If This Cup Could Pass: Good Friday 2019

Sermon Transcript

Well, thanks to everyone for coming out this evening, and thanks, also, to any guests that we have with us here tonight. If this is your first time, we’re so glad that you’ve joined us on this special evening. I want to take a minute to personally welcome you and let you know that we’re glad that you’ve decided to spend Good Friday with us here at church. I would also kindly encourage our first time guests, and also our regular attenders, to make sure that you come to one of our six Easter services because I believe that both the Good Friday and the Easter services ultimately go together.

All that said, tonight’s service is quite different from any other service that we do here at Grace, and for good reason. What we commemorate tonight is unique. We gather to remember the beating, the suffering and the crucifixion of Jesus. In doing so, it’s a tradition that I have, I always wear a suit. If you’re new here, that means I don’t normally wear a suit. If you were looking for the jeans and the t-shirt or whatever else, come to one of the Easter services. I won’t disappoint you, I promise you. I also not only wear a suit, but I write out my message. It’s my way, personally, of saying thanks to the Lord for what He did for me, and what He did for us.

See, without the cross, there would not be — in fact, there could not be a resurrection. Without resurrection, then sin would not be atoned for, and death would not have been conquered. Good Friday is a part of a chain of events that changed the world. The suffering is required for the glory to come. The perennial temptation when presenting the Gospel is to try and downplay the suffering of Jesus, or to do away with it altogether. In fact, during the temptation of Jesus, Satan himself tried to convince Jesus to take His messiahship by spectacular display rather than following God’s plan.

That temptation to avoid suffering will always buffet the Church and try to make her into a place of desiring only glory and somehow forgetting the cross. As the great reformer Martin Luther referred to this perennially vexing issue, he called it a temptation of desiring a theology of glory instead of a theology of the cross. And remember, the Apostle Paul reminds us that if we boast in anything, it should be in the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This should remind us that we can’t claim to be followers of Jesus and circumvent the cross. It’s fundamental, it’s pivotal and it’s the sine qua non, the not without which, of the Christian faith. Christianity that is cross-less ceases to be Christianity. Unfortunately, many churches no longer hold Good Friday services. Whereas I cannot say for sure the reasons, and most definitely am not trying to be critical of their decisions, I can probably conclude at least some of the reasons Good Friday services have become less popular. One: It could possibly take away from Easter service attendance. Two: Let’s be honest, it’s not fun to discuss suffering. Three: Why have a service that could potentially be looked at as sort of like a downer when you can just have one that’s consider to be positive or an upper? Also, the toll on staff and volunteers.

However, I want to make sure everybody understands, as your pastor, I am committed to this fact: Easter cannot be properly understood apart from Good Friday. Resurrection cannot be fully understood without death. Glory cannot be grasped apart from suffering. That’s why we hold Good Friday services. As long as I’m the pastor here, we will continue to do that.

Listen, nobody likes suffering. If given a choice, we would all inoculate ourselves from any of it. Who would desire suffering when a pain-free life might be a possibility? But in embracing a life that tries to be suffering-free, could we, at the same time, be missing huge opportunities for God to work in our lives? I think so, and Good Friday is a vivid reminder of that.

As Christians, we don’t seek suffering, but we embrace that it’s integral to our faith. We don’t run from it because we know without it we can’t be fully conformed to the image of Christ. As the Church will constantly try to find new ways to present the Gospel message in each subsequent generation, there are certain anchors to the faith that cannot be lost. Good Friday is one of those anchors, and to it we’re going to turn.

I’d like to focus my words tonight on one phrase from Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. The words of Jesus found in Luke 22:42 say, “‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’”

These words are incredibly moving and profound. They show the humanity of Jesus in the face of suffering, but they also point us to the fact that following God is not a matter of our will, but His. I find it deeply touching, and even reassuring, that in some human way the Savior of the world, in His humanity, desired an easier path in the garden. I can relate to that. I’m sure you can too. Who wouldn’t say, “If the path could be easier, I’m in?” That’s what makes this statement from Jesus so incredibly human, but also incredibly inspiring. He relates to you and I in the aversion to suffering, but at the same time shows us to trust God in spite of it.

Oh, to have the same attitude as my Savior. For us to all have the same attitude as Jesus. But what would compel you and I to endure hardship and suffering? It’s one thing to have a nice line out of the Gospel of Luke that we listen to, but are there benefits to suffering? Is it even possible? I think the answer is yes, or otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have shown us this way on Good Friday.

