Thanks – being here.
Today is Good Friday. Which is the most bittersweet day on the Christian calendar.
Sorrow : Remembering: Many things – Jesus suffered at the hands of his own creation.
Joy : Because it’s also a day that we remember the depth of God’s love for each and every one of us.
It’s the day Jesus was crucified to save us all.
I believe that Jesus is the savior of the world. And as the people of the world, in so many ways, we continue to destroy ourselves and each other.
I believe it’s important to remember that Jesus alone is the great hope of humanity.- And that’s all about the cross.
I think it’s important on a day like Good Friday, to not just skip to the punchline of Easter and really miss this deeply mysterious and wonderful and horrible thing that happened when we as humanity murdered God.
And if that sounds strong to you, know that that’s how the apostle said it in the book of acts.
How can humanity kill God?
Founders – major religions
When you take a look at the deaths of the founders of the all the other major religions, you see they all are fairly similar. Just going by the texts of the religions themselves.
Moses Moses dies at 120 years old, full of years, as strong as ever, an undisputed leader, one who has brought his people to the verge of the Promised Land.
Buddha Buddha dies at the age of 80. He’s surrounded by a host of his devotees. He dies in peaceful serenity. He’s a complete success by that time.
Confucius Confucius had originally been forced to leave his hometown, but he comes back. He’s received there with honor. Dies in his hometown at the age of 72, surrounded by those who will continue his work.
Muhammad Muhammad dies in his 60s after having been the first political ruler of the united Arabia. He dies in the arms of his wife.
Let’s contrast that with Jesus
Let’s contrast that for a minute. When you come to Christianity, you have a man who dies at perhaps age 33 who has a ministry at the very, very most of three years, and when he dies, he’s alienated from his own people. He’s killed by the power of Rome. He’s abandoned by even his closest friends.
His death is premature. It’s tragic. It’s a disgrace. It’s shameful because it’s a crucifixion, which was the most shameful, the most degraded of all forms of execution, only for the very worst criminals, because you were stripped naked and you died slowly, with everybody just looking at you, watching you die inch-by-inch for days.
It makes perfect sense, in some ways, why the other religions did well.
When you see a founder and you see the peace and the blessing in his life, it’s “proof” that his religion works. You see peace. You see blessing in his life. You see the peace of his followers, and you see all of that, of course, people say, “That works! I’m going for that one!”
So why would anyone have looked at Jesus Christ, and watched him die penniless, naked, humiliated, and alone. Why would anybody have looked at him and said, “That’s the message for me. That’s what I want.”?
Nobody would have looked at the cross and said, “That’s a badge of honor. The way of blessing.” Yet we know the early Christians adopted the cross as their emblem.
Cicero (Early Roman Politician & Philosopher) said the word crux, which is the Latin word for cross, was a swear word.
Why was the cross a swear word? Because it represented everything wrong. It represented shame. It represented weakness. It represented defeat. It represented absolute, utter humiliation.
Matthias Grün-E-wald – 15th C – German Renaissance painter
Who is this tortured, dying man nailed to a cross?
Christians make outlandish statement: This is God. – Crucified God. If – don’t find that shocking, you’ve become far too familiar with the crucifixion. There should be something in you that thinks that this doesn’t make sense.. – How can this tortured dying man be God?
If Christianity hadn’t existed – instead people – invent a God. Wouldn’t have imagined this. This isn’t how you show an omnipotent, all powerful God. Yet, this IS God. No clearer picture of who God is than this bleeding, dying man, who has long since been abandoned by his followers.
What I want to do tonight is I want to tell the story of the crucifixion, and I specifically want to highlight 4 people in the story, who followed Jesus till the end. By the time Jesus was tortured and killed, nearly everyone had left him, but not everyone.
