Good Friday 2023
Speaker: Pastor Darin Browne
The cross…we see crosses on the top of churches, or hanging from people’s necks, but 2000 years ago you would never see this. The cross was not a fun, desirable symbol at all, it was a symbol of unimaginable pain, incalculable shame, and utter despair. To wear a cross around your neck 2000 years ago would be like wearing a hangman’s noose around your neck today!
So, what is this cross, what is its significance and why, in 2023, would we bother with a two millennial year old symbol of shame?
WHAT’S SO GOOD ABOUT GOOD FRIDAY?
Jesus was a man in a mission.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus is God, yet He chose to give that up and come to earth as a humble man, being obedient by going to the cross. He gave up the riches of Heaven to come to earth and die in our place.
Why? Because He loves you!
We are all sinners, and we all deserve death, but Jesus came with the expressed intent to die in our place.
I should have been hanging on that cross, you should have been. But He chose to give His life instead of ours. He experienced what we should have, to give us what we never deserved…a chance to be right with God.
ANYTHING YOU SUFFER, HE’S BEEN THERE FIRST!
He was betrayed by a close friend. Some of you here have experienced that, where a supposed friend has let you down or betrayed you. He understands because it happened to Him.
He was unjustly accused, and unjustly convicted. Many of you have been unjustly accused of something you have not done, and Jesus understands because that is what happened to Him.
He never sinned, but He suffered for your sins. Some of you have suffered for your bad choices and sin, failures, addictions, unforgiveness.
Then He was taken away for the death sentence to be carried out.
THE WAY TO THE CROSS
Convicted in a kangaroo court on trumped up charges, Jesus was whipped, beaten, spat upon, and mocked by cruel soldiers. God was spat upon and abused by puny man! He could have stopped the abuse at any time, but He chose to remain silent.
Why did He suffer this? Because He loves you!
They whipped Him, they placed a crown of thorns on His head, with thorns longer than a man’s fingers, and mocked Him, driving those spikes into His head with blow after blow. They tore the beard from His face. They mocked and beat Him.
Jesus was beaten to within an inch of His life. The Bible says His back was like a plowed field. The Romans had refined cruelty and pain to the point of science. They called such a whipping the halfway death, and for a whip they used a cat of nine tails, with stone, bone and bits of metal embedded into the leather. When they struck the sharp objects would embed into His back, then as the whip was pulled away it tire out huge pieces of flesh.
Unbelievable pain, that He could have stopped at any moment…but He chose not to.
Why? Because He loves you!
And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
Jesus was not a weakling; He was a strong and fit man. He had walked for miles in His ministry without effort. They placed the cross beam on His shoulders, and because of the beating and loss of blood, He struggled to carry it. As the soldiers drove Him down the Via de la Rosa, the way of sorrows, Jesus collapsed. Matthew 27:32 says they compelled a man from Cyrene to carry His cross. Most likely he was a black man. Scriptures record that a black man helped Jesus in His hour of need.
And so, they led Him to the cross. We sing about it, we talk about it, but nothing can convey the horror of that place, Calvary.
AT THE CROSS
And so, they came to the place of the Skull, or Golgotha, and it was there that they crucified Jesus. The cross wasn’t really on a hill faraway, it was the base of that hill, on a well used road which today is an Arab bus stop.
They laid the cross member down and secured it to the rest of the cross. They then held out His quivering hands and feet and drove massive nails, much like what they secure railway sleepers with, through His wrists and ankles. If they went through His hands the flesh would tear, but through His wrists and ankles the body would be pinned in agony to the cross. They they raised it up and dropped it into the socket in the ground. Imagine the jarring pain!
And there He hung in agony. He could have called down a legion of angels to remove Him from the cross, but Jesus chose not to.
Why? Because He loves you!
The cross wasn’t high at all, it was more or less at eye level or just above. People could almost look straight into the eyes of Jesus as He hung there in agony. People passing by mocked and insulted Him…
“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.
The soldiers offered Him wine mixed with gall, a pain killing drug, but Jesus even in intense agony refused the drugs. He could have dulled the pain, but He bore it all for us.
The Roman cross was an almost perfect instrument of torture. On the cross you die of suffocation. Jesus pushed His body up on the spikes, but the unbelievable pain drove Him into unconsciousness. He then slumped collapsing His lungs, but the need for oxygen revived Him, and made Him push up again despite the unbearable pain to breathe.
The Latin or Roman word for crucifixion is CRUCIERE, from which we get the English word, excruciating, meaning intense, unbearable pain. Jesus suffered for three hours in this excruciating pain under the intense heat of a Palestinian sun before God said enough and covered the world in a supernatural darkness.
Jesus continued to suffer for another three hours in ways we cannot begin to understand. He could have stopped the pain at any point, but He chose not to.
Why? Because He loves you!
IT IS FINISHED!
After six tortuous, agonising hours…
Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
My God the Father, my God the Holy Spirit, why have you forsaken me?
At that point God turned away from His beloved Son. In those moments a holy God, who cannot look upon sin, saw your sin and my sin upon the shoulders of Jesus, and He rejected Him. At that moment Jesus took our sin upon Himself and the Father rejected Him, opening the way for us to stand sinless before Him.
Then it says this…
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
Jesus cried out “It is finished,” then He slumped, dead on that cross. They ultimately didn’t take Jesus’ life, He yielded it. He could have stopped it at any time, but Jesus willingly yielded His life in excruciating pain for your sin and my sin.
Why? Because He loves us. He cried it is finished because the mission, the very reason Jesus came to earth in the first place, was complete.
They took His body down from the cross and buried it in a fresh tomb.
HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?
That’s the story of the cross. Jesus died in our place and that’s why for us at least it is Good Friday. That’s why such a horrific death is called good. But the goodness of Good Friday depends directly in you, and how you respond. God can’t do any more to save you, He’s already given the best of heaven for you. But if you don’t respond, if you ignore His free gift, you condemn yourself to an eternity in hell.
There were three soldiers crucifying Jesus that day, and they had several reactions.
One was a materialist. The Bible says they gambled for Jesus’ cloak. It was a rabbi’s coat, all one piece, the only seams were around the arms. It was valuable. This soldier just got what he wanted, a good coat, nothing more. He was a materialist.
The second was a soldier who thrust his sword into the heart of Jesus, and ripped it out, causing a flow of blood and water, showing Jesus was truly dead. His experience was one of hatred and anger towards Jesus. Some of you here might be angry that God hasn’t done what you wanted. This man trampled the blood, the precious blood of Jesus underfoot. You can’t get closer to the redeeming blood of Jesus than that.
Today across out nation people will be thinking about a day off, about hot cross buns and Easter eggs, and tread with contempt the precious blood of Jesus into our red Aussie soil.
The third man was a centurion. A leader…
And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
What are you going to say this morning to this One who died for you? Are you out to get as much as you can from Him? Are you angry or upset at Him, or even ignoring Him? Don’t tread His blood underfoot this morning. Why not be like the centurion, why not truly acknowledge and believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be…the Son of God, who died for you and your sin, and who paid the price to win you eternal life.
This morning we concentrate on the cross, but on Sunday we are going to look at the triumph of Resurrection.
When you look at the cross, how will you respond this Good Friday. Get right with Him and make this Good Friday the best Friday.
So, for now, I want you to think of what your greatest burden is right now, your greatest need, your greatest struggle, your greatest sin, maybe your greatest fear. Write it down, we are going to pray, give it to Jesus, then come forward.
When you come to the front, I’m going to ask you to nail this burden to the cross. Then take the bread and the wine, return to your seat, and spend a few moments with the Lord…