Good Friday 2017 - The Goodness of Friday
Easter Friday 2017: The Goodness of Friday. Matthew 27:45-54 Matthew 27:45-54New International Version (NIV) The Death of Jesus
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a]lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b]
47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
I have always been fond of the description of Matthew for the crucifixion; and that is our problem this morning: How can we be fond of a description of torture without having any perversion in it? I have often heard it said that Christianity is a barbaric religion of death and torture; in fact, the evangelical atheist Christopher Hitchens declares that at the centre of Christianity is divine child abuse; how can a thinking human being accept this as acceptable? This essentially will come down to how we see the world; our world-view. I have been fascinated by ideological ways that we look at the world especially in seeing if there really is one that gives an appropriate answer to how we see the world as it is. How do we answer our own feeling, others, the horror and beauty in the world; and can we see the world in a way that doesn’t destroy us or make us so self-indulged that we actually become a horrible person. To answer the question in a quick one line; I believe the cross gives the essential answers to what we see in the world in the most comprehensive way. Essentially, I want us to look at the centre of our faith the cross and see that it is not only acceptable but it is as glorious as it is made out to be within the Christian world-view. Now to do this I have to look at the apparent reality of the cross and then the true reality of the cross. If we simply look to the surface reality of the cross you will see we get a jumbled un-understandable reality. So, let’s start at the beginning: 1. The backwardness of Good Friday There are two backwards realities of the cross; first its brutality and second its appearance of defeat. a.) The brutality of the Cross The central symbol of the Christian faith is a symbol of torture; have you ever thought about that? It is the equivalent of walking around with a noose around your neck or an electric chair. We cannot and – hopefully I’ll show you by the end of this morning – should not underplay the brutality of the cross. It is central to understanding the Christian faith. I don’t want to go into too much detail but it remains as one of the cruellest ways to execute someone. I will explain the significance of this later; however, the core of our faith is a brutal death: A desperately needed, but, brutal death. We cannot and should not escape this reality. Not only is it death but also defeat; b.) The defeat of the Cross On the surface the cross is a great defeat! The world works with acts of power and displays of strength. A leader’s merit is found through acts of strength; the cross has the leader stripped and defeated. On first reading; it is evil winning and darkness is overcoming light. Luke 22:53 says it so well; “Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour--when darkness reigns." We see on the cross the full might of evil express its evil. We see the religious side of man in the religious leaders, the state in Rome and the mob mentality in the crowd; all bare their teeth and evil is expressed in all its brutality and darkness. The crowd in this passage jeer at a dying man, the leaders gloat in their victory. Have you ever read this and thought, how perverse (only to realise that you do this as well)? On a side; evil always consumes itself; for evil reaps evil and therefor becomes the seed of its own destruction. But on the surface; the centre of our faith is backwards, there is no beauty only horror, and no strength only defeat. But this is only on the surface… We have to go deeper see the other realities; so next we'll see that the cross is ultimately humiliating… 2. The humiliation of Good Friday You cannot look at the cross and not see a humiliating image. Jesus is stripped of glory, power, even life. But the real humiliation was the fact that Jesus and the Father were separated. The Father crushes Him. Every time Jesus refers to God in the Gospels He calls him Father, or my Father; except here. Here Jesus says my God. Why? Well our sin had separated them. Paul says He became a curse for us (Gal 3:13) and in 2 Cor 5:21 Paul says; God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Note that Paul doesn’t say put our sin upon Him or put our curse upon Him. No, he became cursed He became sin! In this brutal and Humiliating moment; God did not see the righteousness of Christ’s life; He saw all the sin of mankind and treated Jesus as if he had committed those sins! In the heart of Christ all the separation and hatred for our sins was being poured out on Him; and we can see this; Christ for the first time in eternity felt alienation from His Father! We see the cosmic response of this; all of creation responds with darkness and earthquakes; because He who formed creation and holds it together by His power was