Carrying his own cross, Jesus went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). (John 19:17)
There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. (John 19:18)
Pilate wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” (John 19:19)
The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” (John 19:21)
Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” (John 19:22)
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)
At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. (Mark 15:33)
And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Mark 15:34)
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” (Mark 15:35)
Someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. (Mark 15:36)
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. (Mark 15:37)
Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and Salome. (Mark 15:40)
Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. (John 19:31)
The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. (John 19:32)
But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. (John 19:33)
Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (John 19:34)
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and took the body away. (John 19:38)
Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. (John 19:39)
They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. (John 19:40)
Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. (John 19:41)
And so they laid Jesus there. (John 19:42)
When you read the story of Good Friday, you get a supreme sense of Jesus being and feeling alone.
Jesus would say “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”
That’s not what his followers had in mind. That’s not what they signed up for. So to even stay and wait with Jesus was too high of a price to pay.
Connection is hard.
Our culture: preserve dignity at all costs.
Knee surgery Knee surgery – gown with no back. At that moment, my dignity was not the most important thing.
Women – given birth
No dignity. I don’t know how many of you have ever experienced having someone you deeply love and being close to them when they’re in a season of life where you’re caring for them, where they’re at a place where they weren’t able to preserve their dignity.
Grampy – 2015 My mom’s dad ‘grampy’, passed away in 2015. And I remember being there at the hospital with him and it’s the place where you past being concerned about germs, and body fluids, and modesty, that’s just all gone. You’re just there, and you’re just doing the best you can.
Uniquely difficult place – holding onto dignity – not going to happen. We’re programmed to keep our dignity even when we’re not good in so many ways.
What’s so powerful about our unsung heroes tonight – (Salome, Mary of Clopas, Joseph of Arimathea & Nicodemus) is that they are going to see Jesus exposed, naked, vulnerable, bleeding, experiencing the most awful moments of his life. And they refuse to abandon him.
First Two – Two women
2 women that I bet, you’ve never heard of before.
I’ve asked people.
A poll – who’s head of “Mary of Clopas”?
Who’s heard of “Salomi”
2 Salomi’s – – Mark
2 Salomi’s – gospel of mark
- 1 is herod’s daughter – who dances. – Dance of the 7 seals.
- Another – only appears in Mark 15 & 16 – when Jesus is crucified & when the women come to the tomb where Jesus was buried.
2nd: Mary of Clopas
Translation in greek is tricky. Some bibles will say: Mary OF Clopas, Mary wife of Clopas, some have believed it to be Mary the mother of clopas as opposed to the wife. Hard to know, but popular opinion is that it was Mary wife of Clopas, so I tend to go with that.
We know more about her because Clopas is a very unusual name.
Clopas is the brother of Jesus’s earthly father, Joseph. In a way, he would be Jesus’s UNCLE. So that would make Mary of Clopas likely an almost aunt.
Not making them up.
We know next to nothing about these two women except that they’re present during Jesus’s last breaths on the cross.
Last gasps of air – and how uniquely undignified Jesus must have been during that time.
Most awful moments of his life.
OF COURSE – the men – all but John – had left to have some sort of quarter life crisis. Went fishing.
BTW one reason we know John stayed – so happy to tell us in his gospel.
- Points out he ran faster than peter to the tomb
- One disciple of them all who stayed around.
- And he uses the phrase ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved, when referring to himself.
Amazing – you have these 2 women – one mentioned in mark and the other in John that will be remembered forever in Holy scripture for no other reason than they waited with Jesus during his last moments before death.
Besides John, only these women stood by Jesus not only when he was losing his life, but when he was losing his dignity.
Joseph of Arimathea & Nicodemus
Both were very wealthy and influential.
They were both pharisees. In fact, they were both members of the religious ruling council in Jerusalem, “The Sanhedrin.” – The council that voted to send Jesus to his death.
But more significantly, both men were secret disciples of Jesus.
As Joseph saw Jesus’s lifeless body hanging on the cross, something happened to him.
He gathered his courage, and it would take courage, and he went to the roman governor (pontius pilate), and asked for a breach in protocol. He asked that he body of Jesus not be left on the cross, not that he be tossed into a common grave, he asked that the body of Jesus would be given to him.
Being that Joseph was an influential member of the Sanhedrin, pontius pilate granted his request.
Nicodemus had gone and purchased 100 pounds of burial spices.
You need to understand: This is a considerable fortune. As you sit here and think about what Nicodemus is doing here in purchasing 100 POUNDS of burial species. However much you’re thinking that cost, it was more. Certainly the modern day equivalent of 6 figures.
He’s making a costly demonstration that he believes that Jesus is the one true King. And he will get a burial fit for a king.
Now Joseph, has a beautiful walled garden nearby.
Just outside of Golgotha. Golgotha was a terror and a horror. An abandoned hill made of rock.
Golgotha means ‘the place of the skull’ – most likely due to rock that resembles a skull. I’ve got a photo for you. (Pic)
Brutal place – Nothing is alive, not even the trees. The only trees are dead trees made into crosses to torture and kill. It’s name, it’s reputation and it’s appearance speak of the ugliness of death.
But now in death – Jesus – carried from Golgotha – beautiful garden. With the wall around it, Joseph’s garden seems a world away from the place of the skull. And there he would lay.
Salome, Mary of Clopas, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus.
Don’t know a lot about these people.
Here’s what we do know: these 4 people were there for Jesus when everybody else left. I just keep thinking about how amazing that is.
If you’re remembered for 1 thing – ‘Stayed with Jesus till the end.’ is not bad.
When everyone else left.
There’s nothing that they can do for Jesus. Offer him no answers. They don’t fix the problem.
They’re just present with him during this incredibly intimate time.
These 4, as horrible as it is, saw Jesus mocked, spat upon, his beard plucked out, whipped.
They saw Jesus’s final gasp for air on the cross..
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Like one from whom people hid their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3)
These are 4 who didn’t run when Jesus was in a horribly vulnerable place.
Funny: People – don’t appreciate?
Funny: You think that people in your life don’t appreciate the things you do for them?
I cleaned the house and you didn’t even notice!!!
I bought you this gift and you didn’t even say thank you!!!
How funny/sad it is to see Jesus on the cross dying for the these people, and they can’t even be bothered to be there. Fishing perhaps.
My point: They comforted Jesus in a way no one else did.
Think about what this moment must have been like for Jesus. He KNEW his disciples were going to abandon him. He knew Judas would betray him. He knew Peter would deny him.
What do you think it means for Jesus when he’s in the most unbelievable agony of his life and he knows everybody has left. EXCEPT for these few.
There were people who loved him enough to stay even though there’s nothing they could DO.
One thing that just totally awful about being a Christian. – We’re surrounded by people who suffer, and have desperate needs, and we love them and care for them, but have NO idea what to do.
- If there was a chore to do, you’d do it.
- If there was something you could cook that would help, you’d cook it. One reason – church meal plans.
Has there ever been someone around you, that was hurting and you wanted to help, but there was just nothing you could do in a way that made you not show up. Anyone ever been there?
Sometimes you just wanna stay home, b/c extreme suffering just makes everything awkward.
Hospital room – gasping for air.
In a hospital room when someone is gasping for air. – I don’t think I should be here! If I knew something to do, I’d do it. But it means something to go to someone who’s hurting and just BE with them.
When there’s nothing you can do.
Bacon cooking. (When Ryan killed himself) – My mom left the bacon cooking.
I believe, that in these last moments of Jesus’s life – that there had to be some comfort found in looking over and seeing these few people who were with him.
We all need – those people.
We all need those people in our lives. We have to fight this tendency in ourselves that if we don’t know how to help, then we might as well check out. There’s times when you just feel so stupid. – What am I doing here right now? So awkward that it’s paralyzing. Wow, I’m here and I have nothing to say.
Some of the most powerful ministry that you and I will EVER do, is to simply sit with someone when you have nothing to say, but you simply have the love to say ‘I’m gonna stay here with you till the end.’ I don’t know how this is gonna turn out. But I’m here.
What if one of the ways God is present with people is by sending you to be with them?
“Wounded Healer” – Henri Nouwen
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, that is a friend who cares.” (Henri J.M. Nouwen)
There might be part in you that doesn’t like that.
I’m a word of faith preacher – I have all the answers. People come to me to get answers. I need to have the right council, the right wisdom. Or at least sometimes I think I do.
But I’m learning that when people are really at tough places in life, there’s no gift that we can give as powerful as our presence, and the ability to share that pain in silence. – To be able to sit there and endure the awkwardness of just sitting.
Sitting Shiva It reminds me of the jewish practice of sitting shiva. Where you don’t speak for 7 days unless spoken to.
No man can stay alive when nobody is waiting for him. Everyone who returns from a long and difficult trip is looking for someone waiting for him at the station or the airport. Everyone wants to tell his story and share his moments of pain and exhilaration with someone who stayed home, waiting for him to come back.
A man can keep his sanity and stay alive as long as there is at least one person who is waiting for him.
A dying mother giving birth can stay alive to see her son before she gives up the stuggle, a soldier can prevent his mental and physical disintegration when he knows that his wife and children are waiting for him.
Thousands of people live in despair because there is nobody waiting for them tomorrow. There is no reason to live if there is nobody to live for. But when a man says to his fellow man, “I will not let you go. I am going to be here tomorrow waiting for you,” then tomorrow is no longer an endless dark tunnel. It becomes flesh and blood in the brother who is waiting and the man wants to give life one more chance.
Things don’t seem quite so bad when you know that there is 1 person waiting.
Knowing that there’s at least 1 person who is not going to abandon me, it’s amazing how it can give you the strength to carry on amid unimaginable pain.
And I hope this is encouraging or inspiring, because I think there’s people who WANT to help the hurting, and you have no idea how to help. I’m no pastor. I don’t know a bunch of scripture. It doesn’t matter. Your presence can bring healing.
A beautiful promise of Jesus is where he says ‘He will never leave us or forsake us.’
If you’re one of those people who is suffering in some way. Know this: Jesus has experienced it all. Not just physical pain, emotion pain of feeling abandoned and afraid.
Incredible: Jesus who was only kept company by a few to the end is the savior who by his spirit has promised to stay with us till the very end.
It’s not just that you’re not alone, it’s that you’ve never been alone. When no one else is willing to sit with you in the awkward, I promise you, Jesus will.
Man, if I could give you the reasons why you suffer, I would. Or maybe even a better question: When it’s gonna be done. Would you like to know that?!
Find comfort in knowing that he will be there with me all the way through.
He’s present w/ you. And: He wants to be present with others through you.
I find comfort in this: even though I’m in a lot of ways IN the struggle, doesn’t mean that God can’t use you in amazing ways to help somebody else.
- So for those of you who are in pain, God knows pain.
- For those of you who have suffered loss, God knows loss.
- For those of you who have been rejected, God knows rejection.
And here’s the most mysterious part: By His wounds, we are healed.
- To the sick, he’s a healer.
- To the sinner, he’s a forgiver.
- To the oppressed, he’s a liberator.
- To the fallen, he’s a restorer.
The God who never leaves, and never forsakes.
God, tonight I pray for people in here have been in a lonely place. Even though we understand others have been here, WE’VE never been here before.
People who just don’t know where their story is headed.
No one here has escaped your affection.
Pray for those people who have honestly wondered if you’ve abandoned them.
People who feel too far removed.
I just feel like maybe tonight God wants to tell you that no matter how lonely you feel, you’re not alone. No matter how isolated you feel, God has not abandoned you.
And I pray that you would work in our hearts that wherever we’re at tonight, that you would stir up in us the desire to be there for other people. Right smack dab in the middle of their pain. Use us in beautiful and surprising ways.
As we close – Lord’s Table.
Stay in your seats, as the ushers pass the communion elements.
As pass :
Just spend a minute thinking about the craziness of a God who bleeds, for us. And God who comes and experiences the pain and heartache alongside His creation so that he can lift it off of you.
As they do, I’d like you to ask yourself: How has the cross healed you?
This is the Table, not of the church, but of the Lord.
It is made ready for those who love Him and for those who want to love Him more.
So come, You who have much faith and you who have little,
You who have been here often and you who have not been here long,
You who have tried to follow and you who have failed.
Come, because it is the Lord who invites you.
It is His will that those who want Him should meet Him here.
Come to the Table.