Online Worship for Lent Three, Sunday March 7, 2021
Sermon for Lent Three – 2004 – March 7, 2021
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
In the Name of Jesus Christ,
Who was abandoned for our sakes,
Dear Fellow Redeemed by His Blood –
It happened to me at the Woolworth department store at the Mall in Marquette, Michigan. I was shopping with my parents, brothers and sisters, when I turned and found my parents gone.
I walked down a couple of aisles in each direction, peering down the aisles hoping that I would see my parents shuffling along with my siblings in tow. I did not. My fear grew into a grade two panic, until I had convinced myself I had been abandoned, left behind by my parents who were surely driving home at that very moment. I did what any thoughtful child would do, I sat down and started crying.
Eventually, a kind lady asked what was wrong, and between sobs I explained. She let me to the service desk, where between sobs, hiccups and chest heaving, I explained how I had lost my parents. When the needed information had been received, the service desk clerk picked up the store intercom and asked, “Would the parents of an Andy Schaller please come to the service desk?”
In hope I waited, red eyes and puffy cheeks, until to my great relief my parents and siblings appeared from another part of the store. I’m sure I then promised to never leave their side again (and they began devising ways of tethering me).
Whether it’s happened to you or not, the prospect of being left behind, of being abandoned is a frightening one. It’s not only a terrifying thought for children, but also for parents, who have heard terrible stories of children being carried off and never seen again – save on the back of a milk carton.
Furthermore, we find it very difficult to understand how any parent could ever willingly abandon their child. It likewise seems impossible to understand how anyone would be willing to be abandoned by a parent for the sake of someone else.
Except, in one case.
This morning, we consider that exception, and see how Only Jesus -- would be willing to be abandoned by the Father for our sakes. Only Jesus – would take our place in Hell.
May God the Holy Spirit guide us and open our ears and hearts that our faith and love are strengthened through these words. Amen.
Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour
there was darkness over all the land.
It is a very lonely feeling to be alone in the darkness. If you have ever had trouble sleeping, then you know that those late-night hours in the darkness can be very quiet and lonely.
When you can’t sleep it seems almost as if there is no one left in the world save you. The first rays of the sun in the early morning seem almost like an old friend.
We can understand what the Psalmist says when he writes (Psalm 130:5-6):
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning — Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.
However, it wasn’t the darkness that over the land from the sixth to the ninth hour that caused Jesus’ terrible loneliness. It was the terrible weight of our sin and the sins of the whole world upon Him. It was the darkness of our deep sin-guilt that hung upon Him like a cloud of anguish.
If we think that the scourging and crucifixion themselves were terrible for Jesus to endure, then consider the burden of our sins. Remember that in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus’ sweat became like great drops of blood as He contemplated bearing our sins.
Truly, the darkness of Good Friday afternoon was greatest in the heart of the Son of God. The darkness of Good Friday should remind us of sin. After all, in the Bible sin is described as a darkness covering us (Isaiah 60:2a):
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
and deep darkness the people…
It is a fitting description isn’t it, for like the darkness of night so sin covers and affects us all. Moreover, it seems fitting because sin flourishes in the dark and under the cover of night. Isn’t it true that sins of drunkenness and carousing, sexual sin…often take place under the cover of darkness? Why is that? Isn’t it because we seem to think that the darkness somehow hides our actions, our thoughts.
It is foolishness, like a child hiding behind his own hands thinks that because he can’t see, no one can see him. Truly, if we wait to sin under the cover of darkness, then we show that the darkness of sin has also pervaded and fills our own hearts. God knows, God sees all things, even the very thoughts of our hearts.
Out of the darkness of Good Friday, the voice of the Christ expresses a still deeper darkness, the darkness of separation from God, the darkness of Hell:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
It has become permissible today for people to throw around the word Hell. On a very hot day, you might hear someone say, “It’s hotter than hell.” Do they really think it is? I hope not, but it appears they either do not take Hell seriously or don’t consider it a real place or they don’t understand how terrible it is.
Hell is a very real place, where Satan and his host and all unbelieving mankind will be abandoned eternally by God.
Hell will be a place of abandonment, where its inhabitants are separated completely and eternally from God’s goodness. We can’t really comprehend what Hell is like, because we live in a world where no one living is completely abandoned by God.
No one living, not even the most wicked live outside the umbrella of God’s kindness and providence. The rain doesn’t only fall on the fields of believers, nor does the rain only shine on your homes. God’s goodness is evident to all now living in their time of grace.
It will be Hell to be completely abandoned by God, never again to see His goodness, kindness or love.
Hell will be a place of frustrated anguish. It is described as a place of anguish, of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:49-50):
“The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
We understand deep sorrow, but how about anguish? Have you ever shopped at a store and in your hurry left the goods you have purchased behind? I have, and the most frustrating thing, the thing that caused the most anguish was to know that I had what I needed, paid for it, but then lost it!
So the anguish of hell will be this, to know that eternal life was purchased and won in Christ, but lost in unbelief, never to be regained.
Hell will be a place of suffering, of punishment without end. It is described like a place always on fire, but where nothing is consumed. It is described as (Mark 9:43-44):
“…the fire that shall never be quenched — where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’”
So, would you be willing to be abandoned by God, to endure such complete anguish and suffering? Would you be willing to take the place of someone else in Hell?
If you would answer yes, then you haven’t been listening.
Only Jesus would take our place in Hell. He wasn’t suffering in Gethsemane and on Calvary because He had done anything wrong. He was innocent, completely without sin. Why was Jesus forsaken? He was forsaken by the FATHER He turned His back on His Son Jesus, because He took up the sin and guilt of the entire mass of humanity of all history.
He there, on Calvary suffered the separation of Hell, the Hell we earn every day and deserve. The hymn writer describes it like this (TLH 174:2):
Silent through those three dread hours, wrestling with the evil pow’rs, left alone with human sin, gloom around Thee and within, Till the appointed time is nigh, Till the Lamb of God may die.
Only Jesus would, only Jesus could take your place and my place in Hell. He was abandoned there on Calvary so that you and I might never be left alone with our sins.
He suffered the consequence of Hell, so that we would never have to.
Now even in your deepest darkest hour, in your moments of deepest despair – know this, that you are NOT alone. Jesus didn’t only suffer hell for you and die, He also rose again from the dead the third day.
Yes, like the rising sun, Christ the Son of God rose from the darkness of sin and death to keep His promises to you, to stand by you every day and to finally receive you to Himself in Heaven.
Maybe you noticed that I left something out earlier, when I read that passage from Isaiah. Let me finish now (Isaiah 60:2):
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people…but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.
Only Jesus would take our place in Hell.
Only Jesus did then descend into Hell early on that first day of the week, that first Easter morning to announce and proclaim His complete victory over the forces of evil.
So Only Jesus can give you real hope in the face of death, when overcome by sin, when troubled by guilt. Only Jesus has paid the necessary price to give you eternal life.
Only Jesus…is worthy of our everlasting praise and honor.
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing…Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!