Archive for the ‘Good Friday’ Category

He died for us

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Text: Romans 4:25
He was delivered over to death for our sins.

They nailed him to a cross.  We say that sentence so easily.  They nailed him to a cross.  It’s at the core of our faith in Jesus our Saviour and those words slide off our tongue so smoothly.  He died on a cross.  Those words are powerful and comforting but it’s easy to forget what lies behind those words.

The cross was anything but easy and nice.  It was much more than an instrument of death.  Roman historians who were accustomed to seeing people crucified describe crucifixion as the worst kind of pain and suffering that any human could endure as life slowly, ever so slowly, dripped from the body and every breath was extreme agony.  The crucified was totally humiliated, stripped naked and often endured other inhumane bodily tortures by the Romans and onlookers depending on the crime.

What had this man from Nazareth done to deserve such a torturous and horrible punishment?
What had he done to deserve the humiliation of such a public execution, and the sneering and the mockery of those who stood around to watch his suffering?

Two men were executed with him – we can understand why they were nailed to crosses.  They were criminals but why was the man in the middle nailed to wooden beams?
He had been the most kind and compassionate person that anyone would ever want to meet.
He had helped so many people,
he had talked about the love and forgiveness of God,
he had made friends with lepers and tax collectors – people everyone else tried to avoid.
He was the love of God in human form and did no-one any harm.
What had Jesus done to deserve this terrible excruciating and torturous way to die?

The answer is simple – nothing.  Jesus was the most innocent person you would ever find.  It wasn’t what he had done that caused him to suffer like this –
it is what we have done
and every person who has ever existed in the past
and every person who will be born into our world in the future.

It’s true that it was a Roman soldier who held the hammer that drove the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet.  But we are the ones responsible for those nails – we are responsible for his agony and death.  He suffered on the cross because of our sin.

St Paul simply says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins” (Romans 4:25). And there is no greater truth than this – it was my sin and your sin that nailed Jesus to the cross.

Jesus’ suffering and death was horrible, brutal, cruel, bloody, sickening – enough to make us turn our eyes away from the man whose love for us is so persistent, so warm and so sincere.
Yet today we are drawn to the cross; we focus on images of Jesus on the cross.  We know that the cross is a symbol of suffering and pain but today we are drawn to the cross because of what it means to each of us.

Come to the cross and bring your sin.
I don’t know why we do it, but far too often we carry our sin around with us and let it eat away at us.  The bad feelings, the guilt, the shame, the feeling sorry for ourselves, the broken relationships – it is just for these that Jesus was nailed to a cross.  He carried our sin on his shoulders on the cross.
Trust him to take that burden from us.
Trust him to renew and refresh your life.
Come to the cross, bring your sin and receive forgiveness.

Come to the cross and bring everything that frightens you and everything that weighs you down.
If your own death or that of a loved one fills you with grief or fear;
if sickness and surgery cause you to worry;
if you are confused and unsure about the future;
look to the cross.
There you will see love in all its brilliance – God’s love for you.  He knows the burdens you are carrying.  He promises, “Come to me all of you who are tried from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).  The love shown on the cross is a clear sign that Jesus is prepared to help you with anything, absolutely anything that life might throw at you.

So bring to the cross whatever heavy load you are carrying.

Come to the cross and bring your thankfulness.  As you remember what Jesus went through for you, how he has taken your place, given you forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life, do so with gratitude.  Without those nails and that cross we would be in serious trouble.  Without Jesus, God’s judgement on our sin would be a terrifying thing.  The cross is the only way to be forgiven.  Thank God for the cross.

Come to the cross and stand beneath its shadow and be assured when the day comes for us to leave this life, our sin will no longer condemn us because Jesus died in our place and has given us eternal life.  Jesus died for everyone –for you and me!

The man who was crucified next to Jesus saw his past, present and future in a different light when he looked at the Son of God dying next to him.  As guilty as he was, he appealed to the grace and mercy of Jesus asking, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”.

As we reflect on the cross and the reason for it, we do the same.
Without any excuse and without any pretence of somehow being better than we are and acknowledging our own weakness and vulnerability, we also appeal to God’s mercy and grace and ask,
“Jesus remember me”,
“Jesus, do not hold my sin against me”,
“Jesus, have mercy on me”.

We gladly make this appeal because Jesus has done it all for us.  He has given us complete pardon for all our sin and new life and hope for the future.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

He is taking the blame

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Good Friday

StMarksIn the Garden of Eden we fell into sin and to begin to understand the depth and seriousness of what happened with the tree in the Garden of Eden, we need to look at Jesus on the cross. There is Jesus, on the cross suffering and dying and taking the punishment for the broken relationship.

He is taking the blame for people’s sin and on the cross Jesus calls out the opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” It is the cry of people down through the ages who have felt the suffering that people go through because of their broken connection with God. Jesus closed that gap and he still reaches out, with his arms stretched out to all the people who are on the other side.

This includes people who want nothing to do with God. It includes people who are as evil, and it includes you and me, and even enemies.

When we look at Jesus on the cross we begin to grasp the depth of sin. Our guilt becomes clearer to us. Our sin is destructive and it hurts God.

Looking at Jesus on the cross, we begin to see how deep and costly is the love of God for people.

The depth of God’s love reaches out to enfold his enemies. The love of God goes deeper than our sin. It reaches out wide enough to include all people on this earth. The love of God that overwhelmed the thief on the cross next to Jesus,

and it reaches as far as you and me. The love of God is a healing love. It connects us up with God again like a new family.

Yet we humans are still weak. It is a one-sided relationship. God is the strong one. But it is a new beginning and it gets better as the Holy Spirit reaches out to us in the Scriptures to strengthen us. The Spirit that brings Jesus to us in Baptism, and again and again in the Lord’s Supper. The Holy Spirit that brings us to trust in the truth. Jesus: the one who died on the cross in our place.

At school we might have collected footy cards. Actually I never did but I have in the past several years been the financier of such a practice were cards are bought, then swapped and traded with other such parties. On the cross Jesus swaps places with us and traded not the discards for something better, but traded himself for the discards so that he could call them, call us his own.

Today is called Good Friday because we can focus on Jesus on the cross, and know that he is there for each one of us.

We know that, no matter what comes, we are loved with a love that is deeper and stronger than any of our enemies. The love of God that reaches down deeper than death. It reaches out to rescue us from the worst evil powers that might attack us. It reaches deeper than any sin that has been a part of our lives. God doesn’t say to us, “If you show a bit of good heart to me for a change, I will make it up with you.” He doesn’t even say, “If you’ve got some good intentions about spiritual things I’ll accept you back again.” No. He reconnects us to himself even when we humans are killing his son. In Romans 5, verse 10, the Spirit of God assures us, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his son.” God accepts you and me despite the mess we might have made with our lives. God does not accept you and me because we have lived a respectable life, but only because of Jesus.

The good news on Good Friday runs against the grain of our human nature so much that we need to hear the news again and again. The Christian faith is not about looking inside ourselves all the time. Saving faith is to look at God’s love and faith focuses on what Jesus does for us, especially what he did for us on the cross.

We conclude with the words of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:38 and the following verses about God’s love.

“And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t.

Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen.

Broken but mended

Friday, April 18th, 2014

           Good Friday

 

                

 

It seems that every time we hear or listen to the news that a tragedy has occurred. Tragedies that will affect family members and communities for years and maybe even for the rest of their lives. Terrible times and hurts that can never be downplayed because for those involved and close to them something is lost and things may never be the same again.

Yet the greatest tragedy of all happened in the Garden of Eden. The third chapter of Genesis records how the close connection between God and the people is broken. They had been as close as any wonderful family could ever be. But then they became divided as only the closest flesh and blood families can become separated. The brokenness continued from years to hundreds of years to thousands of years.

To understand the depth and seriousness of what happened with the tree in the Garden of Eden, we need to look at Jesus on the cross. There is God, on his tree, his cross suffering and dying and taking the punishment for the broken relationship. He is taking the blame for people’s sin. On the cross Jesus calls out the opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” A cry of people down through the ages who have felt the suffering that people go through because of their broken connection with God.

