“Against the Lord and against His Anointed” Good Friday Tenebrae 2024

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29. March 2024
Good Friday Tenebrae
Psalm 2

Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us” (Psalm 2:1-3).

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Jesus our Lord is the blessed Man who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night. Psalm 1 describes Him as a tree planted by the rivers of water that bring forth its fruit in due season, whose leaf does not wither, and whatever He does shall prosper. But Wisdom-made-flesh is an affront to the wisdom of this world. The powers of this world cannot abide Him. And the same goes for you, dear Christian, that is, you who are in Christ. Because by His Word and Spirit, you refuse to walk in the counsel of the ungodly. You refuse to stand in the path of sinners. Nor will you sit in the seat of the scornful. 

Herod, a king of this world, immediately felt threatened at the birth of God’s Anointed One. And he should, for there is no compromise between this world’s wisdom and power and God’s wisdom and power. They are in deep enmity. As the Apostle writes, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 4:7-8).

Psalm 2 describes this historical conflict prophetically fulfilled in Christ Jesus. “The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered in counsel, against the Lord and against His anointed (Messiah/Christ).” The counsel of this world will not endure the reign of Christ. They say, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” This kind of opposition to Christ the King has been known by Christians as they are given to suffer as Christ suffered. 

Hear one of the earliest recorded Christian prayers: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the Lord and against His Christ.’ For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus” (Acts 4:24-30)

The context of this prayer is the persecution of the Church by the authorities in Jerusalem. The Psalm’s meaning is not some distant past but a description of ongoing Christian history. Peter and John took comfort from Christ’s Word of Psalm 2, and we do, too, because the Psalm teaches us not to be impressed by all the sinful revolution against the reign of God and His Christ. The final Word of the Psalm is divine judgment. It blesses the just and condemns the wicked. Or as we echo in the Creed, “From thence He [Jesus]will come to judge the living and the dead.” These themes are expanded for us in John’s Apocalypse, where we see the anger of the nations and wrath of God (Rev 11:18), the political conspiracy against God (Rev 19:19), and the Messiah’s “iron rod” inflicted on His enemies (Rev 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). 

The way this sinful world thinks it can overpower the Almighty and His Christ is laughable. Even the most powerful of the fallen angels can do nothing without God’s permission. When governments and other powers and principalities rebel, God chuckles. “He that thrones in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord will hold them in derision.” All their might will come unraveled. Their might? A joke, a mere facade! God is with us, and we are with God—Our vict’ry cannot fail.

His Chosen One and Heir is already anointed, even before He is incarnate in the Virgin’s womb. Before He was born, His victory over all ungodly power and might had already been won. Thus, during Christmastide, at our Lord’s Baptism, and at the Transfiguration, we hear the Messiah proclaim, “The Lord said unto Me: ‘You are My Son; this day have I begotten You.” This is the essential Christ confession of the Church. When asked, “What do you think of the Christ? Whose Son is He?” The Christian, with the Gospels, responds, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). 

Today we heard and saw Pilate set Himself and Sanhedrin take counsel together against the LORD and His Christ. But the LORD in the heavens laughs and holds them in derision. He uses even their wickedness to accomplish the salvation of all mankind. As Jesus is lifted up on Skull Hill, the LORD is setting Him as King on the holy hill of Zion. In a strange turn, the only-begotten Son does receive the nations for an inheritance and the earth for His possession as He suffers and dies to redeem them. As we confess, “My Lord, […] has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil […] with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom.”

God’s only-begotten Son is the sole mediator between God and man, the Man Jesus Christ. His name is the only name under heaven, given men by which we may be saved. “Therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin