On the sixth day, God created Man in His own Image and Likeness. And what God began on that first Friday, He finishes and fulfills on this Good Friday. For here, in truth, is the Image and Likeness of God, in which man is created:
“Behold the Man,” the King of Creation, reigning from the Tree of His Cross
It is not uncommon, of course, that you may attempt a good work, only to have it go badly wrong and blow up in your face. But that is most certainly not what has happened here. God’s original intention has not been thwarted by the sin of man. What He has done, He has in fact purposed from the very beginning, indeed, from before the foundation of the world.
For the sake of His divine and holy love, God freely chose to create the heavens and the earth. Not for His own benefit, but for the sake of loving His creatures and benefitting them. He creates all things in order to love the man and the woman, the king and the queen of His first creation, made in His Image to live and reign with Him in Paradise eternally.
Already then, the Lord not only knows how things are going to go, but He willingly and graciously commits Himself to that very suffering and death which we here remember on this sacred day.
No one takes His life from Him, but He lays it down willingly for us poor sinners, His fallen and rebellious creatures, in order to raise us up with Himself by His Cross and in His Resurrection.
Thus, Adam was created in the Image and Likeness of this Man, the incarnate Son, the Seed of the Woman, who is more specifically the Crucified One, sacrificed for us men and for our salvation.
But though God has created you to be and to live in the Image and Likeness of Christ, your sinful proclivity is to “create” gods of your own likeness, in your own image — false gods of selfish, self-serving, self-centered self-love. Those false gods and idols of yours are gods of power and greed and competition, gods of envy and revenge. And in your worship of such gods, your self-love is matched only by your hatred of anything that would hurt you, by your fear of anything that would threaten your freedom, and by your animosity toward anyone who might insult you.
But the one true God is utterly unlike those false gods and idols that you worship and serve in your sinful unbelief. And so it is that, when He reveals Himself as He truly is in the Man of sorrows, you do not even recognize Him as a Man, far less as God in the Flesh. But so indeed He is. His almighty power is thus made known chiefly in showing mercy and pity toward those who deserve nothing but punishment. And the height of His divine glory is not selfishness, but Self-sacrificing love for poor, miserable sinners like yourself, who hate Him, and hurt Him, and betray Him for money, who deny Him and flee from Him, and who put Him to death, even death on the Cross.
He turns the other cheek to those who hit and punch and slap Him, and He does not retaliate. He loves His enemies, and He prays for those who persecute Him. He likewise prays for you, as well, that His Father would not hold your sins against you.
It is therefore in the frailty and weakness of His flesh and blood upon the Cross — in His Body made mortal by your sins — in His bitter suffering and innocent death, and in the shedding of His holy, precious Blood — it is there that the Image and Likeness of God are most clearly and fully revealed, and are now accomplished and perfected in this one true Man, the new and better Adam.
It is in this Image, in the Likeness of Christ, the Crucified One, that you are recreated to live with Him in His Kingdom forever. To live as He has lived in the fear and faith of His God and Father. To love as He loves you. To forgive others as He forgives you. And to sacrifice yourself for the sake of your neighbor, within your own calling, as Christ has sacrificed Himself for you.
So it is that, as the woman, Eve, was taken from the side of the man, Adam, and then brought to the man and given to him as his bride, now the Bride of Christ, His Holy Church, the Mother of all the living, is taken from the riven side of this Man, Jesus Christ, and made alive in the river of living water and life-giving blood that He pours out from His Body in the sacred sleep of death.
If you would be His disciple, His man or His woman, you are entrusted to this Holy Mother, His Church on earth as it is in heaven. You are born again by the water, Word, and Spirit of Christ. And as often as your sin has robbed you of His Breath of Life, you are resuscitated by His Word of Peace, His Word of Holy Absolution, the forgiveness of all your sins in His Name and stead. There is nothing that is held against you, for He has made Atonement for all of your iniquities.
Thus are you nourished at the Church’s festal board, fed with the Body and Blood of the firstborn Son who has been given in the place of lambs and sheep who love to wander, and who has been slain upon the Cross for you and for all of the children of men.
By the same token, the Woman herself, the Bride of Christ, His Holy Church, the Mother of all the sons and daughters of God, she is entrusted to the one who testifies. She is committed in body and soul to the Apostolic witness of the Cross and Crucifixion of the New Adam, Jesus Christ. And she is cared for by the preaching and confession of this same Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, whose Blood cleanses the Woman and all of her children. It is His Blood that also covers you and shields you from the death and damnation you deserve.
In Him who is the very Image and Likeness of God, crucified for your transgressions and raised for your justification — though you are a child of dust, subject to death and the grave for your sins — yet, in Him, you are resurrected from the dust of the earth and returned to the Garden of God, to Paradise the blest, where you are fed forevermore with the Fruits of this Tree of Life. “Behold the life-giving Cross, on which was hung the salvation of the world!" Take and eat. Drink of it, all of you. Taste and see that the Lord is very good, and that His loving kindness endures forever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.