Good evening everybody! Even as I welcome everyone who has joined us in person at the hall and those who have tuned in online, I just want to say that I’m so thankful for the opportunity to gather in person during Passion Week after almost two years.
It’s so good to see everyone & together remember what the Lord has done for us during the events of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. As followers of Jesus Christ, these two events form the centerpiece of our Christian faith.
If we exclude the events of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, it leaves us with no base / no foundation for our Christian faith. And so that’s why it becomes so essential to us what happened on that Good Friday two thousand years back and how that impacts us even today:
37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he[h] breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son[i] of God!” (Mk 15:37-39)
In the year 2004, a film by the name of “Passion of the Christ” was released around Passion Week that year. This film was unlike most of the other Jesus films that were made till then. While the other previous films focused on the Life of Jesus and then the cross towards the end, this one specifically focused on Jesus’ last 12 hours until His crucifixion.
And they tried to realistically capture the horror and pain that Jesus could’ve probably endured on the road to the cross. In terms of reactions to the movie, ended up being the highest-grossing Christian-themed film of all time! Growing up this was one of the few movies that as a family we did end up going to. I remember coming out of the theater disturbed and saddened by the treatment and injustice inflicted on Jesus.
Like me, there were many others all around the world who watched the movie and were so saddened realizing what Jesus had to go through. However, for most people, it stopped feeling sorry for Jesus. And I think the same can be said about many people’s church experience on Good Friday, they’ll read these passages describing the horror and pain of Good Friday and they will probably experience deep sadness and grief when they think about Jesus but it stops there.
And that made me ask this question: “What difference does Good Friday make to us?” I think there can be at least 2 responses to that question. Either we respond by feeling sorry for Jesus or we can respond by worship and surrender. Either we can merely grieve the pain that Jesus went through or we could recognize how that was a gracious gift from God to save us. What’s it going to be for us this evening?
21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. (v21-23)
The first thing that stands out for us immediately from this passage is that the journey to cross for Jesus involved extremely intense, agonizing physical affliction. There was a lot of physical pain which needed to be endured. In v21 we see how a man from Cyrene named Simon was forced to carry Jesus’ cross.
Why was that required? Because by that time Jesus was probably weakened and unable to carry his own cross due to the intense scourging and torture that took place the night before. Just a few verses before, it mentions that they had twisted a crown of thorns and put it on his head.
They kept striking his head with a reed which led to a lot of blood loss. And that’s why Jesus wasn’t able to carry his own cross on the way to Golgotha. Furthermore, in v23 it tells us that Jesus declined to drink the wine mixed with myrrh. And I wondered what that meant? As a did some research I realized that that mixture was actually like a drug offered to criminals so that it could numb the pain that they were experiencing.
And the suffering on a cross wasn’t like being killed with a gunshot or sword which causes instant death. Dying on the cross meant slow, agonizing death. Most people would die either by loss of oxygen or exhaustion. That’s why some of the Roman writers of that day criticized this way of torture saying that “No Roman citizen should ever suffer this kind of death on a cross”.
Extreme kind of torture. And then for us to realize that Jesus though He was the Son of God chose to bear the whole brunt of physical affliction for us. He was willing to be physically afflicted for His people.
But not only do we see His affliction but also His
24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour[d] when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.[e] (v24-27)
I remember in early 2000 one of the popular trends was wearing a cross around your neck. Many celebrities would sport across as part of their wardrobe. Being influenced by that, even I started wearing a cross around my neck.
And there was this one uncle in the church who once challenged me with a question asking: Is this a fashion statement or a faith statement? Although now in culture, the cross has become a cultural statement, in the ancient Roman world, the cross signified humiliation.
In v24 when it tells us that Jesus’ garments were divided among the soldiers, it was actually a description of being stripped down & vulnerable. And that was one of the main purposes of the cross – was to publicly shame and make an example of the criminal so that no one would dare to do the same the next time. V26 reveals to us what Jesus was charged with.
He was charged with high treason because of the false accusation claiming that He came to challenge the authority of Caesar by making Himself a king of this physical kingdom. This is why V27, it tells us that Jesus was crucified alongside two robbers equating him to the same level as though he committed crimes worthy of capital punishment.
And we realize the gravity of what is happening, Jesus who is the Son of God perfectly glorious and covered in majesty, He who is worthy to be praised by His creation for all time now willingly gives Himself to be humiliated for His people
But not only do we see His affliction and humiliation, we also see His
29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.
Right through history, we read many inspiring stories of people being able to endure extreme hardship because there were people to stand with them in support. There were people to cheer them on. And when we come to v29-32, we get a picture of how lonely Jesus was at that point. Virtually everyone who interacts with him is rejecting him.
Even those who were being crucified with Jesus reviled Him as well (v32). And who is the One who is being rejected, mocked, and scorned after all? He’s not an ordinary human being, He is the Perfect, Righteous Son of God who existed from eternity past, He is the One who created and formed us and now He’s being rejected by those whom He created.
He came to his own,[b] and his own people[c] did not receive him. (John 1:10) I kept thinking about it, if I were in Jesus’ place, I would’ve quit and abandoned the cross thinking “these people don’t care, why should I care? These people don’t deserve my sacrifice, they deserve to be destroyed because of the way they are treating me”.
And yet we see our Lord Jesus boldly endure the rejection of the people He came to save because He knew there was no other way to save them.
But not only do we see His affliction, His humiliation, and His rejection, we also see His
And when the sixth hour[f] had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.[g] 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (v33-34)
Out of all of the sufferings that Jesus experienced on the cross – physical affliction, humiliation, and rejection, this was the one that was the heaviest to bear. V33 tells us that for 3 whole hours, darkness covered the whole land. And this darkness was a picture of the sins of the entire world which were now being placed on Jesus.
Isa 53:6 – “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”.
All our lies, all our lust, all our greed, all of our envy, all of our impatience, all our anger, all of our foul language, all our wickedness, and the judgment for it was placed on the One who knew no sin.
2 Cor 5:21 – For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin…
And as the weight of sin and guilt was placed on Jesus Christ, He was also facing the Holy wrath (Holy anger) of God meant for all of those sins. Because God is Holy and Just, He cannot just overlook sins, He has to punish people for their sins. And to realize that Holy and Just anger was now directed toward His own Son who was paying the price for our sins.
Isa 53:10 – Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him, he has put him to grief, when His soul makes an offering for guilt.
And in v34, Jesus cries out saying “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Why did Jesus say that? God the Father and Jesus the Son experienced intimate fellowship/relationship from eternity past. All that they’ve known was a close relationship, there wasn’t a single moment when they were not in fellowship and favor.
But now when the sin of the world was placed on Him & while the wrath of God was being poured out for those sins, the Father turned His face away from the relationship. The close fellowship and favor that they always enjoyed were cut off because of our sins.
And as I was thinking about this – I just realized that I could never understand what it took for the Father to “crush” the Son for our sins. I realized that I could never understand what it meant for the Father to turn His face away from His Son because of our sins. I realized that I could never understand what it meant for Jesus Christ to be spiritually separated from God. But all I know is that it was done for you and me.
Here is our Savior Jesus Christ who was willing to experience separation from the Father (close community – close intimacy) for His people.
But in this passage, we not only see the affliction, the humiliation, the rejection, and the separation, we also see
37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. (v37)
In v37 and v38 we see a paradox playing out. On one hand, it describes the death of the Son of God. And in v38 it talks about a provision that has been made for us. A new way that has been created for us to enter into the presence of God.
This curtain that is being described in v38 was a long, heavy, thick curtain that separated the holy place from the holiest place in the temple. The holiest place symbolized the Holy presence of God and no one except the high priest could enter that place that also only once a year when he came to offer a sacrifice of atonement for his sins and the sins of the people. There was a clear barrier between the people and God which was indicated by the curtain.
But now that Jesus paid the entire payment and bore the entire wrath meant for our sins, it meant that the way was opened for us to enter into God’s presence. Because Jesus was afflicted for us, we know we can experience relief in the presence of God. Because Jesus was humiliated for us, we know we won’t be shamed in the presence of God.
Because Jesus was rejected for us, we know we will be accepted in the presence of God. Because Jesus was separated from God for us, we know that we will never be cut off from the presence of God. And that’s why the writer of Hebrews uses these words to describe how we should approach God: with boldness, confidence, and full assurance!
I want to stop and ask us a question today: When you think about approaching God daily, what are the thoughts and feelings that run through your mind? Is it fear of facing punishment? Is it the uncertainty of how God’s going to respond to you? Is it wondering if God is going to shame you or reject you? And that’s why Good Friday is Good news for us.
Because if you have turned from your ways and put your trust in Jesus’ perfect life and death for you, then you can be assured on the promise of God’s very word, that you can approach him with boldness, confidence and full assurance.
But not only did Jesus endure affliction, humiliation, rejection, separation and make provision for us, it also demands our
39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he[h] breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son[i] of God! (v39)
What’s astonishing is that it’s not a Jew who is saying this, it’s a Gentile, pagan worshipping, Roman soldier who says this. When the centurion saw this, he recognized something else was going on in contrast to all the other executions that he witnessed. His response was in worship where he said “Truly this man is the Son of God”.
And I want to return back to the question that we asked right at the beginning: what difference does Good Friday make to you and me? At this very point, either we could be indifferent saying that this doesn’t concern me. Or we could feel sorry for what Jesus had to go through and stop there. Or we could be grateful and filled with a heart of worship because we realize what was done on that cross was for us!
Sometime back at work I went through this phase where I ended up making back-to-back errors at work. And these were not small errors, but they were big errors. Stakes were very high and the repercussions could be very severe.
Especially after the second error, I was filled with so much fear, shame, and confusion as I awaited what was going to happen to me. And at that point, my boss called me up and had a conversation with me. And by then I had already resigned to the fact that I was going to bear the brunt, and to my shock, he told me that he was going to take the responsibility on himself.
And my immediate response was “Why? I did this, I deserved it. It’s not fair for you to take the blame”. And he just responded back to me by saying “that’s what managers are for, we take responsibility for our team”.
And my heart was filled with so much gratitude because I experienced kindness that I never before experienced in the corporate world. And at that very moment, God just brought this to mind “now you’ve just seen what grace looks like in your workplace, now think about what it might have been for Jesus – the Son of God to bear the entire brunt for your sins”.
And I can remember how my heart was filled with so much of gratitude for Jesus? I think this passage confronts us with the question – what difference does Good Friday make to us?
And even as you’re pondering on that question – let me also add one last thing and close with this thought. In v40-41, it mentions the names of a few women. And the gospel writers mention their names very specifically and intentionally because they would end up being the first witnesses of the risen Christ 3 days later.
And so let no one think that the story of our Mighty and God and Savior ended in a tomb. Sunday is coming when He rose victoriously from the grave and showed us that He is the Living God who will be with us forever – not even death could hold Him back.