Every Day Can End With Amen'
You have watched as Jesus was nailed to the cross, mocked, ridiculed by church leaders, the people, and even by a fellow criminal. You've heard Jesus cry out that agonizing question, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" You've heard Jesus say to His Father, "Into your hands I commend My spirit." Then in a loud voice you heard Jesus cry, "It is finished!" What would you have said in response if you had been standing at the foot of the cross?
You could have said, "Amen." "Amen" is the ancient Hebrew word meaning "truly." Our Catechism says, "Amen means, "Yes, it shall be so." So while the crowds filed away beating their breasts in mourning for what they had seen today, while Joseph of Arimethea went away to ask for the body of Jesus, while Nicodemus was on his way with the spices to give Jesus a proper burial, while the women disciples watched from afar, and the men hid in fear, you could've said, "Amen" to Jesus', "It is finished."
Yes, the Law that hangs so precipitously over me has been fully kept. All the Laws, all the Commandments, that God had first written in men's hearts and then wrote in stone, have been kept, fulfilled, completed by Jesus. The Law demands perfection and Jesus lived a perfect life. The Law demands that it be kept not just in letter but in spirit too. Jesus didn't just outwardly finish the Law. Not even in His head or heart did He break it. All the "gotta's," "have to's," "better's," and "should's" that resound in your conscience a thousand different ways have been fulfilled, kept, finished.
You could have said, "Amen!" to Jesus', "It is finished!" Yes, the Law has been fulfilled and doesn't hang over my head any longer. And, not only is the Law finished, so are its punishments. Yes, the full debt of all sins, yours included, was completely paid for by Jesus on the cross. The Father willed for Jesus to drain the cup of God's wrath against sin, and He finished it. Sins call not just for punishment here in time but in eternity. Jesus bore both. In time, He suffered rejection, persecution, ridicule. In eternity, He suffered hell itself. God, says Paul, made Jesus to be sin itself. Sin suffers terribly in the presence of God.
So, God dealt with Jesus according to all the hatred and wrath He has against your sins, and Jesus cried, "It is finished!" You could've witnessed Jesus suffer all the judgment and punishment you so richly deserve, and you could've said, "Amen." But you don't. You say, "I know." I know Jesus fulfilled the Law in my place. I know Jesus took the Law out from above my head. I know all my sins are paid for. I know that Jesus suffered, sighed, bled, and died for each and every one of them. I know Jesus went to the cross having kept all the Laws God demands that I keep. I know that Jesus died as the guilty sinner I am.
I hear this response all the time as a pastor. I say to someone either God's Law, but usually it's His Gospel, and the person says, "I know." "God has taken away your sins; you will not die." "I know that Pastor." "You are in the palms of the nail-scared hands of God," I say. "I know Pastor," you respond." I say, "God will never leave you or forsake you." And you say, "I know."
"I know" it is not a word of faith. I know receives nothing from God or His promises. "I know" merely expresses knowledge of certain facts, or at best, assent to those facts. But saving faith is not present when someone merely knows or even knows and agrees to something. The devils know about the events of this Friday Christians call "Good." I would venture to say most of America knows and agrees that Jesus died on Good Friday as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, but hardly any believe that.
This is how many people mistakenly think. As long as I remember the facts of the faith, I still have that faith. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. No one raised around the Church is ever going to forget that Jesus was born on Christmas, died on Good Friday for sins, and was raised on Easter to proclaim forgiveness. Because you know something doesn't automatically mean you believe or trust in it.
You come to Good Friday service expecting to be "beat up" for what you consider your sins, but your main sin is that you don't believe, you know. At the cross you can see how ugly the sin of knowing rather than believing is. Picture this: Jesus has just finished living the perfect life in your place. He has just finished dying your death. Then Jesus shouts in triumph, "It is finished!" And you say, "I know." Unbelief can say, "I know." The demons can say, "I know." True faith says, "Amen."
Here's our real sin. We do pass the cross unheeding. We do take it for granted because we already know it all. Though we should stand at the cross saying, "Amen! Yes it shall be so" to Jesus', "It is finished," we don't. We say, "I know." Why? Because we haven't fully entered into the crises of this moment. The Law really isn't that heavy to us and the Gospel really isn't that sweet to us.