I also want to make a note here. Nobody would have written something like this if you wanted to make up a faith for people to follow. This is almost absurd, at one level. If you’re telling us that Jesus is God in the flesh, and God Himself is having second thoughts about doing what God should do — do you get the point? This just shows you how authentically real and honest the biblical writers are, and reminds us, at the same time, that our faith is a mystery. Great is the mystery of godliness, but reassuring and honest it is. The more I read the Scripture, the more I realize it’s not just a book written simply by humans. Humans want things to make sense. We want them to be neat and tidy. Scripture is never neat and tidy. It doesn’t call us to knowledge. Scripture calls us to faith.

I have a couple of points that I would like to comment on about the benefits of suffering as we reflect on Good Friday, and then we’ll turn to the Lord’s table in Communion.

First, suffering never comes to us apart from the providence and purpose of God. As hard as this concept is to understand, it is without question biblical. Our faith is mysterious. There are complexities and questions that may never be answered this side of eternity, but full comprehension of the mysteries of God is not the bedrock of our obedience. Faith is. Paul told the Corinthian church he only saw through a glass dimly, and I can assure you that we all do as well. Just because something doesn’t make sense to us right now doesn’t mean it ultimately can’t or won’t. Our faith is in the one who is holy, righteous and just, and having answers isn’t the prerequisite for following Jesus. Faith is. If our faith is in the God who spoke the world into existence, we must believe that He is at work even in our suffering.

A poignant passage to reflect upon that shows us not only the providence and purpose of God, but also reveals His incredible concern and care for His people, is found in the same Gospel that we’re looking at tonight. It’s found in Luke 2:41-46. The family of Jesus, as a young boy, has traveled to Jerusalem for Passover. They traveled in caravans back then, not just Mary and Joseph. So, when they left, the entire family would look out for everyone. The large group would set off for home. What nobody knew was Jesus didn’t go with them. He stayed in Jerusalem. Nobody realized He wasn’t in the group. As they were already into the trip, a day’s journey, all of a sudden, His parents realized He’s not with the group. So, of course, frantic search would go on. “Where’s Jesus?” You can imagine, “Oh, great. We’ve lost the one child that we have — the one that God gave to us miraculously.”

Well, it takes a day to get back to Jerusalem, where you’ve left your son. Is He okay? Did someone take Him? Is He alive? I’m sure all these questions race through Mary’s head. “I have lost my son.” Well, we’re told — not coincidentally, I might add — that on the third day she found Jesus. One day of a journey, the next day realize He wasn’t there, one day back. On the third day, Jesus is found. She’s gone through agony, she’s gone through suffering, she’s gone through questions.

Do you see what the goodness of the Lord has done for Mary in a way she could’ve even comprehend? He’s actually preparing her for a day when she actually will lose Jesus for real, but on the third day she will find Him. Embrace the hand of providence in your life, even in the midst of suffering, and trust that God is working all things for good for those of us who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He is at work, whether we realize it at the time or not.

The second thing I would tell you about suffering is that suffering starts and it helps our detachment from this world. To remove a tree from the ground, the earth around needs to be loosened up, and the tree pulled up by its roots. Suffering helps us to realize this world, in its present condition, is not our home. It points us, or at least it should point us, to our real home: The heavenly city. While no suffering is enjoyable at the present time, it is working in us incredible things. See, Scripture admonishes us to not love the world. That doesn’t mean we don’t love the beautiful creation that God has given to us. It simply means we don’t fall in love with the present order. We’re looking for something else. We believe that something better is on its way, that this present world is giving way to a new reality. In suffering, we are reminded that this world is not our home and will never satisfy us.

As the late C.S. Lewis once penned, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Third: Suffering can be a strong testimony to unbelievers. One of the most overlooked and, in my opinion, contextually rich passages in regard to suffering is 1 Peter 3:15. In this passage, we’re told to be able to give a defense for the hope that is within us. This passage is typically used slightly out of context, I might add, as justification for knowing a lot about Scripture and philosophy in order to answer difficult questions that may come to us about God and our faith. The context suggests a little bit different interpretation.

Peter states, in 1 Peter 3:14, which comes right before 1 Peter 3:15, “Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,”

And then 1 Peter 3:15: [But now] in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

What Peter is saying is that when we suffer, the way we suffer can create an atmosphere for unbelievers to ask what hope we have that would give us the attitude that we have while we’re suffering. People ask us what is going on in us when they see the way we suffer. One of the greatest testimonies we have to the reality of Christ’s resurrection is the way that we face difficulties, hardship and sufferings.

Fourth: Although God may not always remove suffering from our lives, He will provide us strength in it. One of the more intimate portraits and scenes in the garden on Good Friday is recorded right after our main text this evening where Jesus prayed for the possibility that the cup might pass. In the very next verse, Luke 22:43, Luke records that there appeared to him an angel from heaven strengthening him.

I think this gestures to you and I that God will sustain us in the midst of suffering. Suffering, although a part of following Christ, will be sustained by the providential hand of God. That is good news on Good Friday.

In closing, Good Friday is a difficult day for most of us. We aren’t quite sure what to do with the sufferings of Jesus, and it’s far too simplistic to just relegate it to something that He did for you and I. Church, we’re called to follow Jesus. Suffering is a part of that. Hardship is a part of that. Difficulty is a part of that. Tribulation is a part of that. Easter has no meaning apart from Good Friday. Although suffering may be a part of our lives, it always leads to glory in the child of God’s life. That’s why my final comment, number five, is so important.

Suffering eventually gives way to glory. See, Jesus didn’t suffer for no reason. He didn’t die and stay in the grave. He rose. His suffering gave way to glory. So will ours. These lessons, although not easy for us, are integral to our growth and service to the Lord. May we rejoice on Good Friday not just because Sunday’s coming, but also, like the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church, the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed.

At this time, we’re going to turn our attention to the Lord’s table. If you’re a regular attender of Grace, you know that every month we do communion. Every month, we do it right in the middle of worship. We do it together, and then we sing another song and we rejoice. The one time that we don’t follow that script is Good Friday, for Good Friday, because it’s a moment for us all to reflect on what Jesus did for us. It’s a moment for us all to think about what happened to Him. It’s a moment for us all to think about the fact that He took the nails, the crown of thorns and the mocking and scourging for all of us. I invite you, as we come to the Lord’s table, to feel free to participate in it in a way that is meaningful to you personally, which means when you come and get the elements, you can sit and think, you can pray, you can take them when you want. I just want you, personally, me, personally and us, personally, to just have a moment with the Lord. Because, in focusing for just a moment on Good Friday, I promise you that when we get together tomorrow night or Sunday when you come, your experience of the resurrection will be even more meaningful.

So, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:23, wrote to the church at Corinth. He said, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,”

What a night that was. To be delivered over and to have people betray you and people deny you, just let that sink in because that, coupled with the fact that three days later He resurrected, makes this thing incredible. We need to give Him thanks.

“He broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also 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.”

All around the sanctuary, there are stations. At every station, there are the elements. There are two cups. Make sure you get them both. The bread and the juice are together. What I would like for you to do, and what I would like for our church to do, is to just take a moment and reflect upon what Jesus did for us on Friday, because when we get together again and we celebrate resurrection, it will have even more meaning when it’s tied to Friday.

So, I would like to invite everybody to come at your leisure, at your own way. Get the elements. You can partake of them in the way that you would like to, but I would like to just keep an attitude of prayer and an attitude of spirituality until everybody’s been served and everybody is complete. And then what we will do is we’ll all stand, pass those cups to the ushers, and we’re going to end up with a song that I think all of us will really appreciate and love. So, come get the elements and then we will have a moment of song in a minute.

[Music]

Oh that rugged cross

My salvation

Where Your love poured out over me

Now my soul cries out

Hallelujah

Praise and honour unto Thee [x2]

Now my debt is paid

It is paid in full

By the precious blood

That my Jesus spilled

Now the curse of sin

Has no hold on me

Whom the Son sets free

Oh is free indeed

Oh that rugged cross

My salvation

Where Your love poured out over me

Now my soul cries out

Hallelujah

Praise and honour unto Thee

[End Music]

