Good evening everyone!
My name is Jinson Thomas and I am one of the pastors at the Gathering Community Church. I’m humbled at the opportunity to share God’s Word with you all on this Good Friday.
One of the questions that many people including Christians are quite perplexed with is the question
“Why is it called Good Friday?”
How can it possibly be good if Jesus was murdered on this day? “It’s not good but bad Friday” some would say.
On top of that, some of you would say – how can this be Good Friday with all that is happening around the globe due to COVID-19?
How can it be Good Friday when I’m locked up at home? So this evening I’d like to give us 3 reasons for why Good Friday can be good for us!!
1. God’s forgiveness is available for all sins (v34)
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
What is astonishing is that Jesus is pleading before the Father for people who were responsible for putting Him on a cross!! And I think sometimes we are so used to seeing a cross on a church building or sporting it as a fashion accessory, that we forget what it meant in Jesus’ time to be crucified.
The cross wasn’t used to symbolize a religion or a fashion statement but instead, the cross symbolized condemnation and humiliation! It was a death row for the worst criminals who committed the most heinous crimes in the Roman world.
It was also done publicly to make an example of the criminal so that no one would even think of following the footsteps of the one who was killed. In fact it was so cruel and inhumane that even Roman speakers of the time would criticize it by calling it “the most cruel and disgusting punishment”.
The Son of God (Jesus) who committed no sin faced the horror of “the most cruel and disgusting punishment”.
Forgiveness isn’t cheap. It comes at a high cost.
Just to give you a picture of the pain that Jesus endured:
i) It involved immense Physical Pain: The pain was so unbearable, intense and agonizing that they made a word to describe it – “excruciating”. It wasn’t instant death but slow & painful death!
Victims would have to endure extreme pain for long periods of time before they eventually suffocated and died. We can never downplay or minimize the physical pain that Jesus experienced on the cross.
ii) Not only did it involve Physical pain but also Psychological Pain: That’s the last thing that you would want to face while already dealing with the immense physical pain.
The only voice that Jesus heard all around him were insults from the very people He came to save. V34 says that they cast lots to divide his garments which tells us how his garments were stripped off him making him vulnerable & adding to his humiliation.
iii) However, more than the Physical & Psychological Pain – what affected Jesus the most was the Spiritual Pain: AlthoughJesus was like us in every way, yet He was unlike us because he was without sin.
He was the only person to live a life of perfect purity and sinlessness. But on the cross for the first time, he experienced the massive weight & guilt of sin. “He who knew no sin became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21)”.
Not only did He experience the massive weight of sin but He was also being punished for our sins. No one like to be a scape goat for anyone and here we see Jesus becoming the scape goat for the entire world.
The passage from Isaiah that we just read earlier today is a reminder of the same thing:
Isa 53:5,6 – But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
I want us to understand that Jesus wasn’t treated as a criminal merely due to wicked Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers of that time. He was treated as a criminal because you and I have committed numerous crimes against the One True God.
We are the very ones responsible for putting Jesus on the cross. Brothers and sisters, my intention is not to guilt us or over-emphasize on the gory details of Jesus’ agony and suffering but I want us to realize this truth that
Forgiveness isn’t cheap. It comes at a high cost.
God absolutely has the authority to forgive sins but because He is also a just judge, a payment has to be made. Someone has to pay.
I came across a beautiful story that spoke about forgiveness and justice being displayed in the courtrooms in UAE a few months back. An Asian couple found themselves in the middle of a huge legal problem because they overstayed their visa for a number of years.
They were asked to pay an enormous amount as a fine (around 12 Lakh rupees). When the judge asked them to pay the fine, they weren’t able to pay it. Now even though the judge had compassion on the family, he couldn’t write off the fine because it would cause an uproar and protest against the whole justice system of the UAE.
For some reason, the judge asked them the name of their son. The parents replied that they’ve named him “Zayed”. Now Zayed also happened to be the name of the founder of the country. On learning this, the judge said Zayed shouldn’t have to pay the fine. But justice requires someone to pay. To everyone’s amazement the judge himself paid off the entire amount (12 Lakh rupees) to close their case. Forgiveness isn’t cheap. It comes at a high cost.
When God saw that we weren’t able to pay the enormous mountain of a debt due to our sins, He provided a way for us to be forgiven through the perfect sacrifice of His Son Jesus so that the payment is made for people who cannot pay for themselves.
Maybe some of us as we are hearing this are finding it hard to believe. You’ll say “brother, I know what you’re saying but you have no idea what I’ve said and done in the past few weeks. You have no idea how ugly my past is. I’ve done so many things that I’m ashamed to even talk about”.
The amazing truth is that because of what Jesus Christ has done on the cross, if you come to Him and surrender yourself to Him because of His perfect sacrifice, forgiveness is available for all your sins no matter how many they are & how worse they are.
That’s amazing news for us even in a time of lockdown and uncertainty – to know that irrespective of what happens tomorrow that God can forgive all my sins. He can look at me and say “You are not guilty”. That’s great news.
But not only is Good Friday good because God’s is able to forgive all my sins but also that :
2. God’s grace is extended to the lost, the last and the least (v43)
And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Within the event of Jesus suffering on the cross, there is a mention of a small incident of two criminals who are hung on either side of Jesus. One of them dishonours Jesus just like the crowd beneath, but the other one honours Jesus as King.
The first one doesn’t even acknowledge his sin while the other one confesses his sin – he acknowledges “we are receiving the due reward of our deeds”. The first one didn’t have any hope of being saved, while the other one even at the last moments of his life trusted that Jesus could save Him.
And Jesus does save him in v43 – “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Wait a minute! First of all, this is a guilty criminal out here. He’s done some really bad things and messed up his life. Upon his own admission, he knows that he deserves the punishment he is receiving.
And plus he lived his whole life in wickedness and now at the final moments of life, he is asking Jesus to save him? I mean there are the other “not so bad” people that need to be saved first, right? This guy is the least likeable guy. He is the back-bencher in morality.
No one expects him to be saved. Why fill up God’s kingdom with people who don’t appear to be cut out for it? Why should Jesus even bother?
In our judgmental hearts, this is a crazy thing to digest mainly because we don’t understand God’s passion for those that are the lost, the last and the least. In Luke 15, Jesus talks about the parable of the Lost Son.
God is pictured as the loving Father who when he sees his lost son returning from a distance, runs and embraces him who wasted all of his father’s inheritance on his selfish pleasures.
Time and time again throughout Scripture we are told of this storyline – it’s not the powerful, the rich, the super talented, the influential that God choses and saves. It’s none of those but the total opposite.
Why? Because people who understand their sickness and infection are the ones who will go to a doctor and ask for help. People who understand their weakness and brokenness in sin are the one who will turn to Jesus desperately for help.
Sometimes people who have known me for just a few years presume that I’ve been a religious, pious, nice guy all my life. But the truth is quite far from that. In my teenage years I remember thinking that God & religion wasn’t something I was cut out for mainly due my increasing sin patterns. Even when I did go to church, I went for all the wrong reasons.
I was that guy sitting at the last bench because I didn’t think I was worthy of sitting right in front. For a person like me who had continuous evil thoughts running through my mind, I had mouth filled with cuss words and lifestyle of being an enemy of God, I knew I couldn’t reach God so I stopped trying.
I was so lost in my sin that I thought I was beyond help. But I thank God that He didn’t give up on me but rather pulled me out a deep pit through Jesus’s sacrifice. The amazing truth is that Jesus came looking for me even when I wasn’t thinking about being found.
I was lost, the last and the least among those that people expected to be saved and yet that happened by God’s grace.
And so I share my story to let you know that if you feel like you’re far away from God, if you don’t see yourself as a typical religious churchgoer, maybe you look at yourself and think you’re the last person that God would think of…let me encourage you to know that Jesus is nearer to you than you think. The scope of God’s grace isn’t limited to people who are at a certain level of good. God’s grace extends to those that are lost, the last ones and the least ones.
But not only is God’s forgiveness available for all, not only is God’s grace extended to the lost, the last and least but also
3. God’s presence is accessible by all who believe (v44-46)
It was now about the sixth hour,[d] and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
Jesus’ commitment to complete His work on the cross has ensured that we now have full access to God as our Father. And this was highlighted by the curtain or the veil of the temple tearing in two.
The curtain in the temple separated the Most Holy Place from every other place in the temple. The Most Holy Place is where God would dwell in. No one was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place except for the High Priest and that also once a year on the Day of Atonement.
On the Day of Atonement he couldn’t enter it in any manner he wanted. He needed to wear special priestly garments, offer a sacrifice for his own sins and then burn an incense to cover the whole room – and only then would his life be spared! That’s a big deal! God’s presence is a serious thing.
By ourselves if we went into the presence of God, we would be totally consumed. We would die. And now the amazing news is that Jesus has opened the way for us to freely and directly access God’s presence! It’s not limited to one day a year. It’s not limited to only the High Priest.
It’s not limited to going to a single location. God can reveal His presence to us no matter where we are.
Even in a season like COVID-19 where we are locked up at home & quarantined– the amazing truth for believers in Jesus is that we can experience God’s presence in a very scriptural and personal way.
I was encouraged by the interview of a woman who recently recovered from COVID-19 where she testified to being all alone in a hospital room.
Even the medical professionals had kept their distance to avoid receiving the infection. In a room which no one could enter, Jesus was there with her. While she was reading Scripture on her bed, in a very personal way Jesus reminded her of His presence – “Never will I leave you.
Never will I forsake you (Heb 13:5)”. Wait a minute! But I thought Jesus died and was buried? How can Jesus still be with her 2000 years later? If Jesus’ story ended with him being buried in a tomb, it wouldn’t give us any assurance of His everlasting presence.
Instead we know that Sunday is coming. Sunday is coming when Jesus would rise victoriously from the dead & that’s why He can make the most audacious promise to never leave us nor forsake us and still keep it!
Brothers and sisters, let me encourage you to know that Jesus Christ can be present with you right now through His Spirit. Jesus Christ cannot be locked up. No lockdown can stop Jesus from meeting you in your loneliest of times.
Would you come to Him and cry out to Him today?
Would you join me to respond to God in prayer?