Sometimes it causes me to tremble…
- Order of Service: Tenebrae
- Lessons: John 19:17-30, Psalm 2, Psalm 22, Psalm 130, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Lamentations 1, Psalm 51
- Hymns: 127, 268, 105, 434:3
In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.
Today, everything hinges upon hearing the Lord’s answer, the Lord’s reply, the Lord’s word. We sit in the darkness of Tenebrae, symbolic of the darkness that descended upon Calvary when the sinful world nailed God to a tree. And on top of being tired, cold, and lonely, like the watchman who gets stuck with the graveyard shift, we’re terrified. We’re terrified, we tremble…tremble…tremble, because we know that it’s on account of us that the darkness falls. The Law makes us conscious of our sins, our guilts, our iniquities, our record of sins that makes it clear: I have no right to stand before God and ask for anything.
Psalm 130 calls this the depths. Think of Jonah, sinking deeper into the sea before the fish swallowed him. Think of David, crushed by guilt, terrified of God’s judgment because of his sins. Think of Judas throwing away the blood money. Think of Peter catching the eye of the Lord just after saying, “I don’t know him.” Think of Christ sweating drops of blood while his soul agonized. Think of your own depths, the waters that threaten to engulf you, the hell you live now and fear for eternity in the real hell. That hell is simple enough to put into words. It’s hearing the Lord, your Lord, your God say, “Away from me. I don’t know you.”
So we bend our ears, we strain to hear the Lord’s answer, the Lord’s reply, the Lord’s word, from the darkness. And we wrestle with just running away. We know what’s coming. Why not, like Adam and Eve, at least take a shot at getting away? Sure, it didn’t work for them, but they didn’t do it right. Perish that thought. That’s listening to your own answers, your own replies, your own words. That’s putting words into the Lord’s mouth. Adam assumed God to be the destroyer. By nature, that’s all we can think to know of God. Because that makes sense. Sin causes anger. Anger leads to wrath. Wrath leads to punishment.
And so far, we’ve got God understood. Sin angers Him. That anger over sin leads to wrath and punishment. “You shall die,” God told Adam. And that death filtered down to the rest of us, because, as Paul said, all sinned. And the wages, the pay, of sin, is death. We tremble…tremble…tremble, because the Lord speaks a death sentence upon us. He casts us into the depths. Into hell.
And if, like Judas, we went and hung ourselves, no one would be surprised. But that’s cutting God off before He finishes. Maybe we should hear everything. After all, Jesus did get onto the cross. So, listen. And tremble…tremble…tremble. This is what we hear: “Father, forgive them.” “Your mother. Your son.” “You will be with me in Paradise.” “My God, why have you forsaken me?” “I thirst.” “It is finished.” “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” That’s what we hear. Not a single word of rebuke comes from that cross. We don’t hear Christ say, “How could you do this to me?” We don’t hear him spit out accusations. He doesn’t, with His last breath, say, “God damn you all!” And we tremble… tremble…tremble. Because Jesus pleads for forgiveness. Jesus promises heaven. Jesus takes the worst God can dish out. Jesus dehydrates Himself. Jesus does it all. Jesus bears the load, the curse, the sin. Jesus dies. Not you. Not me. Jesus. God. Truly Paul wrote, Where sin increased, grace increased all the more (Romans 5:21, NIV84). “I will save my people from their sins.” Thus saith the Lord. And we tremble…tremble…tremble.
Psalm 130: Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. Amen.