being destroyed by the sin of that creation! At first look the cross is not glorious, wonderful or hopeful. It is darkness, horror and humiliation! However, church, that is only at first look! There is a wonderful beauty, power and a wealth of wisdom displayed upon the cross; and it is not because Sunday is coming! The doctrine of the resurrection is a power and life affirming doctrine. I, in no way, want to undermine the wonder of Sunday; Sunday is the expression of hope and display of the truth of Christ and the hope of the resurrection. But I want to draw us to the fact that the cross has a wonder in of itself on Friday… 3. The Goodness of Good Friday The goodness of Good Friday lies in what happened on the cross! We have to ask the question; why did Jesus have to die? Why the cross? In 1 Cor 1:22-25 it states: …but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. The cross on the surface, and to the carnal mind is weakness and foolishness; however, once we see it for what it truly is – what God did through the cross – we see ultimate power and ultimate strength! And I want to say we see a world-view that makes sense of the world we find ourselves in and makes the human heart respond with peace and humility. So, what happened on the cross that was so powerful? What was this weakness that was more powerful than the strength of men and what was this foolishness that was wiser that the wisdom of men? The whole message of the cross is the message of substitution. Every other religion and world view asks you to perform and do in order to gain worth. You are defined by what you can do, achieve, or prove of yourself. Fulfil the 5 pillars of Islam and God will reward you, walk the eightfold path of Buddhism and you will fix your Karma. Do, perform and prove yourself righteous, and you will be righteous. Essentially; the world honours strength, power, self-will and ability. The problem is that how destructive that world view is. Because, how can you know truly how righteous is truly righteous. How can I be sure that I am good enough, and if I am honest with myself I know deep down I never really feel like I am. This causes me to then persecute others to push them down to lift myself up, it is a destructive and hate-filled world-view. The cross says the complete opposite; God now honours the weak; because in his weakness He took your place. Now, it is no longer how good I have to be to please God it is how good he was to save me. Christianity is the only world view and world religion that destroys the idea of working for your salvation; of proving your worth to God. It makes a good God who took your place, your punishment, your sin. It is, alone, the idea that you must give up on your trying and trust in His ability to save you alone! God’s weakness; allowing Himself to be subjected to death, becomes the power to overcome our sins. Because in the cross they are fully paid for! They are not arbitrarily waved away they are dealt with in the full justice of God. Christianity is the only faith that takes sin seriously without it destroying the sinner. In terms of God’s foolishness; giving Himself up for those who hatred them, becomes the wisdom of God because only in the Cross can God remain just and loving at the same time. It is only on the cross that God does not give up on His justice for the sake of His love or give up on His love for the sake of His justice. It is on the cross that the full demand of God’s justice is poured out on Christ so that we can receive the His full love! Essentially this is the beauty and wonder of the cross; this church is the goodness of Friday; God sees us as we are; he sees our sins; and does not excuse them He does not just wave them away; He pays the full price of your sins by taking your punishment for you! God sees your mess; He sees you as you truly are and loves you to death! This church, makes a comprehensive world-view; that gives answers to why we see the world as we see it; there is evil and sin in the world because we are evil and sinful, every heart knows that. We all experience a level of desperation that we are not as good as we hope to be. But the cross also gives an answer to that evil, that doesn’t underplay its reality; or excuse its repercussions and therefore truly heals the heart. Jesus paid it all; therefore all to Him I owe! The cross and the cross alone; both identifies the problem of sin and then truly heals it; Jesus takes your sins upon Himself and justifies you through His goodness. That is real love; that it the true love we have been longing for; while we were still sinners Jesus loved us to death! And church that is what makes an image of gore and horror a picture of beauty and love; the act was the only act that could make us loveable without reducing God down to an unjust God! Now he has taken us – as messed up as we are – and has called us lovely! Because of the cross. So I pray as you celebrate this day may you see the cross, may you see it as the punishment you deserved so that you could receive the love you could never earn. [Let’s pray]