[2] Acts 10:39

[3] Colossians 2:14

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[5] Romans 6:3

[6] Hebrews 9:26-28

[7] Hebrews 9:28

[8] John 10:28

[9] Genesis 2:21-24

[10] Lutheran Service Book, Pg 275.

[11] Johann Gerhard, An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ Malone, TX: Repristination Press, 1999, pg 30.

[12] Philippians 2:8

[13] Ephesians 5:32

[14] Luther’s Works, American Edition, vol. 51, pg 325.

[15] The Song of Songs 2:14

[16] Lutheran Service Book, Hymn 761

[17] Romans 6:5-11  

[18] Ephesians 5:27