It’s a joy to share with you from God’s Word this Easter Friday. It’s commonly known as Good Friday. Why do they call it ‘good’?
If I were to ask you what are some important days in your calendar, you’d probably have quite a few answers: Christmas, your birthday, your anniversary, New Years, Heritage Day…and on and on.
But what is the most important day of the year? Up until a few years ago, I would have said it was Christmas. But then I had a realisation that Easter is in fact the most important celebration of the year. And the more I understand what Easter means, the further set apart it becomes. This is truly a most exciting time of remembrance.
Can I tell you why? Why did you come to Church today? You could be anywhere – watching TV, sitting on the beach, preparing lunch for the big family gathering.
Today I want to give you the reason why you’re here today. I’m going to tell you about the Bond God created for us, His love which is everlasting. I’m going to tell you about how that Bond was Broken by sin, that spring of life stopped up, that matchless relationship with God cut off. I’m going to tell you about how our journey out of Eden didn’t end at the garden gates, but that humanity has recklessly run away from relationship with God and cursed Him for all the problems we face along the way.
I’m going to tell you today of the Promise God gave to restore the Bond of love, though no one really knew how He would do it. I’m going to tell you about the Hope that was stirred up 2000 years ago at the birth and life of one man. And then, Despair. That Hope was betrayed, beaten, whipped, spat on, shamed, and hung on a cross to die.
That’s all I’m going to tell you about today. Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s talk about the Bond.
Do you know that God loves you? Do you know that He’s always loved you, and that He always will? You have earned that love just by being born – you didn’t even have to do anything! Because you are made in God’s image, and God’s always loved people because they are made in His image.
Do you know that when God created Adam and Eve, He loved them very much? We know that because when He created them, He didn’t place them in the desert – or hide them away in a dark cave – or put them on an empty island – or in the Antarctic – He put them in a beautiful garden. That shows God’s love for them. He lavished them with love. He gave them all that they would need.
And you know what – God loves you! He created you for Him, for relationship with Him. Jeremiah 31:3 I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
God loves you. And does He love you just for today? Or just for yesterday (before…happened)? No – He loves you with an everlasting love. And He loves you so much that He isn’t content with you being far from Him – He wants you close, and so He’s calling you close. He draws you with unfailing kindness.
There’s a sincere, deep, real bond of love between people and the God that created people. It’s that bond of love that your heart longs for, searches for.
Why are we searching? Well because that Bond was Broken.
How could something so strong as the bond between people and the One who created them be broken? It wasn’t broken by time apart, or a long distance relationship; it wasn’t broken by an earthquake or some other disaster. The bond of love was broken because of sin. Your sin – my sin.
In fact, right from that first sin, the Bond has been eternally broken. God said to Adam, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
So Adam and Eve go and enjoy the fruit, and suddenly…they can feel something’s not right. What is it? Why do they suddenly feel exposed – insecure – ashamed – guilty – naked? They sow up some leaves together to cover themselves, but it doesn’t make the feeling go away. That something wrong is still there. It doesn’t matter what they do, they can’t fix it. Something’s broken.
But here comes God. He made all this – surely He can fix all this. But Adam and Eve aren’t thinking about that. Driven by an unfamiliar urge, they run from God and try to hide from Him. Their feeling of being exposed – insecure – ashamed – guilty – naked…it’s even stronger now that they know God is coming. Even if the other has to see their nakedness, or the plants and animals – all of nature can see them as they are, but please not God! Please don’t let God see me as I am!
What is that hiding? That hiding is a recognition of the Broken Bond, that which happens because of sin. It was sin that caused Adam and Eve to run away from God and hide “among the trees of the garden”.
That bond of love has been broken. It caused them to run from God. But God knew what had happened. And He knew what He had to do. He punished them in accordance with His promise. He pushed them out the garden, pushed them out of the beauty they’d enjoyed.
Did He do this because He’s cruel? No, but because He is holy. 1 Timothy 6:16 “[God] lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will.”
But even in this we see that God still loved them, making them garments of skin to cover Adam and his wife.
