Good Friday - 2018
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
“God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good.”
We call today “Good Friday.” To the people who were there, it felt anything but good. They felt the darkness, but darkness wouldn’t keep God away from us. You see, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. But man loved the darkness more than light because their deeds were evil. So, Jesus was despised and rejected by mankind. A man of suffering and familiar with pain. He took up our pain and bore our suffering. He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. But, by His wounds, we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray. Each of us has turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all so that we can know that today is good.
This is a packed house. I think you ought to tell the pastor we need a new building. I’m going to do my best.
Well, good evening to everyone, and a special greeting to any first-time visitors that we have with us here at Grace. We always welcome first-time visitors, and if this is your first time with us, thanks for being here. You are welcome at Grace. Welcome home. Amen?
In a few short moments, after I give some reflective thoughts concerning Good Friday, we’re going to together participate in the Lord’s Table. And so that we don’t disrupt the flow of this service in taking up an offering, there will be offering buckets placed throughout the auditorium at the end of the service for those who wish to give this evening. If this evening is your first time at Grace, or whether you are a regular attender, I must say that Good Friday services are a substantial departure from every other service that we do here at Grace during the calendar year.
As an example of the difference, I always write out my sermon in manuscript form on Good Friday. I give way to my normal routine of casual dress, my chair and table, the TV with my slides and my conversational style of teaching to a written manuscript sermon in a pulpit. Of course, I keep my devastatingly good looks, charming wit. I don’t know if I’d praise Him for that.
You might ask why such the change for this service. That’s a good question. In short, this service is the most sobering and reflective service for me, personally, all year. And I do my best to represent that with my presentation. See, Good Friday is the day that Jesus was beaten, cursed, ridiculed, pierced, laughed at, stripped naked, ultimately crucified, died and was laid in a tomb. I realize that He did that for me. He did that for us. He did that for humanity. He offered Himself up as the perfect sacrifice, so we could have peace with God. His offering secured our salvation.
Good Friday wasn’t good for Jesus. However, it was good for us. I want to honor His sacrifice with taking the time once a year to personally write out my thoughts, my words and my ideas. My words as an offering are obviously flawed and imperfect, but they do represent a way for me to remember and reflect upon what He endured roughly 2,000 years ago. I hope they allow you to do the same. I hope that my contemplations become yours, and together we remember that if Good Friday had not happened, then we would not be able to celebrate Resurrection Sunday.
I realize that Good Friday services are not held in every church. My guess is that being the radically convenient society we are, many think, “Why bother having a service on a Friday night when Easter is just right around the corner?”
I suspect some churches ultimately conclude in a very pragmatic way that Easter attendance is simply more important than Good Friday attendance, so they put all their Easter eggs, proverbially, into one basket. However, to me, and I hope you will agree, we just can’t do Easter services justice without remembering Christ’s suffering on Good Friday. The two are inextricably joined together. The suffering and then the glory. The death and then resurrection. The mocking of Jesus’ kingship and the ultimate revealing of it. The trying to do away with the Word of God and realizing that it’s eternal. The loss that leads us to being found. And the war on death waged so that we could have eternal life. Jesus holding the keys of death and hell doesn’t quite have the same meaning without Good Friday.
So, we remember the suffering today and, in doing so, it makes our celebration on resurrection morning that much more meaningful. I want to stress again that without today, Good Friday, what we celebrate on Easter ultimately loses its meaning. That’s why this service is so important and needed. The life we celebrate on Easter has no real meaning without the death on Friday. The beauty of Easter Sunday takes shape because of the tragedy of Friday. Jesus endured the worst day for you and me so we could experience the greatest life, the abundant life, on Easter morning.
So, what I’d like to do this evening is focus on a few short passages of Scripture from the Gospel of John that will help us remember Good Friday, and hopefully will put us in the right frame of mind to truly grasp, understand and celebrate the resurrection’s magnitude. I think our time in this passage will be both enriching and rewarding. I hope you will agree when I’m done. I’m going to read out of John 19:28-30, and then I’m going to make some comments.
John writes, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour win on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
John’s phrase, “After this,” comes after Jesus has been led up to Golgotha, placed on the cross, the soldiers have divided up His garments, and the short conversation between Jesus, from the cross, and the one standing there has taken place. But what John writes next is extremely powerful and needs our undivided attention. First, John tells us that Jesus knew that all was now finished. This is incredibly important, both practically and theologically. Jesus isn’t just another would-be victim of the cruel Roman penal system. Jesus isn’t just another crucifixion standing in the line of thousands of others. Jesus isn’t just another would-be messiah or, even worse, a failed messiah.
John wants his readers to know that Jesus knew what He was doing. He wasn’t on the cross because of a technicality between the Roman procurator and the Jewish leaders. His crucifixion wasn’t simply a bad turn of events that freed Barabbas instead of Jesus. John wants his readers to know that Jesus knew exactly what was happening, and all that needed to be completed had been. Jesus was in control, not the circumstances of the day.
Second, and a little bit more obscure and in need of some real exegetical work, is what John tells us next. John tell us, “In order to fulfill the Scripture, Jesus said, ‘I thirst.’” This is powerful. The man who had given living water to others was now thirsty. Had the water of life run out? Was the man who could do so much for others now unable to help Himself? John tells us this was to fulfill the Scripture. Most scholars agree that John is siting, and Jesus is siting Psalm 69:21.
However, I feel there is some deeper significance in what John has recorded for us because John tells us that the response to His declaration that He was thirsty was that Jesus was offered sour wine. This sour wine was a cheap wine. It may have been there for the soldiers to drink as standing at the foot of a cross during the day would require hydration. It may very well have been there for those being crucified. We simply don’t know for sure. What we do know is that this wine wasn’t consumed by the wealthy. It was a very inexpensive, cheap wine.
Why this detail? For people like us who believe the Scriptures are God-breathed, we don’t believe there’s a surplus of words used by the writers. Every word is important in the text. I would like to submit to you that this passage makes sense of the strange and, probably at the time, very cryptic saying of Jesus to Mary found earlier in chapter 2 of this Gospel. If you remember, the wine had run out at a wedding in Cana. Mary came to Jesus and told Him what probably everyone knew. The wine has run out.
Jesus’ response was quite cryptic. But now, reading this passage in John 19, it starts to make more sense. Mary told Jesus that the wine had run out, and His response was, “What does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
At the time, this would’ve been obscure at best. In fact, commentators who write on the Gospel of John still wonder what Jesus really meant by saying what He said. However, reading these two passages together, I think, shines a real light on what John is getting at. Jesus is telling Mary at the wedding in Cana that the time for His wine is not yet. His hour will come. There will be an hour where wine will be important, but not in John 2.
Mary didn’t quite understand this, and she probably didn’t even while standing at the foot of the cross watching her son die. But here, wine appears again. Cheap wine. Not the best wine that Jesus gave to the people at the wedding at Cana, but cheap, inexpensive wine. But herein lies the completeness of Jesus and His work. When He received the wine, He said, “It is finished.”
See, Jesus thirsted so that you and I could have living water, but Jesus drank the cheap wine so we could have the extravagant wine of our Heavenly Father. This is why He died, so we could have life. Isn’t this remarkable? The God of all the universe drinks the cheap and inexpensive, sour wine so that others can have the best? Take just a moment and let that sink in.
Third, John says to us that Jesus bowed His head and gave up His spirit. John records some interesting words here for us. He tells us that Jesus laid down His head. Laid down His head as one would lay down their head on a pillow. This isn’t the normal way of describing someone dying because this isn’t a normal death. Jesus has laid down His head as if He is sleeping. Why this way of describing Jesus’ death? Because He is merely sleeping. He will wake up. He will rise. Death has no finality to our Savior.
John also tells us that Jesus gave up His spirit. Pilate didn’t execute Him. The Jewish leaders didn’t snuff out an insubordinate, would-be messiah. No. There’s so much more going on here on Good Friday. Jesus is the one who has given up His spirit. What may look like the powers that be, the political world and their religious leaders, all demonstrating their powers on an individual isn’t.
As Luke will tell us in Acts 2, this man was “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.” Folks, this is good news for you and me. All the powers that be are merely pawns in the hand of a sovereign God. Maybe we should remember this more often when we allow the events of our world and its leaders to get us sidetracked in our faith.
Fourth, and before we remember the Lord through communion, let me remind you that the work of Christ is finished. We don’t add to it by our works. We don’t somehow participate in it and make it complete by being good or by trying to earn a spot on the team. What Jesus did for you and me on the cross is a complete work. It is finished.
Christianity isn’t about performance, it isn’t about what we’re going to do or have already done, and it surely isn’t about us being better or more right than someone else. Christianity is based on what Christ has done for you and me, and that work is complete. There is so much freedom in understanding this truth. Christianity does not start off with what we do, but it starts and is finished by what Christ has done.
As the closing note, the phrase “it is finished” is one word in the original language. It was a word that was written on a bill after it was paid in full. Our bill has been paid. It was paid by the broken body and shed blood of the perfect Lamb of God, and His name is Jesus. That is why today is good.
To commemorate Jesus’ death, we’re going to come to the Lord’s Table this evening and participate as a church in holy communion. The Lord’s Table here at Grace is always open to anyone who is a believer. We celebrate the Lord’s Table a little differently here at Grace in that we come as individuals to receive the elements, but then we wait for everyone to be served before we celebrate it corporately as His Church.
So, everyone will come to different stations around the sanctuary and receive the elements. Make sure you get both cups. There’s two. And then, please, go back to your seats. We would ask that you would wait there for just a few moments, while everyone is served, in a reflective and sober moment remembering what Jesus did for you and me on this Friday. And then, after everyone is served, we will participate in communion together.
The Apostle Paul told the church in Corinth, in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, “I receive from the Lord what I also delivered to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took break, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, he took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
So, if you would, all around the church, let’s find the elements together. Let’s remember what He’s done for you and me. Let’s hold them until everyone is served, and then we will do it together.
On the night when the Lord Jesus was betrayed, He took the bread and He blessed it and then He broke it. He said, “This is my body. As often as you do this, do this in in remembrance of me.”
Let’s remember, on this Good Friday service, that Jesus’ body was broken for you and me so that we could be reconciled back to our Heavenly Father. Let’s partake of the wafer together.
And after supper, He took the cup and He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. As often as you drink it, do it in remembrance of me.”
Let’s partake of the cup together.
Dear Heavenly Father, we have gathered here as Your people, as Your church, to commemorate the suffering and death on Calvary. But Lord, we are so grateful that that is not the end of the story, because we know that when we come back to Your house again, whether it be on Saturday or Sunday of this week, we are going to celebrate the fact that the grave could not hold You, that death had no power over You, that You rose from the grave, literally, on the third day. And because of that, death, hell and the grave have no power, and our salvation was secured. And because of that, we know that one day we, too, will rise with You and we will participate with You again in Your heavenly kingdom on that day where there will be no more tears and no more fears and no more wars and no more problems and no more issues. It will be a day where You will be our God and we will be Your people. And we know that day is assured because we know that what You did on the cross is complete and is finished.
And so, Lord, we love You and we thank You and we praise You for what You’ve done for us. In Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.”
If you would, please stand with us and we’re going to pass the cups to the aisles as the ushers are going to come and collect them in the buckets. We are going to sing another song, and I just would ask you to sing this with all of your might and all of your lungs to the Lord and thank Him for what He has done for you and me.
He alone is worthy of all of our praise and all of our glory. And here’s the best part of it: Even though Good Friday is a tough day, and the suffering was real, it’s not the end of the story because we’re going to gather here again, we’re going to come back in here and we are going to celebrate the fact that Jesus split the grave wide open and He walked out of that grave on the third day.
And if, by chance, you’re here tonight and maybe you got the big flyer in the mail and you thought, “You know what? I’m going to come in here and see what this is all about,” let me tell you something: There is still room at the foot of the cross for you and me. And if you have any inclination, you’re like, “You know, I don’t know why I came here. I’m not quite sure what’s going on in my life,” let me tell you something: You’re not here by accident. You’re here because God wanted you to be here this evening and He is calling your name. If you’ve never, ever, ever made Christ the Lord and Savior of your life, Good Friday would be a great day to do it. You could join the Roman Centurion that looked up and said, “Truly, this was the Son of God.”
Amen? And I always say it’s just a prayer away. You know, Jesus looked at His disciples and said, “Come on. Follow me.” Maybe that’s where you’re at tonight and you go, “You know, I want to follow Jesus.”
If you do, all you’ve got to do is say, “Jesus, I want to follow You. I’ve done some things in my life that I shouldn’t have done, and I need forgiveness. And I believe what I heard tonight, and I want You to be my Lord and Savior.”
If that’s the case, find me, find somebody and let us know and we will help you walk through all that stuff together. But, for those of us that are regular attenders here at Grace, I do want you to know something. Just because you’ve got your church on on Friday night doesn’t mean that you can’t get your church on on Saturday or Sunday. I want you to know that.
And for those of you all who want to know this, we are going to have some throwback songs for our Easter services. We’re even going to do the Doxology. I do want you to know, though, that nostalgia is not necessarily spirituality, but those are still great songs. Okay? But God bless everybody. We’re going to have a great Easter service. God is doing such great things here at Grace. You know, take some time. We’re getting out of here early. I wanted everybody to get out early because I didn’t want to wear yourself out tonight and then forget about Saturday and Sunday.
But, you know what? What I want you to do is I want you to find a few people, shake hands with them, say hi to them and get to know them a little better. There’s people in here you don’t even know go to Grace because we have all those services going on, and some of you are going to go, “I didn’t even know you were here. You’re my neighbor.”
You know? But greet some people and we’re going to have a fantastic Easter weekend. There’s going to be so many people that are going to be introduced to Jesus. There’s going to be so many new visitors. It’s going to be a great time. So, let’s just bind together right now in a word of closing prayer, and let’s ask God to bless the six services that we’re going to be having here on Easter Sunday, and let’s just ask God to make not only Himself so much more real to us that believe, but to make Himself real to those that might walk in here this weekend who don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior.
So, let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You so much for Your goodness and Your mercy. We thank You, Lord, that You’re doing some great things here in the Sarasota area and Lakewood Ranch. And Lord, a lot of that’s going on here in our midst. So Lord, we’re just asking for Your glory, not for ours, not for our church, but for Your glory that You would draw some people into this building this weekend that don’t know You as Lord and Savior that are going to walk out of here new creations in Christ Jesus, forgiven and free and all the bondages and chains gone in Jesus’ name.
So, Lord, I just pray that Your Spirit would be here at the Saturday services and the Sunday services in such a way that no one could walk out of here not realizing who the King of kings and the Lord of lords is. So, Lord, we give You these services, we give You ourselves, we thank You so much for all that You’ve done for us. We remember tonight Your suffering, Your death and Your burial, and Lord, we can’t wait to come back here again and absolutely rejoice at the fact that You rose from the grave on the third day.
Lead, guide and direct us as we leave. Watch over us and protect us. We love You, we praise You and we thank You in Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap.