WHATíS SO GOOD ABOUT GOOD FRIDAY?
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:18).
Whatís so good about Good Friday? When you think about it, the terminology weíve used over the past centuries seems a little out of place. You donít normally think of the death of a beloved one to be a good thing -- even when good things happen as a result of that death.
We are here to remember and to consider the death of Christ. Naturally our minds wander back two thousand years to another time and another place. Jerusalem. People gathered from all over the world to celebrate the Passover. And outside the walls of the city, the Passover Lamb hanging in public shame upon a cross.
All four Gospels are really rather matter-of-fact about the death of Christ. They each relate the historical events and they each refrain from giving very much in the way of commentary as they describe those events. What commentary they do give comes from the lips of those who are present.
The inscription over His cross proclaims Him to be the King of the Jews (John 19:19). It points out that this little Galilean rabbi was much more than that. He was the once and future promised King who was and who is and who is to come.
No, it was after darkness had covered the land. It was after not only men, but God Himself turned His back upon Jesus that this shrieking cry burst forth. His words hint of the terrible mystery that for a time the Son became fatherless and the Father became sonless. The wonderful relationship that they had enjoyed for all eternity was for broken during this brief moment. It was here that He suffered the pains of hell.
These are some of the things that point to the true significance of the cross. They point to the fact that the death of Jesus was much more than merely a public execution of a religious man. He death is not merely the death of a martyr. His death is like no other death in history.
The death of Christ had both a very terrible and at the same time a very wonderful purpose. It was terrible in that it teaches us that our sin is quite terrible. And it is wonderful in that it teaches us that Godís love is quite wonderful.
a. He died for sins in the sense that His death was PENAL.
Godís law demanded a punishment for sins. The death of Jesus was the answer to that demand. His death was a punishment for our sins.
In the ancient world, it was customary that when a criminal was crucified, a list of his infractions that had led to his crucifixion would be nailed to his cross. The idea was that anyone who was contemplating committing the same crime would read this list and be warned.
You know all about the inscription that Pilate had affixed to the cross of Jesus. But there was another inscription that day that was unseen by human eyes.
And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
Can you imagine what it would be like if someone were to follow you around and write down everything that you did, unbeknown to you? Every evil action, every improper thought, every wrong motive?
It isnít mere imagination. There was a certificate of debt that we owed. It consisted of all the things that we had done wrong or that we would one day do wrong -- after all, at the time of the cross, all of your actions and my actions were still future tense.
It consisted of our actions, our thoughts and our motivations. Everything that would cause us to hang our heads in shame before a holy and righteous God.
Nailed to the cross. It isnít that we werenít guilty. We were. But the penalty has been paid. The demands of the law have been met.
b. He died for sins in the sense that His death was PRIESTLY.
In Old Testament times, the people had to approach God on the basis of an animal sacrifice. The regulations for worship were quite specific. For you to worship, a death must take place.
And that is not all. Even after you offered your sacrifice, it did not mean that you could blissfully walk into the presence of God. You had to go through a mediatory. You went to the priest and he went into the presence of God. Meditations through a middle man.
But that changed at the cross. Jesus was the fulfillment of every Old Testament ritual.
We come to the cross again and again and that is perfectly appropriate. But the death of Christ was a once and for all event.
Everything that was done to approach God under the Old Covenant had to be repeated on a regular basis. If you offered a sacrifice today and then sinned tomorrow, then you had to offer up another one tomorrow. We were talking about this one day and John McKay sat back with wonderment and said, "If I were a farmer, I would be out of sheep in no time at all." He isnít alone. Iím in the same boat. And so are you. And so was the believer living in that day.
No sacrifice was ever enough. Day after day. Year after year. Thousands of lambs in a never ending progression.
And even the priests who administered the sacrifices and who went into the temple were separated from the presence of God by a thick double veil beyond which they were not permitted to pass.
