“So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’ When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to to release you and authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin’” (John 19:5-11).
All sin is the same in that the wages of sin is death (cf. Romans 6:23).
And James writes, “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10).
So all sin is the same.
And—every sin is different in that there are different consequences on earth.
Moses writes, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6).
But your blood shall not be shed if you bootleg an album, or download music illegally, or break copyright so a congregation can sing a hymn.
Some publishing houses may disagree with me on that, but the point is, we know both that all sins are the same and that every sin is different.
That’s a paradox.
It sounds contradictory, but you know it to be true.
Well—tonight, let’s add this to our understanding:
“Jesus answered [Pilate], ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin’” (John 19:11).
We know that Judas sinned—that’s the “he who delivered me over to you.”
And perhaps that also includes the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews and Annas and Caiaphas (cf. John 18).
They are the ones who delivered Jesus over to Pilate.
But that they have the greater sin does not mean that Pilate is without sin.
Jesus calls it less, but He doesn’t call it better.
While these sins are different—they are yet the same in that they earn the same wage before God.
Talking about sin like this can be confusing, so it’s helpful for us to realize that there is nothing that we do that isn’t soiled, stained, or tainted with sin.
Ask the question: “Am I sinning when I ________?”
Whatever you put in the blank, the answer is Yes.
Even if you realize the question for what it is and ask “Am I sinning when I am not sinning?” Even then, the answer is Yes.
Are you a child of Adam after the Fall?
Sin is not just what you do—it is what you are.
We confess that we are—by nature—sinful and unclean. God did not create us sinful, but our nature after the Fall is sinful—corrupted by sin.
Even at our best—we could be better.
If we’re honest, we recognize this even in practical things.
Our good works are like filthy rags, Isaiah writes (cf. Isaiah 64:6).
Even at our best—we could do better.
This is the war in our members—the daily struggle of the Christian between the Old Adam who enjoys making those critical comments behind backs—and the New Man who guards his tongue so that praise and pernicious speech are never mixed.
Understanding sin this way—that there is no escape—is the inevitable conclusion of all Law/Gospel preaching.
But I don’t want you to be uninformed.
Some pastors don’t preach against sin—your sin.
They’ll preach against the disciples.
And they’ll preach against the world.
But they won’t preach against you.
But I’m not called to preach to the disciples.
Nor am I called to teach the world.
Rather—my call is here, to serve you.
If your doctor fails to diagnose your disease, or if he succeeds only in diagnosing someone else’s, then he’s failed you.
If the pharmacist who prepares your medicine prepares it for someone else, he has failed you.
I’m not interested in identifying greater sins and lesser ones—talking about sin like that can be confusing.
But I am interested in talking about sins that lead to eternal death and sins that don’t.
That is—I’m interested in calling sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ—and rejoicing in forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Who shall save us from this body of death?
It’s certainly not me.
But it certainly is a body of death.
So thanks be to God for our Lord, Jesus Christ.
On Good Friday we do well to remember that there is no one good but God—and He reconciles the world to Himself in the death of His dear Son.
From the greatest to the least, all sin is paid for in the shed blood of Jesus, and you can rest and know for sure that all sin includes your sin, from the greatest to the least.
Behold—the Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29).
All of it—the committed act and the condition.
Paid for in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Do you know what that means?
It means we have an advocate with the Father.
It means we do not fear the wrath of God.
It means God stands between us and the danger—not that we will never face danger, but that we will never face it alone.
It means we don’t have to wonder at forgiveness.
I met a man once who was taught that if he sinned in the car ride home from church he would go to hell.
He was told, “If you can’t keep it together for longer than that, you must not have believed in the first place.”
He was told, “If you don’t ask for forgiveness, you cannot be saved” which sounds right—but what was meant was, “If you sin twenty times, you need to ask forgiveness twenty times.”
But “Who can discern his errors?” (Psalm 19:12).
And “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).
The whole life of a Christian is one of repentance.
If there are sins that weigh on your heart and mind, confess them. Not as a task to accomplish your own salvation, but to fulfill God’s will—that the disease be diagnosed, the cure found, and the medicine applied.
The disease is sin.
The cure is the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ—that put the world to right and redeemed you from death and hell.
And the medicine is this—that you hear and believe the love of God, the Gospel.
Your sins are forgiven—by a loving God—who loves you to the end.
Let us pray:
“What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered / Was all for sinners’ gain; / Mine, mine was the transgression, / But Thine the deadly pain. / Lo, here I fall, my Savior! / ’Tis I deserve Thy place; / Look on me with Thy favor, / And grant to my Thy grace” (LSB 450:3).
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Good Friday Sermon, 2021
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt