Good Friday 2022

Today is Good Friday, a day set aside to focus our attention on the cross of Christ. While Easter is rightly the highlight of our year as followers of Jesus, Easter and the empty tomb came by the road of the cross. Without dying, Jesus couldn’t have risen from the grave. Today is the day we remember the weight and cost of our sin. It is also the day we remember the incredible grace and mercy of our God. Each year, we have a special service here at First Baptist Oakboro to reflect on all of this together. Tonight will be no exception. Here’s what I’m going to share with my congregation this evening. May it be a blessing to you as you prepare for celebrating our risen Lord this Sunday.

Jesus was always in command. There was never a moment when He wasn’t in complete control of His surroundings. He was always the smartest, wisest, most powerful man in the room whether that was an upper room or an open-aired garden. It is in a garden that we find Him tonight. Jesus and the disciples’ journey from the upper room took them out of the city, through the vineyards on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and finally, across the Kidron Valley up the hill to the Garden of Gethsemane. There, Jesus left eight of the guys to stand guard while he took Peter, James, and John a short distance away to pray with Him. Actually, He left them to pray and serve as a second layer of guards, and went even a little further on into the Garden to pour His own heart out to His Father and to ask if there was any way to accomplish His plans that didn’t involve the cross. But there wasn’t. And He knew it. And He was more committed to His Father’s plans than His own comfort, so He steeled Himself, fussed at the disciples for falling asleep on Him, and got ready for what was coming. 

What was coming was a crowd. It was a crowd led by none other than the very man Jesus had dispatched to “do what he had to do quickly” a few hours before. The utter shock on the part of the other disciples had to be intense at seeing Judas at the head of the mob. We’re not ever told what they thought about seeing him—probably on purpose—but I’m certain it wasn’t anything good. Were you or I there in that group, we would have lost control. The disciples almost did, and finally all fled—because that was the only thing they could do to try to take control of the situation—just like Jesus told them they would. But Jesus was in command. 

From John 18: “After Jesus had said these things, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it. Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas took a company of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees and came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.” This wasn’t an arresting party; this was a lynch mob looking for trouble. 

But Jesus was in command. “Then Jesus, knowing everything that was about to happen to him [don’t miss the weight and wonder of that statement], went out and” greeted them. He “said to them, ‘Who is it that you’re seeking?’” Such command! Such courage! He knew the answer to that question and they all knew who He was. But He made them say it anyway because He was in charge in that moment. “‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they answered. ‘I am he,’ Jesus told them.” 

What happens next still takes my breath away. “Judas, who betrayed him [in case you missed it the first time John said it], was also standing with them. When Jesus told them, ‘I am he,’ they stepped back and fell to the ground.” So, Jesus asked them again. “Who is it that you’re seeking?” “‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied,” with perhaps a great deal less confidence than they had the first time. “‘I told you I am he,’ Jesus replied. ‘So if you’re looking for me, let these men go.’” 

From here things seemed to spiral quickly out of hand, but in the end, the disciples all ran off, and Jesus was arrested, bound, and hauled in the middle of the night before a hastily assembled and wildly illegal kangaroo court whose outcome was already predetermined not only by the men who thought they had things nicely in hand, but also by the God who really did.

Jesus’ trial was a mockery of God’s perfect justice. He was berated, blindfolded, struck, spit on, mocked, and abused. The religious leaders had paid off false witnesses, but even they couldn’t keep their stories straight. Nothing would stick and everyone there knew it to their increasingly angry frustration. All the while, Peter was outside denying he even knew Jesus for fear of his own life—just like Jesus had told him he would. Finally, Jesus gave them the scrap they needed to advance things to the next level, and He was bustled off to Pilate early on Friday morning. 

Pilate…didn’t like Jews. Judea was considered a backwards and backwater town at the outer edges of the Empire. It was nowhere near where any of the real power and political action of the Empire took place. You were assigned to work in Judea because you were low enough on the totem pole that you couldn’t get any better for yourself, or else you had made the wrong person angry and were being punished. Pilate resented these people whose beliefs were so at odds with those of the broader Empire and about which they were so curmudgeonly. His first instinct was to deny them whatever it was they were wanting—especially seeing as how they had showed up on his doorstep, demanding to be heard, so early in the morning. Did they not know their own Scripture that said, “If one blesses his neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse to him”? (For all you non-morning people out there, by the way, that’s Proverbs 27:14.)

Pilate wanted to send them away, but they were like a long-spoiled child who had to be engaged at least somewhat or they wouldn’t leave him with a moment’s worth of peace. And if they provoked another riot, his superiors were not going to take it well. So, he made at least a show of investigating their charges against this man they insisted needed to be put to death—something they didn’t have the political authority to do on their own. It was a good thing this barbarian people had Rome’s justice to keep them from destroying themselves. 

John 18:33: “Then Pilate went back into the headquarters, summoned Jesus, and said to him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’” No doubt there was at least a hint of mocking amusement in his voice. A normal person in Jesus’ shoes would have been scared silly and started denying whatever charges had been placed on him just to try to get out of this situation. But Jesus was in command. He looked back at Pilate calmly and intently and said, “Are you asking this on your own, or have others told you about me?” Even in this moment of great crisis and intrigue, Jesus was ready to accept an interested follower into His fold. 

