We’re really grateful that you came to an extra service on a non-service day. This is the 6th Good Friday we’ve had (if you count last years video).
And it’s a time that’s very important to me and meaningful to me, and I hope it is to you as well.
Good Friday is certainly the most bittersweet day on the Christian calendar.
The Cross I’ve spent a lot of the day today thinking about the cross. And what the cross means. What it means to me and what I believe it means for the world.
And it kind of brings up the question: Does the cross still matter in 2021?
We're living in a time where the fragility of the world is being felt. What seemed like solid foundations are shaking. And this past year, our minds have been filled with all kinds of issues, that are all important, but issues like how do our societies react to a pandemic, racial injustice and inequality, accusations of political corruption, a million different things that are all pulling at your attention.
Meanwhile, the cross, which is not screaming at you, feels like it’s gotten drowned out by the sensational headline of the day.
So does the cross even matter?
I’d like you to think with me for a minute about the cross as a symbol. We see the symbol of the cross everywhere. Across nations, nationalities, ethnicities, age, gender, social status - people in every nation in the world find meaning in this symbol of the cross.
Has that ever struck you as odd? That literally billions of people find this symbol to be significant. The reason it’s odd, is because this is an ancient execution device. Invented by the romans as the most tortuous way of killing a person. Now we wear it around our necks, and hang it from our rear view mirrors.
Well, of course you all know that the cross is about Jesus. Because he died on one. But it was a death unlike any other. Because his death is THE THING that SAVED and IS SAVING the world.
I believe that Jesus is the savior of the world. And that's not church talk, I actually believe that. I honestly believe that Jesus is the only hope that the world has.
The issues of the world will not be solved by political means. If the world is to be saved, it will only happen through Jesus.
And all the more in a season like this where it feels like like world is spinning out of control, and it truly feels like we need saving. I believe it's important to remember that Jesus alone is the great hope of humanity. And that's all about the cross.
There’s multiple different ways that scripture speaks to us.
Our mission tonight is to be captivated. Captivated by the story of the passion week, which is to say the week leading up the crucifixion of Jesus. Pastor Cindi taught an incredible message this past Sunday about Palm Sunday which is where we’ll begin, and so goes into more detail than I will, I’d encourage you to check it out. It was excellent.
We’ll be working off the timeline found in the Gospel of John. But I hope you can avoid getting too bogged down with details, but just be captivated by the story.
And so what I like to always encourage you in, is to imagine with us being transported back 2000 years. We're one of the pilgrims who have come to believe in Jesus as the messiah. And so we've followed him from Galilee to Jerusalem, where we witness this whole thing going down.
We’re going to start on the previous Saturday. This is 6 days before Jesus is killed.
John begins his story in the village of Bethany. Which is about 2 miles east of Jerusalem. There is a meal. A women named Mary was there, and look at what she does…
Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3)
This perfume was made from an aromatic herb, nard (can you believe that name), imported from India in alabaster bottles. And it was extremely expensive. In fact, people would use it as a type of investment, similar to how gold used today.
However as with every gift to God, it's about the size of the gift, it's the heart of worship behind it.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, (John 12:4)
“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” (John 12:5)
On the surface, this looks like philanthropy. He's a good guy trying to care for the poor. John won't let us get away with that kind of thinking:
He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:6)
Something we know about Judas is that before he betrayed Jesus, he was the treasurer essentially and had already stolen.
Not every person that says they follow Jesus does. Sometimes the people that look the most holy are actually the least holy. And that's important for us to keep in mind in a season like this where LOTS of people have LOTS of opinions about what God is or is not doing. And sometimes things can sound right, but they're wrong. That's why it's important for us to remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit who will lead us into all truth.
“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. (John 12:7)
You can see Jesus is quite clearly talking about how he has come here to die. But the disciples, suffer from selective hearing-loss. They never put the pieces together.
So most of us would know this day as what? Palm Sunday. Pastor Cindi did an incredible message this past Sunday, which was Palm Sunday, so I won’t go into a lot of detail, but just briefly.
The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. (John 12:12)
This was the week leading up to Passover which was (and is) a huge jewish holiday. So the Capital City of Jerusalem is packed with people from all over. And they hear that Jesus is coming into town.
They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” (John 12:13)
Hosanna This Hebrew phrase, means “help us” or “save us”.
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: (John 12:14)
And he quotes Zechariah 9:9 which is a prophecy about the messiah:
“Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” (John 12:15)
Jesus riding a child's donkey into Jerusalem for his death is very powerful expression of the humility of Jesus. In Jesus's culture, just like in our culture, it is expected that the greatest people have the greatest stuff. Tim Cook the CEO of apple, I don't know what he drives, but it's probably not a 1997 Ford Pinto. This is what Jesus is doing. The God who created every animal pulls up on this hysterically weird little donkey. Showing us that he did not come to BE served, but to serve.
A few days pass, Jesus and his disciples sit down for dinner.
The disciples eating a meal with Jesus was not new. They ate together all the time. - But what they didn’t realize is this would be the last time they would be together with Jesus as the 12. And the last time they’d be with Jesus before he's killed.
It’s really a shame to call it the Last Supper. In many ways it’s the first supper, the first of millions and millions and millions of these suppers. For 2000 years, the church has remembered and celebrated this exact moment.
And everything seems great, but it's at this moment that Jesus changes the tone of the dinner I'm sure when he predicts his own betrayal.
Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” (John 13:20)
After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit (Jesus feels the weight of His imminent suffering and death.) and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” (John 13:21)
His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. (John 13:22)
One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, (Always a funny line from John. He refers to himself as 'The Disciple that Jesus loved. That's funny) was reclining next to him. (John 13:23)
Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.” (John 13:24)
Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” (John 13:25)
Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” (So basically, I'll show you) Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. (John 13:26)
So Judas is the one who will betray Jesus.
As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” (John 13:27)
Interesting detail is that up to this point Judas was certainly influenced by Satan, now Satan himself enters into Judas.
As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. (John 13:30)
That phrase 'And it was night' sets the stage for some of the darkest hours of the life of Jesus.
Goes to the chief priests to make a deal. Judas says "I know what you want. I know you want to arrest Jesus, but you can't, at least not out in the open. Perhaps I can find a way for you to apprehend him in private, in the dark." A deal was struck. 30 pieces of silver. There’s some debate on how much this would be in today’s money, but most people think it could be somewhere around $20 a coin, so $600. Perhaps.
Later, Jesus becomes troubled and he goes to the garden to pray. He's in anguish, he's troubled, he's afraid, and that's when they come for him. The Temple police, led by Judas. Who betrays Jesus with a kiss. They arrest Jesus and he's taken away.
Courtroom Drama What follows is a very intense and in-depth courtroom drama. The trials of Jesus (plural) rival the best Josh Grisham novel. We're going to mostly pass over them tonight. But if you want to learn more, I've done a few talks about it in the past that you can find online. Reach out if you need any help finding them.
But I do want to point out one scene that is absolutely critical.
In John 18, Jesus is in front of Pontius Pilate, who is the Roman Governor.
And basically the charge they're dealing with is whether or not Jesus claimed to be a King.
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)
See, the kingdom of God, is not like anything else we have here. It's totally unique.
And that's why Christians ought to be to totally unique in the world. That when someone looks at a Christian they should think "Wow, I've never seen another human like that before." And how are we unique? Well we put on display through God's help - The fruits of the spirit. You probably know those from Galatians 5. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That doesn't mean that we're the only ones who are patient, but it means that with God's help we are the MOST patient folks in the world.
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)
So everyone who is on the side of truth listens to Jesus. Remember that.
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. (John 18:38a)
This is so interesting. That Pilate is in charge of finding the truth in this situation, asks Jesus who is the truth. It's clear that Pilate believes that Jesus spoke the truth and was innocent. So Pilate sees the truth but rejects the truth. It's a tragedy when we fail to recognize the truth, but it's an even greater tragedy when we recognize the truth but fail to heed it.
With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. (John 18:38b)
So Pilate’s exonerates Jesus. He actually exonerates him 3 times.
But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” (Of course talking about Jesus.) (John 18:39)
They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” (John 18:40a)
Barabbas was a revolutionary. Mel Gibson doesn't get this one quite right. He paints Barabbas to be maniacal psychopath killer. That's not what Barabbas was. Barabbas was a hero.
Barabbas was a revolutionary who led an uprising against the Roman government and in doing so, some Romans were killed. He was a freedom fighter - fighting against the corrupt government. I mean, you want to talk about a corruption, Jesus lived under one of the most oppressive governments in human history. So anyways, Barabbas lead an uprising against the Roman government, and in doing so, some Romans were killed.
And as I’ve said to you before, scripture is painting a real comparison here between Jesus and Barabbas. By the way, who’s full name was "Jesus bar Abba" - Jesus Barabbas.
Which is so amazing. On Good Friday we have ourselves 2 Jesus's. To potential "Saviors".
One who saves by shedding the blood of his enemies, the other saves by allowing his own blood to be shed.
Which do we want? - That's the question being asked.
They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” (John 18:40a)
I wonder how many of us sometimes wish for a God that doesn't look like Jesus. How often do we want a God that holds grudges just like we do. "God don't you dare forgive those people! They wronged me!" - But Jesus comes and offers forgiveness and redemption for even the most despicable sinners. Is that the Jesus you're willing to follow and emulate?
Pilate gives in. We head to Golgotha.
Some more arguing and discussing take place but ultimately, Pilate gives in to the wishes of the people.
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. (John 19:16)
Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). (John 19:17)
Golgotha was a terror and a horror. An abandoned hill made of rock.
