Good Friday ~ 20140418 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
04/18/14 Good FridayAudio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140418_good-friday.mp3
This is Good Friday. It is the day we celebrate the most horrific atrocity ever carried out on an innocent human being by wicked human beings. Why do we call it good? It is good, because in the infinitely wise purpose of God, it is the only possible way for God to save sinners, and we all are sinners. This is the day we celebrate the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus. At the center of the good news stands the cross, without which there would be no truly good news at all. It is so core to the gospel, that Paul summarized his message in 1 Corinthians 1:23 with these words: “we preach Christ crucified.” In verse 18, he refers to the gospel as “the word of the cross.” 'The cross' is a kind of shorthand to refer to the gospel, the crucifixion, everything Jesus accomplished there on that bloody piece of wood. Remove the cross from Christianity, and it is a hollow, empty worthless thing, a mere outward form with no real substance, no power.
There are many different angles we can take to view the cross of our Lord Jesus, each of them rich and deep with insight that can nourish our souls. Tonight, I'd like to look at the cross as a mirror. We read in Ephesians 5:2 that:
If Christ gave himself up for us, if he laid his own life down as an offering, as a sacrifice to God, then he took our place. He took my place. That is how a sacrifice works. Something dies in place of someone else. What he suffered, I deserved. I should have been the one hanging there. Peter says:
Peter goes to great lengths to make it clear to us that it was for no sin of his own that Jesus was crucified. No sin, no deceit, no threats, no slander. He bore our sins.
Who I am
So when I look at the cross, I see myself. I see what I am really like. I look at the horror of the cross, and see what I deserve. When I look around the room, I can see other people that I think are worse than me, who have sinned more grievously than I have, and I can feel good about myself. But when I look at the cross, I see myself as God sees me, in light of his absolute perfection, and I see that I am a proud, arrogant, self-righteous rebel, who thinks much too highly of myself and dishonors and disregards an infinitely good God. I am a thief, who has robbed God of his glory. An adulterer, whose affections have run after things and people when God deserves my undivided affections. A liar, who by my actions and attitudes have misled so many about where true joy and peace and happiness is found. A murderer, who at times has shook his fist toward God, in effect wishing him dead so that I could run the universe the way it ought to be run.
When I look to Jesus, when I see the mockery of justice in repeated trials with false witnesses brought in, I see my own self-righteousness when I make light of my own sin but demand that others be held accountable when they sin against me.
When I see the thirty pieces of silver thrown by Judas into the temple, I see that what I value most is so cheap, temporary and trivial, and I see the infinite wrong of my failure to treat Jesus as infinitely valuable.
When I see his beard ripped out and his face bruised and disfigured with blows, it is my anger, my hatred, my disgust with my fellow man, my gossip, my thoughtless hurtful words, my slander toward another creature made in the image of God.
I see him blindfolded, slapped in the face, and told to prophesy who it was who struck him. That is my doubt, my skepticism, my hard heart of unbelief.
When I see the scourge that plowed furrows in his back and left mangled ribbons of flesh hanging there, that is my greed, my self-centered pride that uses people to get what I want.
When I see the crown of thorns pounded into his skull, those are my evil thoughts, feelings and desires that pierced his brow.
When I see the purple robe placed on his bloody back in mock worship and then ripped from him just as the scabs begin to form, it is the arrogance of my self-love, when I feel I deserve the love and admiration of everyone around me, when I usurp the worship that rightly belongs to him alone.
When I hear the sickening thud of the hammer pounding steel through flesh and into wood, every blow is the pounding of my anger, my lust, my greed, every self-centered action.
When he cries out from the cross 'I thirst,' it is because I am too busy to stop and give even a cup of water to the least of these my brothers.
When he cries out 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' it is my sin that caused the full fury of the wrath of his Father to be unloaded on him.
As I see the spear plunged up under his rib cage and into his heart, it is my heart of pride and self-righteousness that must be pierced and deflated to make room for the love of God.
When I look to Jesus hanging there on the cross as my substitute, I look in a mirror and see my own heart and what I deserve.
Who God is
But as I look to Jesus on the cross, if I look from a different angle, I begin to see a reflection of who God is. As I see him bearing the punishment for my every sin, I see the absolute righteousness and justice of God, who is too holy to look the other way or let even the slightest offense slide. As I see the horrific nature of the punishment, I begin to understand the awesome power of God and I begin to feel the weight of how serious my offense was against him. When I hear Jesus say 'no one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord' (Jn.10:17-18), I see that Jesus was my voluntary substitute. No one forced him to do it. As Hebrews tells us, it was 'for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross' (Heb.12:2). In the cross I begin to see the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ that surpasses my comprehension. I see the love of the Father for me, who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all' (Rom.8:32). I begin to see the overwhelming riches of the mercy of God toward his enemies, as he conquers my hard heart with his love, to turn my heart toward him. I begin to understand the amazing liberality of his grace, lavishing eternal life on everyone who would look to Jesus on the cross and believe.
I would invite each of you tonight to look to the cross, to see yourself for who you really are, to see God for who he really is, to run into his arms and find forgiveness and life and joy and peace. I invite you allow God to love you, to rescue you, to transform you by the gospel, the good news that Jesus died for you.