April 2, 2021
I Corinthians 15:58
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:58)
My sermon series for these days in Holy Week is “Ready!”, “Set!”, “Go!” Yesterday, on Maundy Thursday, I preached on the word “Ready”. Today the word is “Set”. On that glorious day of Easter my word will be “Go”. Ready, set, go.
Today, on Good Friday, the word is set. “Set” like firm, strong, unmovable. Our text from the end of I Corinthians 15, the resurrection chapter, says, “Stand firm. Let nothing move you.” This is the day that is foundational to the message of Christ to the world. Christian churches all across the world put crosses or crucifixes on their building, in their sanctuary and at the focal point of their worship. Why? We are set and established that the death of Jesus Christ brings life to the world and to us. In talking about this moment of His crucifixion Jesus spoke, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” (John 12:27-28a)
This is Christ’s day. He owns it. Psalm 22 begins with His words on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me? Why are You so far from the words of My groaning?” (Psalm 22:1) Isaiah 53 tells us that this day is His day. He owns it. “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5) The Old Testament anticipated this day that would establish the sacrifice of the Messiah, Jesus, for our salvation.
This is His day. He owns this day. This day owns us. It captures us. It quiets us. Listen to how strong, steadfast, immovable – “set” are the New Testament writers concerning the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and how it impacts us. Paul in I Corinthians says, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (I Corinthians 1:22-25)
In the same book Paul would say, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2) In Galatians he would say, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, what counts is a new creation.” (Galatians 6:14-15) Of the death of Jesus, St. John writes, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2)
This is a sad day. Worship on Good Friday is quite dark. The hymns are somber. In this service we move toward a more reflective, emotional, even grief-stricken day. This isn’t Easter with the sweet smell of lilies, the joyous hymns of triumph, the choir and trumpets. Some people avoid this day and avoid this service because it is too sad and depressing. But it is the day that He owns and this day owns us. This is the day that allows us to “stand firm” and “let nothing move you.”
We are set and established because we see on this day how damning sin is. We see the awful consequence that sin has brought to the One who paid its penalty. Sin is not some little offense that means very little to God, or to us. It had great affect on the Savior. But even more we are set and established in knowing the great love that God has for us through the events of Good Friday. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (I John 4:11) Romans 8 – “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32) “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (I Peter 1:18-19)
Do you want to be set, firm, established, having a substance to faith that is certain? Then Good Friday is your day. His day has become our day. This is the day to know the deep and certain love of God for you. He didn’t just speak it. He proved it.
I’m glad you came tonight. I hope that when the service is concluded you will say that this is the one place you needed to be this evening. In preparation for this sermon I read the hope of one preacher as he spoke to his people, “If Jesus’ death does not yet, at this moment, mean new life to you, then I pray that the Holy Spirit gives you the wonderful gift of new life today, in the next few moments, through the proclamation of Jesus Christ crucified. If your flesh has already died with Jesus and His death has worked new life in you, then I pray that this new life may be renewed and strengthened again this day.”
That is my prayer too. If you are not yet “set” in your soul, if you have little foundation of faith and strength deep inside you, if you do not know that the death of Jesus was His ultimate gift of love and salvation for you, I pray that God will move deeply in your soul tonight and in these days. And if you are already “set” in Jesus, if this day is already your joy, then listen again to the word of God, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Ready, set, go!! Amen!!
(This message, the second of the series, “Ready? Set? Go!!” was originally preached at Ascension on April 3, 2015)