Golgotha means ‘the place of the skull’ - probably due to rock that resembles a skull. (I have a pic) Brutal place. Nothing is alive, not even the trees. Its name, its reputation and its appearance speak of the ugliness of death.
There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. (John 19:18)
Near the cross of Jesus stood (these 4 women): his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. (John 19:25)
OF COURSE - the men - all but John - had left to have some sort of quarter life crisis. Went fishing.
The only reason we know John stayed - so happy to tell us:
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved (again, John talking about himself) standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” (John 19:26)
and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:27)
So this is such a cool detail that after Jesus's death, John let Mother Mary live with him and he took care of her.
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. (John 19:29)
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
Jesus here is dead. Not pretending to be dead. Not half dead. Dead. Which is an amazing thought. But just like with all of us, death is not the end of the story.
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. (John 19:38)
And we leave Golgotha - and along with a few of the women, we follow Joseph and Nicodemus as they carry the body of Jesus.
He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes (These burial spices were used to reduce the smell of decay.), about seventy-five pounds. (John 19:39)
Nicodemus had gone and purchased 75 pounds of burial spices.
You need to understand: This is a considerable fortune. 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.
Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. (John 19:40)
At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. (John 19:41)
Now in death, Jesus is carried from Golgotha into a 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.
The garden serves as a stark contrast from the Golgotha. Peaceful. Quiet.
The body of Jesus was laid in this new tomb, it was going to be Joseph's tomb, but in an act of devotion he gives his tomb to Jesus.
Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:42)
Tomb is sealed and for 3 days Jesus will stay.
So here’s something I was thinking about today: Where is God the Father when Jesus was killed?
The mass of people spitting and shouting. So swept up in collective outrage that they’ve become indifferent to human dignity and just wanting someone to blame. No. God the father is not with the mob.
The religious leader of the day - who condemned Jesus of blasphemy? So spiritually pious that he is unconcerned with human suffering. No. God the Father is not with Caiaphas.
The Roman governor who reluctantly condemns Jesus of treason. So concerned with the what other people thought that he fails to do the right thing even though he knows the truth. No. God the Father is not with Pilate.
Paul - 2 Corinthians:
God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.
When Jesus says 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' What do you think the father says? "Certainly my son. For you have always represented me. You have always represented my heart. Yes, this is what we do! Absorb sin into love. Recycle it into forgiveness."
The cross shows us the fathers heart.
God is NOT Zeus hurling thunderbolts upon his enemies. There's the Zeus form and the Christ form. Zeus was the King God of the greek pantheon. We've found many statues, idols, of Zeus. There are many.
This is the form of Zeus. Always like this. Fist (usually holding a thunderbolt, most thunderbolts have been lost) but he's ready to strike. And without Jesus - humanity instinctively thinks this is the posture of God. - Until Jesus comes. Then this is the posture of God. This is what we thought God was like. - And the 'good news' is that God isn't like this, he's like this.
So does the cross still matter?
It matters more than anything.
Saves of from the Past
Because of the cross, we’re no longer bound-up by the trauma and pain of things that have happened to us. Because of the cross, we don’t have to be victims. Because of the cross, we are healed, we are restored, we are recovered.
Saves us in the Present
Because of the cross, we have the gift of grace that empowers us to live like Christ. So that our families can be places of forgiveness and kindness. So that our workplaces can be places of honesty and integrity. So that our cities can be places of charity, and brotherly-love.
Saves us in the Future
As God’s chosen people (to quote Paul), when we look at the future, we see with eyes of hope, not despair. That whether our life right now is one of joy or pain (or a combination of both), we know that the future God has for us is so unimaginably wonderful, that this life pales in comparison.
The cross, that meant death for Christ, means life for us.
If asked: Where is the center of Christian faith? We point to the cross. We say "Right there." "Where are our sins forgiven and world made right?” - We point to the cross and say "Right there." This is the part that we miss: If asked: “What is God like?” We point to the cross and say "Right there."
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16)
And here's the most mysterious part:
As we close :
We come to the Table of Jesus.
You all should all have your communion elements.
And as we receive communion, I want you to think about how bizarre and amazing is it that God would bleed and die, for us. That God himself comes and experiences the pain and heartache alongside His creation so that he can lift it off of you.
Lord Jesus, we come to your table as grateful people.
And tonight, on good friday, we deliberately focus our hearts and our minds on your wonderful grace.
I know there's some people here - going through a hard time - they’re afraid, they’re angry.
God, they need your help. Help that you’re eager to give.
It feels like life is pretty complicated right now for lots of folks. But when we come to your table, everything gets real simple. A simple gift offered to us, and a simple yes is all you need from us.
So tonight we say Yes. To your forgiveness, to your grace, to your mercy, to your kindness, to your invitation. And we say thank 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.
Remember death / Proclaim resurrection / Await return
(Eat / Drink)