The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Good Friday 2015’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Friday, 4/3/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1Cx3hGy
Every year, on the Sunday before Easter weekend, we celebrate Palm Sunday. This commemorates the day on which Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when those who believed in Him cried out and worshiped Him as their Messiah. Not all, however, were convinced.
The Pharisees stirred up the people of Jerusalem, enticing many to turn their backs on Jesus. On Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper as the disciples celebrated Passover. That night, Judas led a cohort of Roman soldiers to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The following day, Good Friday, was perhaps the single most pivotal day in human history.
On Good Friday, Jesus was crucified. The word “good” doesn’t denote that it was a happy day, but rather a holy one. This is where we find ourselves tonight. Jesus has fought His way through pain and agony to the Cross, and He is about to tip the scales of history in mankind’s favor.
All of us are sinners. Before Jesus hung and died on the Cross, we were lost: separated from God, and in a position to receive the eternal punishment we deserved. But Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection changed all that. That is what Easter is all about; and that is what Christianity should be all about.
Without the Cross, we have nothing; but through the Cross, we have moved from certain death into everlasting life.
We pick up our Easter narrative with Matthew’s account of His death:
Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!” Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink. The rest said, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. – Matt 27:45-50
Darkness obscured the entire earth from 12pm until 3pm. The disciples were waiting in dread, knowing that their Messiah was about to die. They failed to fully understand the eternal ramifications of His death. The disciples thought Jesus had come to establish an earthly kingdom, and overthrow the Roman occupation of Israel. But Jesus had come to do much more than that; He had come to establish the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.
Jesus made clear to His disciples that nobody could take His life from Him:
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” – Jn 10:17-18
He was the only One with the power to lay down His life. What made Him the King of man was not the ability to keep His life, but rather the willingness to freely lay it down. He did not come to be served, but to serve (Matt 20:28). Our Savior is not about self-preservation; He is about self-sacrifice.
At the moment of His death, Jesus cried out in Aramaic: “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”(v 46). Jesus was forsaken – separated from God – for one moment. But in that moment, He endured an eternity of suffering for our sakes.
Jesus and the Father had been one for all of eternity. Jesus had never experienced separation from God since the beginning of the world. But at the moment of His death, His heart was ripped from the hands of His father. God turned His back on Jesus as He took on eternal punishment for your – and my – sin.
His suffering clearly entailed physical pain. Isaiah 52:14 says that Jesus’ face was marred beyond recognition. Isaiah 53:5 says that Jesus was, “…wounded for our transgressions…” and, “…bruised for our iniquities…” and that only, “…by His stripes we are healed.” Jesus bore infinite physical pain so that you and I could trust in the Cross for complete healing: salvation from sickness and disease.
But His separation was more infinite than just physical pain. He endured complete emotional, and spiritual, separation from God. We should never take His decision to suffer on our behalf for granted.
When we go through something tough in life, sometimes we assume God has turned His back on us. But do you remember Moses’ words to the Israelites as they were about to cross into the Promised Land?
“The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.” Deut 1:30-31
When we need Him most, God never drops us; it is in that moment that we know He carries us, with the love and compassion that only a father can have for his son.
Jesus was separated from God so that we would never have to be. No matter what you’re going through, and how much it hurts, God promises to be Your support through it all. Identify what you need, and ask for it in prayer. When we pray according to His will, He hears us; and when He hears us, we will have the things for which we ask (1 Jn 5:14-15).
Here is the promise God gives us: when we cry out to Him in our deepest moment of need, He listens. When things get so heavy that we can’t carry our burdens ourselves, He takes them on for us! God abandoned Jesus for one infinite moment, so that we would never be abandoned for all of eternity.
God cannot turn His back on us, no matter how often we turn our backs on Him. He poured out His wrath and anger on the Cross, and there is no longer any punishment left to distribute.
Several weeks ago, we examined the story of the prodigal son (see Lk 15). The text notes that the father saw his son, “…when he was still a great way off” (Lk 15:20). That means that God is always watching and waiting for us to come home. In order to look for someone, you can’t have your back turned to them; you have to be facing them! God’s invitation to come home is always open to us.
Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. – Matt 27:51-53
Is your life powerful? God needs us to know that as His people, we are supposed to see accurate demonstrations of His power.
On Sunday, we’re going to talk about the Resurrection, which is the most powerful event to have ever taken place. Jesus Christ conquered death. He defeated the grave! He crushed Satan under His feet, and invites us, as His disciples, to keep our boots on Satan’s neck.
The moment of Jesus’ death was so powerful that the earth could not sit still. Paul tells us that all of creation is groaning to see the power of heaven restored to earth (Rom 8:22). But at the moment of Jesus’ death, creation got more than it asked for.
The earth quaked. Rocks could not stay intact; they split wide open. Dead bodies were so overcome by the power of God that they woke up. Eyelids closed in permanent sleep popped open as thunder and lightning flashed across the sky. The evidence that Jesus was the Son of God was undeniable to anyone who was alive at that moment.
And then something amazing happened: “The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (v 51). In order to understand the incredible significance of that moment, we have to understand why the veil was created. We first see the veil described in the Book of Exodus:
“You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim. You shall hang it upon the four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Their hooks shall be gold, upon four sockets of silver. And you shall hang the veil from the clasps. Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy.”
– Ex 26:31-33
The veil was designed to separate the Ark of the Testimony from the rest of the sanctuary. The veil was supposed to separate God’s presence from His people.
According to Old Testament Law, the High Priest was allowed to enter God’s Presence – the space behind the veil – once per year. That day was known as the Day of Atonement. On that day, according to Jewish tradition, a rope was tied around the High Priest’s waist, and he would enter God’s Presence by passing behind the veil. Exodus 28:33 says that the High Priest’s garments were decorated with bells. If the High Priest did, or said, anything wrong, He would drop dead. The other priests would know he was dead when they stopped hearing the bells, and they would drag the High Priest out from God’s presence using the rope tied around his waist.
For centuries, the veil had served the function of separating God’s presence from His people well; but at the moment of Jesus’ death, that all changed. The veil was torn in two from top to bottom. “From top to bottom” signifies that heaven was invading earth: this was a change initiated by God, and not by man. The tearing of the veil could have never been the result of something we had accomplished on our own; it was God’s decision.
At that moment, God made the declaration that He would no longer be separated from His people. The veil that separated His presence from Israel was torn in two, and the Law was fulfilled. What does that mean for us?
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Heb 4:16
We now have bold access to God our Father. We can approach Him with any request, and know that He will never turn away. We can return to Him after any length of time, and know that He is looking for us: waiting for us to come home.
You and I are now the “Most Holy Place.” God has deposited His Holy Spirit in every man and woman who calls on the name of Jesus. Old Testament priests could never even enter into His presence but once per year; but now everyone who looks to the Cross for salvation has full, complete access to the throne room all the time!
Jesus died once for the sins of all mankind (1 Pet 3:18). Our debt has been paid. Forever. No more sacrifice is required.
Jesus Is Who He says He Is. As Matthew concludes his narration of the Crucifixion, he looks around and notices the reaction from the people there. But he didn’t look straight at the disciples, and those who knew Jesus. He looked directly at those who had realized He Is the Messiah too late:
So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!” – Matt 27:54
The Roman soldiers had mocked Jesus. They had stripped Him of His clothes, spat on Him, and beat Him (Matt 27:27-31). But at the moment of Jesus’ death, they knew He was real.
The guards realized one moment too late that Jesus Is the Son of God. My prayer is that none of us would fail to believe in Jesus while we have the chance to give our lives to Him.
Whenever you go through something difficult in your life, remember everything Jesus did for you on the Cross. He endured eternal suffering – alone – so that you and I would never have to. Make Him Lord of your life, and show Him your never-ending gratitude by living for Him, every single day.
– by Pastor Mike White
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