Message for Good Friday

Text: John 19:18
There they crucified him

There they crucified him

The death of Jesus on a cross is an event that has had a powerful effect across the world and throughout the ages; that moment has been remembered forever in sculptures, paintings and literature; it is the moment that is brought to everyone’s attention as they gaze on crucifixes on altars, on church spires, in town squares, on the sides of buildings, and even along country roads (especially in Europe). 

Without a doubt, one of the most frequent subjects of western art is the crucifixion and so you would think that there would be a vivid description of what happened on Good Friday outside Jerusalem in the Bible.

But there isn’t.  The record we have of Jesus’ crucifixion is surprisingly simply – it’s just 3 words in Greek. All four gospels are extremely brief saying simply – “they crucified him”.  That’s all they say to indicate that Jesus was nailed to a cross. 

The gospel writers give us a good description of the verbal abuse Jesus suffered during the several trials the night before he died, but they spare us the gory details of what happened to Jesus’ body when he was whipped and nailed to the cross.

Can you imagine what a field day 60 Minutes would have reporting the events of Good Friday? They would preface their report with a warning that some viewers may find what they’re about to see as confronting and then proceed with a detailed description of the events and reports from onlookers. They would tell in detail the effect of a whip on human flesh, include video of the Roman soldiers with hammer and nails, the spikes going through flesh and bone, the gasping of the crowd and so on, and above all, the agonising cries of the victim.

But the Gospel writers are not 60 Minutes reporters.  Even the apostle Paul is brief in his description of this moment on Good Friday.  He simply says, He died for all” (2 Cor 5:14).  The writers of the Scriptures don’t want us to get hung up on the blood and gore and pain of Good Friday.  They leave all that to our imaginations.

What is more important for those who tell the story of the first Good Friday is why it happened.  They begin their gospel accounts with God taking seriously the state of the world and the corruption of humanity.  God takes it so seriously that he enters the world as one of us.  He is announced by an angel as “the one who will save people from their sin”.  He is Immanuel – “God with us” – who is born into this world and lives in this world with all the cravings, difficulties, troubles, temptations and suffering that we experience.  God came amongst us for only one reason – his love for all people.  He could not stand by and watch sin and death take control and leave us without hope.  He died for all” (2 Cor 5:14) Paul says, that means, he died for you and me.

Today, as we gaze at the cross, I trust we will reflect on these three things.

Firstly, as we reflect on what the cross means for us, we will realise again how God took on himself the burden of our guilt and shame and died in our place and defeated the bitterness of death. 
We will reflect on what God was prepared to do for us because he knows how broken we are,
how often we fail to be the people he created us to be,
how weak we are when faced with choices that involve a decision between putting ourselves or putting others first;
how hard we find it to love, to forgive, to be compassionate, to be inclusive, to be welcoming and friendly and much easier to be harsh, judgemental and cold.
The cross is a sign of how God put all our shame and guilt the behind us.

Secondly, as we reflect on the events of Good Friday, once again we remember how the cross is a sign of God’s love for you and me personally, a symbol of God’s never-ending grace. 

To understand the cross, we need to understand God’s grace.  There is nothing you or I can add to the cross and its effect.  Christ has lovingly done it all for us through the cross.  God has fixed the gap between himself and us that our sin causes.  God has cleansed us from the guilt of our sin.  God has made it possible for you and me to enter his heavenly kingdom.  Through the cross, God has done it all. 

Thirdly, as we reflect on the cross of Good Friday, we are reminded that through the cross, we have a new identity, a new life, a new hope, a new joy and a new strength.  While we are in this life, we still have to face the harsh realities of suffering and trouble, but with the crucified and risen Christ, we have a newness that enables us to face all these things, not with our own strength and abilities, but with the new hope, joy and life that comes from trusting in the risen Christ who walks this journey with us and gives us the strength to have a longer and bigger view than our present troubles.

As we gaze at the cross let it remind us that it was the sin and death in us that put Jesus on the cross.
Let it remind us that from the cross, the love of God beams down on us and affects us, changes us, renews us, enables us to appreciate again how our past has been wiped clean and our future has been made certain simply through trusting in the One who has died for us.

The man who was crucified next to Jesus saw his past, present and future in a new way when he looked at the Son of God dying next to him.  He looked at Jesus and saw hope, newness, life and new possibilities.  He asked, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.

Make this our prayer as we remember the events of Good Friday that we too may fully enjoy all that it means to be made new in his kingdom.

 © Pastor Vince Gerhardy

30th March 2018

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Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, © American Bible Society, revised Australian edition 1994.
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