Once a year, the High Priest would go past the veil into the very innermost part of the Temple -- the Holy of Holies. Here he would offer the blood of bulls and goats and that would bring about a temporary reprieve. But the following year it would all have to be done over again. A thousand years of blood. A long succession of bulls and goats. But no lasting satisfaction.
And then came the cross. And as Jesus breathed his last, there was a commotion in the Temple. That great veil that had for so long a time stood for the separation that existed between God and men was torn in two from top to bottom.
No more sacrifices. No more blood. No more animals to be slaughtered. The work is done. It was a once and for all event. It need never be repeated.
One of Paulaís favorite movies is "The Mirror Has Two Faces." It is by definition a "chickís flick." It is a relational story of the struggles encountered when a couple marry with a set of wrong expectations. By the end of the movie, they are coming back together and the husband says to his wife, "I want to be married to you." To which she replies, "You ARE married to me."
Jesus says the same thing to us. In those times when weíve played the part of the lost sheep and have wandered away, we come to our senses and we wonder, "How can I ever make it right? How can I return and have the relationship I once enjoyed." It is at those times that He comes and He says, "I died for sins once and for all. All anger has been satisfied once and for all. No other sacrifice is needed. You ARE married to me."
Christ died our death. He who was innocent died in the place of we who were guilty.
The death of Christ is a measure of our sinfulness. We have a tendency to downplay sin. It is a sign of our day and age that we donít even like to talk about sin. Or else sin is relegated to the murderous actions of third world terrorists and since "I would never do a thing like that" I can assuage my own brand of sins with the thought, "It really isnít that bad."
Now hear this. Your sin is really bad and my sin is really bad. So bad that it took the death of the holy and righteous and just Son of God to put it away.
He is the JUST ONE of our verse. We read that He died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust (1 Peter 3:18). This is the same truth that Paul expresses when he says: He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus is the just one who took upon Himself your injustice. He became sin on your behalf. This does not mean that He actually became a sinner or that He began to sin. He has lived through all eternity without sin and He will always be perfect in His righteous character.
How did He become sin on your behalf? What really happened on the cross?
Our sins were put to His account. He was credited with our sins. While He was on the cross, God the Father treated Him as though He were a guilty sinner. Jesus was judged in our place. The wrath of God was poured out on Him. In the midst of this condemnation, He cried out, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?"
The sinless Son of God was judged as though He had committed all of the sins which have ever taken place throughout the entire history of mankind. He was judged in our place. Our sins were imputed or credited to Him. But this is not all.
Just as our sins were put to His account while He was on the cross, so in the same way, the righteousness of Christ is put to our account when we believe in Him.
We are credited with the righteousness of Christ. We are reckoned to be righteous. On this basis, we are justified - declared to be righteous. And for all eternity, God will treat us as though we were as righteous as Jesus Christ.
Now, this does not mean that I actually BECOME righteous when I believe in Christ. If that were true, then no believer would ever sin and this just is not the case. Rather, I am legally credited with the righteousness of Christ so that I can be legally declared to be righteous.
God is righteous. He isnít just a little righteous. He is infinitely and perfectly righteous.
God demands righteousness. He says, "Be holy as I am holy." He is the measure of His own demand.
Man's relative righteousness could never bridge that gulf, for even a single sin would be enough to establish it forever. But that is merely hypothetical theology. The truth of the matter is that we have committed a lot more than a single sin. We have sinned greatly in deed and in word and in thought.
God freely provides that which He demands.
We have been credited with the righteousness of Christ. He is infinitely righteous. He has not merely imputed a portion of His righteousness to our account. Rather, the very nature of His character of complete righteousness has been credited to us. We are regarded by God as having the very righteousness of Christ.
God IS righteous.
God DEMANDS righteousness.
God freely PROVIDES what He demands.
He is the answer to His own demand.
The fact that Christís death was to bring us to God presupposes the fact that we were removed from God. It was our sin that removed us from God. The story of the cross does not begin in Jerusalem. It begins in the Garden of Eden where a smooth-talking serpent tempted our ancestors into eating that which had been forbidden. That started a series of events that accounts for all of the wars, the terrorism, the death, the abuse, the ugliness that is in our world today.
We were removed from God in the Garden and we have continued to be removed from God by our own manner of life. You are justly condemned by that original sin and you are also justly condemned by the sins that each one of you have committed.
A well meaning Christian recently told me in the context of a conversation about abortion that I shouldnít say that abortion is a sin because it makes people feel guilty if they have been participants in one. Our society has this idea that guilt is a bad thing. But guilt in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is not bad to feel guilt if you are guilty. One of the problems of our society is that we are raising an entire generation who have denied their own guilt. They are quite willing to lie, cheat, steal and even commit murder and they have come to the point of not feeling guilt. To put it in Scriptural terms, they are seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron (1 Timothy 4:2).
We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have all alienated ourselves from the Most High.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah likened us to sheep. You know about sheep. You know that they are not known for their organizational skills. They are not known for their discipline. Rather they are known for their helplessness and for their tendency to wander.
All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:6).
The wanderlust of sin has been evident in each one of us. We all suffer from spiritual attention deficit disorder. And the solution is not in taking medication. We needed someone to do what a shepherd does for a lost sheep. We needed one who would come and fetch us and who would bring us back to the fold. We needed a Savior.
For close on 25 years Iíve been in the savior business. To save and protect lives and property -- that is why they pay fire fighters. It has been a very fulfilling career. There are quite a number of people who are alive and well today because of my actions and the actions and response of my crew.
But viewed in the long scheme of things, there is a great futility to what I do. Every building I ever saved will one day be torn down so that there will not one stone be left upon another. Every ship I saved will one day be scuttled. And every life I saved will ultimately die. At the very best, all I could ever do is to postpone the inevitable.
What Christ did was so much more. He deals, not just in the temporal, but in the eternal. He did not merely restore life, He dealt with the reason for their death. He did not merely bring us back to life, He brought us back to God.
At the close of the American Civil War, there were people in the North who began making plans as to how to punish the South for its involvement. Abraham Lincoln spoke up against such plans and instead called for a complete reconciliation. "It shall be, "he said, "As if they never left." Christ did the same for us upon the cross.
The great truth of the incarnation is that God became flesh and was born as a baby. I love the language of John 1:14 where is says that he became flesh and dwelt among us. The literal Greek uses a word that was used in the Old Testament Septuagint to describe the Tabernacle. God "tented" with us.
What we see here is the reason for it all. He became flesh in order to die. His hands and His feet were formed for the nails. His side was scheduled for the spear. His brow was destined for the crown of thorns. God could not suffer and die, so He took on flesh that could.
We are the only people in all of human history who worship a god who has wounds. Those wounds are the only man-make thing that will ever make it into heaven. They are a testimony of His love for us.
We asked the question at the outset, "Whatís so good about Good Friday?" The answer is that Sunday is coming. Though we remember His death, there would be no cause of rejoicing apart from the resurrection. He died and rose again and because we have been joined to Him in faith, we have died and arisen to a new life.
Christ is both our substitute and our representative.
Christ is BOTH.
Christ was our Substitute
Christ is our Representative
He is our substitute with regard to sin
He is our representative with regard to righteousness
Our substitute in death
Our representative in His resurrection
As He was made alive by the Spirit, so also both our future resurrection as well as our resurrection life today is by that same Spirit. Our Sunday is coming, and there is a sense in which it is already here.
As Christ as been our substitute in death and our representative in resurrection, so we are now called to consider ourselves crucified, dead, buried and now risen into a new life of service for Him.
What does that mean for me today living in the 21st century? It means that I am the present manifestation to the world of the risen Christ. The disciples were able to see the risen Jesus. Thomas got to see the nail prints in His hands. The world has... US.
"Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails..." What Thomas said of Christ, the world is saying about the church. The world is saying that to every one of you: Unless I see in your hands the print of the nails, I will not believe. So when they ask, you tell them the truth of Christ and then you show them the love of Christ.