That bond between God and His creation was broken by Adam and Eve’s sin many thousands of years ago. But sin didn’t end there: you and I carry on that practice of sin even now. If they hadn’t broken it, you and I have – many times. Not a day goes by that I do all that God requires of me, or that I don’t do all that God prohibits of me. And that sin has separated me from God. Sin always brings separation.
The Bond of love has been broken. But very soon it would be devastated.
If you’ve been sitting under pastor William’s messages the last several months you’ll know that very quickly sins went from eating what shouldn’t be eaten to full out murder. In the very next generation, Adam and Eve’s first son murders their second born.
It got worse and worse, till God decided to wipe out the earth with a flood. But His character wouldn’t allow Him to wipe out humanity altogether and so He rescued Noah and his family who were righteous in His eyes.
But the generations following that just continued in their headlong pursuit of rebellion against God. Instead of worshiping the God of creation they began to worship creation itself, creating gods out of nature.
Making our own gods allows us to make our own rules, and so you have people saturating themselves in lifestyles of thievery, adultery, drunkenness, corruption, murder, idolatry, all kinds of wickedness.
But God didn’t want that relationship to die – no! He wanted people to love Him and enjoy Him – He wanted people to walk with Him and trust Him, as a Father wants His children to do.
So God called a nation – Israel – and He gave them His laws. ‘If you’ll obey my laws, that will make you right with Me – then we can walk together.’
And they tried! And they failed… You can read about that in the books of history – Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the Samuels, Kings, Chronicles – person after person, judge after judge, warrior after warrior, chief after chief and king after king – all trying desperately to keep God’s laws and all of them failing.
But God didn’t want that relationship to die. Remember God’s words in Jeremiah 31:3 I have loved you with an everlastinglove; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
So God gave a Promise.
You’ll find all through the books of the prophets, even in the books of history, God saying to the people again and again: ‘One day, I’ll make you righteous, I’ll heal your wounds, I’ll make you alive again. That bond was broken, but I’m going to fix it. I’m going to send my servant to do what you cannot do – bring us back together in an unbreakable bond of love that will last forever.’
That promise wasn’t an afterthought by God – It was His plan from the beginning. Right from when man first sinned in that garden, God said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel,” indicating that one day someone born of a woman would put an end to the devil’s work. Even though He would be hurt in the process, He will put a permanent end to the devil’s work.
And so God promises all through Scripture:
Jeremiah 31:31-34 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel [God with us].
Deuteronomy 30:6 “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” [God’s promise to bring about a change in them that will make them live]
God was promising His people all through Scripture: “You’ve rejected Me – I know! – and My holiness won’t allow your sinfulness to be near it. But don’t worry! I’ve got a plan to fix that broken bond. Because I have loved you with an everlasting love; so I will draw you with unfailing kindness.”
Because God had promised this through the prophets, they knew God would do it, but they didn’t understand how God was going to do it! Peter looks back at those days and says, “Concerning this salvation (this work of God of repairing the Bond) the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit…was pointing… Even angels long to look into these things.” (1 Peter 1:10-12)
Because God said, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness,’ people have always known that God would do it. But how, God? How? And when, God? When?
And so when Jesus was born, there was great HOPE!
Here He is! The Offspring of Eve who would permanently end the work the devil started in Genesis 3 – the One promised by God to Repair the Bond that was Broken by sin. The One who would restore RELATIONSHIP between people and the God who created them.
His soon arrival is announced by angels and archangels and nature to shepherds and priests and kings. His birth is celebrated by Anna, an old prophetess who spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem – the restoration of relationship with God; and also celebrated by Simeon who held the baby in his arms and declared this bundle of joy to be God’s salvation, a light for revelation to the Gentiles – a light that would show the lost the way to restored relationship with God.
Jesus, the HOPE of the world. He grew up and was recognised as that promised servant of God. Remember God’s promises throughout history: ‘One day, I’ll make you righteous, I’ll heal your wounds, I’ll make you alive again. That bond was broken at Eden, and keeps being broken, but I’m going to fix it and it’ll never be broken again. I’m going to send my servant to do what you cannot do – bring us back together in an unbreakable bond of love that will last forever.’
This was God’s forever plan. I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. THIS was how He was going to do it: Through Jesus.
He was recognised by the people as God’s promised Fixer: Nathaniel declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel,” the people of Nain declared, “A great prophet has appeared among us. God has come to help his people,” and Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Even Jesus said, “I Am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” The way to what? To heaven? Yes, but that’s only the ‘secondary prize’; He said “I Am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is the Way to intimacy with the Father – relationship with the Father.
My friends, 2000 years ago the Father sent His Son into the world to show the world how to come back into relationship with Him and to make the way possible and what did we do with God’s Son? We rejected Him. We didn’t just turn our backs on Him – no, we hated Him; we wanted Him dead! We took the one chance we had – the one Hope we had – and we spat on Him, beat Him, humiliated Him, whipped Him, stripped Him naked and nailed Him to a cross so that He would die painfully.
Oh, the DESPAIR!
On that day, darkness covered the face of the earth; not only in a physical way but in a real, spiritual way too. The hope of coming back to ‘Eden’ was lost. The hope of sins forgiven, transgressions covered, iniquity pardoned – all gone. Your hope – gone.
My friends, I’m not here to preach Sunday’s sermon. I’m not here to tell you about how glorious was His final victory over death and sin and the devil. I’m not here to tell you about that great and beautiful day that won for us eternal life.
I’m here to tell you that God loves you so much – He’s always loved you – He always will love you. He sent prophet after prophet, teacher after teacher to tell you how much He loves you. I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. And you have callously rejected His love.
Even today many of you are looking forward to this weekend with great excitement. It’s a chance to party; it’s a time to braai. Many of you will leave this room and go about your business unchanged. You’ll get into your car and turn on the radio and forget all that I’ve said. You’ll get home and turn on the TV, hang out with friends, get busy. The world will go on. Some of you will go back to work.
But stop and think about what Easter Friday means. It’s not a time to celebrate. I’m not aiming to kill your joy, I’m hoping to make you think, to remember, to consider. We celebrate Easter Sunday – but we remember Easter Friday. We remember it, we stop and consider what it means: God loves you so much that He sent His Son to die on this day so that you can come close to Him. There is no other way – there never has been and there never will be. There cannot be. This was the Father’s plan from the beginning, and He didn’t mess up.
The story of Easter is a love letter written by our Creator in His own blood, written to you, and at the bottom it’s signed ‘Your Forever Love…’ God loves you and wants you to know what He’s done for you.
So as you go out today, I want to give you a challenge. I’ve read that long before there were “40 days of Lent,” it was traditional for Christians to fast for the 40 hours from Good Friday to Easter, the time during which Jesus lay in the tomb.
While I may not know just how accurate this statement is, it would be good for you and I to recognise the seriousness and heaviness of this time. Rather than go home to TV and braai, or listening to ungodly songs on the way home, or rush out to smoke a cigarette, or head back to work – consider taking one thing away this weekend that will remind you of what this weekend is about. It’s not just a holiday, it’s time set apart for remembrance. Maybe you say, ‘To honour God and remember what He did for me, I’m not going to drink this weekend,’ or maybe you say, ‘To honour God and remember what He did for me, I’m not going to watch TV at all this weekend, and the time I was going to spend in front of the TV I’m going to read the book of John in my Bible,’ or maybe you say, ‘I was going to family for lunch today, and I’m still going, but I’ll come home early and spend time with God – the one who has loved me with an everlasting love and is drawing me even now with His unfailing kindness.’
Whatever it is you commit to doing, I challenge you to write it in that box in your notes, and on Sunday bring it with to that service and you can celebrate then because God has promised: You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart. He’s loved you, He’s lived and died for you, and He and all the angels of heaven celebrate when you recognise that and turn back to Him. No matter where you are, no matter what you’ve done, He loves you – He always has, He always will. Now’s the time to love Him back.