Pilate, already irritated at the whole situation, wasn’t interested in playing ball. “‘I’m not a Jew, am I?’ Pilate replied. ‘Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?’” In other words, “I’m not interested in games or jokes. I want this done with so I can get on about my day.” Yet Jesus wasn’t in a joking mood either. Nor was He interested in being flippant. He was interested in speaking truth to those interested in hearing it. “‘My kingdom is not of this world,’ said Jesus. ‘If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’ ‘You are a king then?’ Pilate asked. ‘You say that I’m a king,’ Jesus replied. ‘I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ ‘What is truth?’ said Pilate.” (By the way, this whole conversation is proof of the resurrection because we couldn’t have known about it except from Jesus who wasn’t in a position to tell anyone about it until He had risen from the dead.) 

As frustrated as Pilate was with this whole situation, he was convinced of two things: Jesus wasn’t crazy, and Jesus wasn’t guilty. He began trying to goad the people into dropping the charges and letting Jesus go. He tried offering up a known criminal in His place. He tried having Jesus beaten to a bloody pulp in hopes of eliciting sympathy for Him from the people. He argued with them about Jesus and insisted He wasn’t guilty, but the people were dead set on this path. Finally, with his political hands firmly tied, he gave in to their demands and ordered Jesus to be crucified. The next three hours would have been a blur to everyone except Jesus who remained fully in command of the situation all the way to His last breath. In the end, though, He was dead. Just like He had told them He would be. 

Speaking of His telling them about all of this, Jesus had first told them things would be unfolding this way more than a year and a half before. Much more recently, though, Jesus had laid out the next 18 hours for the disciples the night before when they were sharing a final meal together. Sitting around that table together, Jesus began to blow their minds in ways that went beyond even what He had done before. In particular, as they all celebrated the Passover together—a festival with a set of symbolism and meaning that rested on centuries’ worth of precedent—Jesus reframed the whole thing and made it about Himself. He took the holy festival commemorating God’s rescue of His people from slavery to Egypt and made it about the rescue from sin He was about to provide to the whole world. This would have been a little like my making Christmas about celebrating my birthday. It sounded absolutely, offensively crazy to them…until they understood. 

As they sat around going through the various rituals of the meal—many of which are still followed today—the time came to hand around the bread. Luke tells us that “he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” To which they all naturally thought, “In remembrance of your what?” After the meal, the time came to hand around a cup of wine for them to all share. Luke tells us about this that “in the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.’” The apostle Paul would later note that He followed that with, “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 

What the disciples didn’t understand in that moment but which they would soon experience, is the very thing we are gathered here this evening to remember and celebrate. When Jesus let Himself be nailed to that Roman cross, it was for us. When His body was broken, it was to pay the price for our sins. You see, the penalty for sin is death. The penalty for sin is death because when we sin, we are taking our lives from God who is their right and proper owner since He created us. We can give our lives back to Him to pay our debt from sin, but then we won’t have them…because we gave them to Him…which would mean we would now be dead. Thus, sin brings death. But God didn’t create us to die. He created us to be in a relationship with Him. We can only do that, though, if there’s a way to deal with our sin that doesn’t result in our death. That’s where Jesus comes in. 

You see, even though it looked from the casual observer that Jesus was a helpless victim of unjust circumstances, He was the one in command. He was actively and intentionally following the Father’s plan to sacrifice His own life for our own. His perfect life would pay the price for our imperfect lives. This wasn’t at all a fair solution, but it was just. More importantly, it satisfied God’s justice. So, when He said that His body was broken for us, He really meant it. 

But we needed more than merely a way for our sins to be paid for by somebody else. We needed an entirely new way of relating to God because the old way defined by the Law of Moses was not working. Because of the stain of sin in each of our hearts, rather than the Law’s showing us the way to get to God, it stood as a giant condemnation of our failures to measure up to His perfect holiness. No, what we needed was a relationship pathway built on better promises than the Law offered us. To use the language Jesus used: we needed a new covenant. Jesus provided this in His blood. His body was the sacrifice and His blood sealed the deal. Covenants were always made with spilled blood. Blood was understood to be a life force and by committing a life force to the covenant, it was made strong and unbreakable. Jesus’ life force is the strongest there was, and so the covenant He made is the strongest there is. 

In short, His body took sin away as a roadblock on our journeys to God, and His blood paved the way for us to get to Him. The resurrection which we’ll talk about in a couple of days blew open the doors of life for everyone to enter, but Jesus’ death took care of the sin in our way and paved the way to get to God. Jesus’ death made it possible for you and me to get to God. What this all means is that if you have sin in your life, Jesus paid the price for that sin on the cross. That sin was part of the reason He went to the cross in the first place. But He did it so that you and I could live our lives plugged in to Him and enjoying the life that is truly life. That’s what this night is about: Remembering together the fact that life is available because Jesus died for you. 

2 thoughts on “Good Friday 2022

  1. DONALD ROSS

    Thank you for sending this Good Friday message. In the midst of the confusion which seems to engulf us we need to hear the clear message of Easter for that it all that is really important. You have done this with these words. Don’t stop doing it!

    May the Lord bless you and your family as you serve Him against strong winds which rage all about our country.

    Don Ross

    > > > pastorjwaits posted: ” Today is Good Friday, a day set aside to focus our attention on the cross of Christ. While Easter is rightly the highlight of our year as followers of Jesus, Easter and the empty tomb came by the road of the cross. Without dying, Jesus couldn’t have ” >

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