The Lord is a good and loving Father, isn’t He? Amen. We have a song that I grew up on. It’s pretty neat. I wanted to share something with you. I hadn’t planned on doing this, but when I was a teenager, I was in Dallas-Fort Worth at a team talent deal. I don’t know quite how I ended up in the choir because I can’t sing, but I did. They said that I was tenor. I think they wanted me singing “ten or” twelve miles away. But, that night, I have no idea what the guy preached on. I was in the very back of the thing. I thought I heard him say, “If you’re called to ministry, you need to come down front.” I don’t even know if that’s what he said. I think he probably said, “If you want to play hockey, show up.” I don’t know what he said. That’s what I heard. So, I went down and went to University Church of God in Tampa, Florida. My pastor was Bob Lyons. I remember that was a moment for me because I felt like I was being called to ministry. I remember he jumped down out of the seats, came down to come and pray with me. Those are moments that are touching and you look back upon when you’re in ministry. What was really unique is he walked into church this evening.

Pastor Lyons, why don’t you stand up so we can honor you, buddy? Come on. That’s what the Lord does. See? It’s not about us. It’s about what He’s doing. You know, as we celebrate these moments together as a church, I just hope that we will really take a moment and realize what Jesus has done for us. And then my prayer is that we’ll come back in here on Saturday and Sunday, and let’s blow the roof off of this place in celebration that Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered sin, He conquered death, He conquered hell and He conquered the grave. Amen?

I say that with Pastor Lyons here because one of the songs that we’re going to do right now is a song I grew up singing. I probably sang it so many times that I can’t even remember. In fact, I would think probably just about every altar call that we had, if this song wasn’t one of them, it was coming up next. So, I would like to ask you to stand and I’d like for you to pass the cups — I don’t know if the ushers are coming. Are they coming with the buckets? Yeah. Good. Let’s get the cups out so that you can go ahead and worship. I think many of you will know this song. You probably won’t need the lyrics at all. But for some of you, we’ll put the lyrics up here. For some of you, you’ll remember this. This is an oldie, but a goodie. I just want to ask you to sing it from the bottom of your heart. I want you to worship God. I want you to thank God for what He did for you and I by sending His Son to die on a cross. If it were not for His shed blood, we would still be in our trespasses and sins. So, let’s sing together and let’s worship together. Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.

[Music]

What can wash away my sins

Nothing but the blood of Jesus

What can make me whole again

Nothing but the blood of Jesus

O, precious is the flow

That makes me white as snow

No other fount I know

Nothing but the blood of Jesus

What can wash away my sin

Nothing but the blood of Jesus

What can make me whole again

Nothing but the blood of Jesus

O, precious is the flow

That makes me white as snow

No other fount I know

Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Amen!

[End Music]

I just want to say thanks to everybody for coming out, commemorating and remembering what Jesus did for us. But this is not the end of the story. There is another sermon coming. I would just ask you, kindly, not to think that you got your church on on Friday night, which somehow means you don’t have to get your church on on Saturday night or Sunday morning. I’m telling you there is going to be a spirit of worship in this place for Easter that’s going to blow this place up. It’s going to be fantastic and awesome.

Saturday: 5:00, 6:15. Sunday: 8:00, 9:00, 10:30 and 12:00. I’m telling you, there are going to be so many people. There are going to be so many new people. There are going to be people that cross the finish line of faith for the first time and they get their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. So, good stuff.

If you would, let’s bow our heads, bow our hearts. We’ll say a prayer and we’ll dismiss.

Dear Heavenly Father, we just pause for one more moment as Your people. We just take this moment to once again stop and remember what You did for us. Lord, as we celebrate communion, the broken body and the blood that it symbolizes is because of what You did on Good Friday. Because You hung between heaven and earth on a cross, You made it possible for us to have a relationship with You. Lord, we will never forget that. Please don’t let us forget that because a cross-less Christianity ceases to be Christianity.

But Lord, we also are rejoicing. Our hearts are bubbling because we know that even though You were pulled down from a cross, and a stone was rolled over that grave, we know that that is not the end of the story. We’re going to turn to the second part of that story in the following could of days.

Lord, I pray, for Your glory and for Your honor, that Your Spirit would be here in such a powerful and profound way that it would be undeniable that You’re here in our building. Lord, I pray that You would bring many into relationship with You for all of eternity.

So Lord, as we walk out of here this evening, I pray that You would continue to lead, guide and direct us. I pray that You would watch over us and protect us. And I pray, Lord Jesus, that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. Lord, help us to remain focused on the church that You’ve called us to be: A church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.

Chris Pedro