A Good Friday

There are times when I’m especially grateful to be able to do what I do.  Tonight was one of those nights.  Most years a collection of churches in the Sheridan area band together for a community Good Friday service.  Tonight we met at our local theater with about 200 hundred in attendance with at least 10 different churches represented.  We sang together, we prayed together, we worshiped together – united in Christ Jesus.  As people were leaving I found myself saying over and over, “It’s good to worship with you.”

The theme tonight was the three perspectives from the three crosses.  Due to a last minute change I was asked to share the perspective of Christ – a tall task for the allowed seven to ten minutes!  I boiled things down the best I could.  Below is the entirety of the text I read this evening.

I hope that as you read this you will see three things.  First, that Christ loves you more than you’ll ever know.  Second, that the Church really can worship King Jesus as one body.  And third, that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, coheirs with Christ as adopted sons and daughters.  Tonight I was reminded of each of these things.

Grace and peace.

Perspectives from the Cross: Christ

“If there is any other way…”  “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.” A tough question.  No good answer.  There was no other way.  The laws simply proved how far man had fallen.  The gap was too wide.  The distance between God’s holiness and the sin of humankind was too far.  Nothing man could do would restore the brokenness.  Except one man.

There was only one way.  Jesus proclaimed it plainly when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus again, “If there is no other way, so be it. For the glory of the Father, I will remain obedient.”

John 17:23 “I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”

A bit later a crowd showed up.  John 18:4 “Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. ‘Who are you looking for?’ he asked.”

The mob was looking for a man, Jesus the Nazarene.  They didn’t realize that they were standing in the presence of Jesus the Messiah and Christ.  Jesus responded, “I am he,” and they were all blown back.  A second time he asked, “Who are you looking for?”  And a second time he replied, “I am he.”  Jesus chose restraint.  His words had power.  He commanded legions of angels.  And he submitted himself to the will of the Father.  Jesus retained his authority as God.  Jesus retained his power as God.  Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen.  And yet he made himself subject to all that was about to happen.  All this so that the world would know that God sent him and that God loves us.

Let’s reflect for a moment on all the rejection Jesus experienced.

Isaiah 53:3 reminds us that “He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.  We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.  He was despised, and we did not care.”

  • Judas willingly betrayed Jesus.
  • Peter promised commitment even unto death, and then failed miserably.
  • The 10 other disciples scattered.
  • The crowds turned against him.
  • The religious leaders plotted to kill him. “We have no king but Caesar.”  Yet this King was intentionally walking toward the cross to be crucified alongside criminals.
  • The government beat him and mocked him.

Despite the rejection, Jesus continued the slow journey to the cross.  Up until his death he prayed to the Father, “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

After all the rejection, after all the beatings, after all the mocking, Jesus was nailed to that undignified cross.

Pilate posted a sign on the cross above his head that rightfully read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” This sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it.  How ironic that the cross, the instrument of death, proclaimed the truth so that the world may know?  Wasn’t that everything that Jesus lived for?  That the world would know how much the Father loves?

What a price to pay.

Arms spread wide, darkness fell across the land, death moments away, Jesus cried out, “My God, my god, why have you forsaken me?”  God the Father turned his back – never before and never again would such a sacrifice be offered.  Nothing else could atone for our sins.  Nothing else, no one else could bear death so that we might have life.

John 19:28, 30 “Jesus knew that his mission was now finished … he said, ‘It is finished!’”  With that, Jesus breathed a final breath and gave up his spirit.

Now it was up to the Father who sent him.  Would the Father turn his back on the world he created?  Would the Father let his only Son remain in the grave?  Would the Father be overwhelmed by his anger against sin?  Or would the Father be overwhelmed by his love and compassion for his Son and for us? Or would the Father use this death as a means of adopting us as sons and daughters?  Or would the Father use this event to proclaim his love for us?  Or would the Father clean our sin-soaked hearts with the blood of the Lamb?

We know how this story ends.  Easter is coming.  Tonight, we don’t celebrate the death of Jesus.  We celebrate his resurrection.  You see, his death was insignificant if he didn’t rise on the third day.

When Jesus said, “it is finished,” I wonder if there was a glint of hope in his eye.  He knew the value of his life.  The enemy won a battle.  But in winning this battle he secured his demise.

We take a few somber minutes this evening to reflect on the cost our Savior paid for our salvation.

Jesus was not governed by man. He was not bullied by fear. He was not intimidated by religion or politics. He did not entertain with eloquent speeches – he was silent. He did only what the Father asked. He did all that was required.

Jesus invites us to follow him, to pick up our cross and follow him, to live with him and to suffer with him. Until we realize that in him alone we have life, we are stuck. In him we find hope. In him we find life. In him we find purpose. In him we find dignity. In him we have enough. Christ is enough.

On the night that Jesus was betrayed he instructed his disciples to do something to remember him.  We call this communion and we frequently follow those instructions so many years later.  As we sing this next song several pastors will distribute the elements.  Please hold these for a moment and we will take this all together as a symbol of the unity we have in Christ.

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