2021-04-02 Good Friday
Most paintings and artist depictions of Jesus are quite “sanitary” - aside from images of the crucifixion of course. They all tend to be very pristine and pastoral, “nice” and delicate. Some might even postulate that Jesus was a wimp with His whole “love your enemies” schtick and pray for those who persecute you. Turn the other cheek and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s a view that is a bit lacking in the manliness department, perhaps a little testosterone deficient. We almost end up with a sweet and sappy, Disneyfied, cartoon Christ. But when you read the Scriptures as a whole, we get a totally different view of the Messiah.
Enter Good Friday. Here we see a completely inverted version of Jesus. Here we see the Christ, the crusher of skulls! We rewind the tape back to Genesis, back to the dawn of the Messianic Promise. What do we have there? A slithery tale of a sly serpent seducing God’s good creation into the darkness. And we know that’s exactly what happened. And after everything went to hell in a hand basket, we get this: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; HE WILL CRUSH YOUR HEAD, and you will strike His heel.” We now know Who this seed and offspring was - a very specific offspring of a Virgin girl named Mary. He will be the Chief Executive Officer of crushing skulls!
This triumphant theme continues throughout the Bible. Many others in Biblical history will likewise crush-craniums. In Numbers 24 (17) we hear of Balaam who prophesies that the Star of Jacob will “crush the forehead of Moab.” Jesus is likewise called the “bright morning star” in Revelation 22:16. He is described as the skull-crusher-deluxe of Israel’s ancient enemies. Or how about Hammer-Wielding Jael from Judges 5 (26). She took a hammer and a tent peg to the skull of the evil Sisera, the enemy of God’s people, and pounded his head right into the ground! Or the other unnamed heroine of Judges 9:53 who defended an entire tower of besieged people by hurling a millstone onto the head of the invading Abimelech!
Then we move into perhaps more familiar territory with David the wee shepherd boy who would later become King. In the face of certain death, did he not sling one of five smooth stones right into the forehead of the giant Philistine Goliath and then decapitate him, parading the severed skull in Jerusalem?! In so doing he gave us a glimpse of what the Good Shepherd of Israel would likewise do.
What is our take away from all of this grizzly violence?! The divinely selected skull-crushers of the Old Testament all foreshadow the march of the Messiah, trouncing enemies who are but masks of the ancient enemy the devil. All of these episodes and more paint for us the picture and story of God’s Savior. It lets us know what is coming and Who would deal the final blow to crush the skull of the ancient serpent once and for all.
But the serpent, despite all cunning and wit, signed his own death certificate with venomous ink. For as he struck the heel of the Messiah, that same heal struck him down like a tent peg through the temple or a millstone from above. Down came that heel like a slung stone upon the forehead of he who first hissed lies and darkness in Eden. The light and victory of God’s Messiah brought this to fruition for us and our redemption on an old rugged cross.
And so the story of the Gospel, the story of the Messiah is anything but a cartoon, anything but wimpy. It is indeed a story of victorious skull-crushing! For us and for our salvation, the wounded warrior died in our place, making peace with God, leaving behind the rotting carcass of a crushed serpent. … Oh, and one more detail. Just where did this happen? St. Luke tells us plainly: “And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified Him” (23:33). From the very beginning to the very end, we see what God had in mind for the devil and for us. And of course, the very end isn’t death in the place of the skull. The story concludes with an empty tomb where our skull-crushing Messiah would rise in victory over death and the grave and place upon the skulls of all who believe the same crown of victory and life!1
1 This sermon has been largely adopted from Chad Bird’s excellent article: https://www.1517.org/articles/wheres-the-sunday-school-picture-of-jesus-crushing-skulls