We're doing just fine doing our best under God's Law. God's name isn't always hallowed by us, but we do our best. God's will isn't always done by us, but hey we do it more than those people over there. And God's kingdom doesn't come among us, but it's brighter and righter among us than most. The same goes for the "our" petitions of the Lord's Prayer. Doing our best here is good enough for us. We don't need to ask daily for bread, for forgiveness, or for deliverance from temptation and the evil one. We're doing so good that asking once a week, if that, in church is enough for us.
Our every day doesn't end with "amen," simply because we don't pray every day. We pray in the moment of crisis and particular need, but most days go by without us "needing to pray." And even when we remember the Lord's Prayer, how many times do we fall asleep in the midst of it or finish it without thinking? We know the words but don't really believe them.
Thankfully the Lord knows them, believes them, and does those words. God hallows His name, so it is holy among us. His name is more than an exclamation we utter, "O my God," or a superstition we use just in case. God sends us His kingdom in Word and Sacraments. It comes here: in this font, from this pulpit, on this altar, so we can be in it. God does His good and gracious will rather than our bad and harsh will. God gives daily bread, forgiveness, and deliverance from temptation and the Evil One, so we can have them at any time in every place. But if He does them why does He command us to ask for them? So we might know for certain He gives them. Not even sinful parents tell their kids to ask for things they will not give. Every Lord's Prayer ends with Amen; yes it shall be so' because we're only asking for what He has told us He will give us.
As it is with prayer, so it is with the things of our salvation. At the cross there is something not just to know but to believe. Amen' doesn't come from our lips because we don't see our salvation hanging in the balance at the cross. If Jesus called time" before He took that drink of vinegar, then Scripture would not have been fulfilled. It would've been broken, and it would be up to you fulfill it. You would have to wake up every day saying, "I gotta, have to, must do this, this and this. I gotta be the perfect parent, child, church member, and employee. If I'm not, then there's no way I can go to heaven." But Jesus declares from the cross, "It is finished. I was the perfect parent, child, church member, and employee in your place!" And doesn't faith fairly burst forth from your heart saying, Amen! It shall be so.'
There was a real crisis going on at the cross. What if in the depth of those 3 dread hours Jesus had said, "Enough?" What if when all the powers of hell and all the wrath of Almighty God raged against the innocent Jesus, He had said, "Enough??" That's it. I can take no more of this torment. I can't stand one more second of eternal wrath. I can no longer bear the sins of the world for them?" If Jesus had said this, then you would have to bear the rest yourself.
You know what that would mean? That sickness you have would be in partial payment for your sins. That affliction you bear would be God getting His pound of flesh for your many sins of the flesh. That anguish you sometimes feel pressing down on you would be to make you suffer in partial payment for your sins. But that's not how it is, is it? On the cross, Jesus shouted, "It is finished. The sicknesses, the afflictions, the anguishes that your sins cost, I paid for in your place. So what's going on in your life, no matter how painful, deadly, or bitter can't be to pay for your sins!" And in response faith leaps from the heart to the lips saying, not, I know,' but Amen; yes, it shall be so!"
Now can you see why every one of your days can end with, "Amen?" A day of sorrow can, a day of sickness can, a day of persecution and affliction can, a day of death can. Why? Because of what Jesus did on this day, every single day you ever live, even on the day you die, your heavenly Father will have seen to it that His name was hallowed, His kingdom came, and His will was done. Every single day be it fraught with pain, turmoil, doubt, or fear, God will do for you what He didn't do for His only beloved Son today. He will give you your daily bread; He will forgive you your sins; He will lead you not into temptation but deliver you from evil.
My dear friends, what is important is not only that you know this but that you believe it. So let your amen echo those in the Book of Revelation around the throne of God. A-men say the 4 living creatures. A-men say all the angels. A-men says the Church in heaven. And the Church on earth gathered around the Lord's altar on earth says to the Lord's promise to come in Bread and Wine with the Body and Blood He finished all things with, "Amen. Come Lord Jesus." Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Good Friday (20060414); Lord's Prayer - Amen