Now Jesus closes the gap. Only God can bridge the gap that separates people from him. Jesus reaches out with his arms stretched out to all the people who are on the other side. This includes people who want nothing to do with God. It includes people who are as broken as the thief on the cross next to him. It includes you and me, and even our enemies.

When we look at Jesus on the cross we begin to grasp the depth of sin. Our guilt becomes clearer to us. Sin is destructive and sin separates and as we look at Jesus on the cross, we begin to see how deep and costly is the love of God for people. The depth of God’s love reaches out to enfold his enemies. The love of God goes deeper than our sin. It reaches out wide enough to include all people on this earth. The love of God overwhelms the thief on the cross next to Jesus, and it reaches as far as you and me.

The love of God is healing love. It connects us up with God again like a new family in a relationship and that it is a one-sided relationship in that we are still weak and God the strength, that does not threaten to again fracture the relationship, but rather strengthen and maintain it as it was meant to be in the first place. In total trust and reliance on our Lord we are given a new beginning as the Holy Spirit reaches out to us in the Scriptures to strengthen us. The Spirit that brings Jesus to us in Baptism, and again and again in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus: the one who died on the cross in our place.

At school, like they do now we might have collected swap cards, maybe of sporting heroes, or music idols. We traded our cards looking for the best ones and the one’s we didn’t have. On the cross Jesus swaps places with us. He sees us as the best card, the card He doesn’t have and so traded everything He had for us so that he could call us his own. He traded himself.

Today is called Good Friday because we can focus on Jesus on the cross, and know that he is there for each one of us. We know that, no matter what comes, we are loved with a love that is deeper and stronger than any of our enemies. The love of God reaches down deeper than death. It reaches out to rescue us from the worst evil powers that might attack us. It reaches deeper than any sin that has been a part of our lives.

God doesn’t say to us, “If you show a bit of good heart to me for a change, I will make it up with you.” He doesn’t even say, “If you’ve got some good intentions about spiritual things I’ll accept you back again.”

No. He reconnects us to himself even when we humans are killing his son. In Romans 5, verse 10, the Spirit of God assures us, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his son.” God accepts you and me despite the mess we might have made with our lives. God does not accept you and me because we have lived a respectable life, but only because of Jesus.

The good news on Good Friday runs against the grain of our human nature so much that we need to hear the news again and again. The Christian faith is not about looking inside ourselves all the time. Saving faith is to look at God’s love. A healthy faith focuses on what Jesus does for us, especially on the cross.

Jesus our Saviour who saved us as described in this poem:

Through His sorrows, we discover the depth of Jesus’ meekness and surrender to His Father’s will. This surrender is revealed in what He did not do…

He didn’t defend Himself;
He didn’t revile others when He was reviled;
He didn’t turn away from those who beat Him;
He didn’t slander others when He was falsely accused;
He didn’t hide His face from those who spat upon Him;
He didn’t come down from the cross when He was mocked, and ridiculed.
Meekness is not weakness. He who is Almighty could have called an army of angels to rescue Him from His sorrows, but instead, He chose to go to the cross and freely gave His life so you could find your life in Him.

The author of that poem is unknown but the subject matter most definitely not as we see Jesus with untold power at His fingertips refuse any inclination or temptation to do so, so that rather than His power be used to save himself, He directs it all to save us.

His saving power given to and for us that we hear these words in Romans 8:38, see our God’s love, see our Saviour on the cross and know most assuredly them to be true for each of us:

“And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Something’s broken!!

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Good Friday

 

Something terribly shocking happened in the Garden of Eden. The third chapter of Genesis records how the close connection between God and the people is broken. They had been as close as any family could ever be. But then they became divided as only the closest flesh and blood families can become separated. The brokenness continued for years. Hundreds of years. Thousands of years.

To begin to understand the depth and seriousness of what happened with the tree in the Garden of Eden, we need to look at Jesus on the cross. There is Jesus, on the cross suffering and dying and taking the punishment for the broken relationship.

He is taking the blame for people’s sin and on the cross Jesus calls out the opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” It is the cry of people down through the ages who have felt the suffering that people go through because of their broken connection with God. Jesus closed that gap and he still reaches out, with his arms stretched out to all the people who are on the other side.

This includes people who want nothing to do with God. It includes people who are as evil, and it includes you and me, and even enemies.

When we look at Jesus on the cross we begin to grasp the depth of sin. Our guilt becomes clearer to us. Our sin is destructive and it hurts God.

Looking at Jesus on the cross, we begin to see how deep and costly is the love of God for people.

The depth of God’s love reaches out to enfold his enemies. The love of God goes deeper than our sin. It reaches out wide enough to include all people on this earth. The love of God that overwhelmed the thief on the cross next to Jesus,

and it reaches as far as you and me. The love of God is a healing love. It connects us up with God again like a new family.

Yet we humans are still weak. It is a one-sided relationship. God is the strong one. But it is a new beginning and it gets better as the Holy Spirit reaches out to us in the Scriptures to strengthen us. The Spirit that brings Jesus to us in Baptism, and again and again in the Lord’s Supper. The Holy Spirit that brings us to trust in the truth. Jesus: the one who died on the cross in our place.

At school we might have collected footy cards. Actually I never did but I have in the past several years been the financier of such a practice were cards are bought, then swapped and traded with other such parties. On the cross Jesus swaps places with us and traded not the discards for something better, but traded himself for the discards so that he could call them, call us his own.

Today is called Good Friday because we can focus on Jesus on the cross, and know that he is there for each one of us.

We know that, no matter what comes, we are loved with a love that is deeper and stronger than any of our enemies. The love of God that reaches down deeper than death. It reaches out to rescue us from the worst evil powers that might attack us. It reaches deeper than any sin that has been a part of our lives. God doesn’t say to us, “If you show a bit of good heart to me for a change, I will make it up with you.” He doesn’t even say, “If you’ve got some good intentions about spiritual things I’ll accept you back again.” No. He reconnects us to himself even when we humans are killing his son. In Romans 5, verse 10, the Spirit of God assures us, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his son.” God accepts you and me despite the mess we might have made with our lives. God does not accept you and me because we have lived a respectable life, but only because of Jesus.

The good news on Good Friday runs against the grain of our human nature so much that we need to hear the news again and again. The Christian faith is not about looking inside ourselves all the time. Saving faith is to look at God’s love and faith focuses on what Jesus does for us, especially what he did for us on the cross.

We conclude with the words of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:38 and the following verses about God’s love.

“And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t.

Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

“The book has been closed”

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

John 19:17-30

“The book has been closed”

In Japan there is a mountainous area that for centuries has been called something that translates into “The place where you leave your mother”. It was named so because of an ancient custom of taking the very old and feeble up to the top of a mountain and leaving them there. A thick forest grows far up these mountain sides, and had we been one day a few centuries ago, you would have seen a strong young man carrying an aged wisp of a woman on his back through the dense forest. As they moved upward, the young man noticed that his mother was reaching out and breaking small branches. “Why are you doing that mother?” he asked. She looked at him with eyes that were dimmed by everything except love, and said: “So you will not become lost on the way back, my son.”

Life and death, the two go hand in hand.

No doubt you would of or heard of a busy and stressed person who had a heart attack and survives. Is given a second chance and in that alters there lifestyle. To share more time with loved ones and enjoy more of the small things of life.

It has been shown that a person who has been advised by the doctor that they only have a certain amount of time to live, seem to receive heightened senses. The remarkable beauty and smell of a flower can seem wondrous.

The first time I faced death was when I was young and at my Grandfathers funeral. As is with funerals, half those attending were either not Christians or if they were, not regular worshippers. The minister opened with if Walter could talk to me today, he would say “They are here by default, so give it to them.”

Our tears subsided because we knew that’s exactly what Grandpa would have said. A voice from the grave that gave us peace, both in wit and in the sureness of where he knew he was going. Life and death, in Christ the two go hand in hand.

Today, standing at the foot of the cross-we see the horror of death, yet receive the joy of life.

But why did Jesus have to die?

In 1st Corinthians Chapter 15 Paul tells us “For as by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall be made alive.”

In the Garden of Eden, the human race fell to sin-and the consequence, death was brought into our world. (and) God’s response, looks like I’ll have to fix up this mess.

If it was me, I might have gone for the old “let’s try two out of three scenario”. But God doesn’t take sin lightly, and that can be a horrifying thought. Because my reckoning is this, if Adam and Eve sinned-the first two at the top of the family tree, who I would assume in my feeble human mind, would have been made with a lot less imperfections than me-what chance have I got.

(and) that’s the point, on our own-not a cracker. So God gives us an out, AGAIN.

I say again thinking of the great flood. The world was full of sin, so God acts and warns he will flood the earth. God does not take sin lightly. Now everyone at the time was welcome to come aboard the ark, but all declined except for Noah and his clan. Noah told the people, when building the Ark, essentially in the middle of nowhere and in a barren land of what would take place-imagine the ridicule he and his family would have received.

God promised all a way out-an ark to safety, but was repaid by unbelief and ridicule.

But sin remained, because humans sin.

2,000 years ago God sent another Ark to offer the human race life. Not of wood and nails, but of flesh and blood. (and) 2,000 years ago, as now-God is repaid by unbelief and ridicule.

Nothing has changed, because sin hasn’t changed. Society may guild the Lilly so to speak by changing the human side of things where we “now don’t tell a lie, “but instead, now “tell an untruth”. Seriously.

I’m starting to think the question is not why did Christ have to die, but why does God put up with our world’s rubbish.

Why, because our God is a God of life, not death.

He brought life to this world through His creation, and on Good Friday, our deserved punishment was put on Christ to bring us life.

When I was very young I remember one of my mum’s favourite songs had the chorus verse “Before you criticise and abuse, take a walk in my shoes”. Mum used to refer to this when people made judgment calls about others behaviour.

Howard Hughes, the man who was portrayed in the movie the aviator. Wealthy, the person that put in place plane travel and a successful movie director left his place of riches and honour and took on the life of a homeless wanderer. In this journey, in the back blocks, dirty hungry and with nothing seemingly to offer-a person stopped and gave him a lift. Upon Howard’s death, he left the man that picked him up a fortune. This man did not know it until that moment.

In Christ there are no surprises.

Our Lord and Saviour on the cross asked forgiveness for those persecuting him saying, “Forgive them Father they don’t know what they do”. Because he has walked in our shoes.

Our moment is now-you have received your inheritance-now.

Jesus suffered temptation, fear, hunger and felt physical pain just like me and you. (and) he felt the bite of death-for us. He winced at the piercing of the nails. He endured the taunting of the crowd and the unjust accusations. Jesus was not a spectator viewing our situation from a distance. He joined himself to us and absorbed the pain that should have been ours. In his death he carried our sorrows. He came to the scene of our guilt and stretched out his hands to receive our sin.

He looked death in the eye and left nothing undone. All was completed and the book was closed on our failure.

Good Friday, a harrowing day when we see the part we have played. But we have a God of love and life. A god that allows us to look towards Jesus resurrection, and rejoice that just as our sins died in Jesus, we are raised to life in Jesus.

Romans Chapter 8 “If God is for us, who can be against us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger or sword. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus our Lord”.

Why does God put up with us? why did Jesus have to die? Love.

Revelations chapter 7: “I looked, and behold a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out in a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the lamb. And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying, Amen. Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever Amen. Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come? I said to him, Sir you know. And he said to me, these are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the lamb”.

Yes, today we see the death of the only one who did not deserve it, but today we see life.

Today we live in that promise and after our last day that promise is fulfilled.

Live today, every moment in the surety of that promise. Amen.

My God!

Thursday, April 21st, 2011
Text: John 19:28-30

Jesus knew that by now everything had been completed; and in order to make the scripture come true, he said, “I am thirsty.” A bowl was there, full of cheap wine; so a sponge was soaked in the wine, put on a stalk of hyssop, and lifted up to his lips. Jesus drank the wine and said, “It is finished!”

 EVERYTHING IS COMPLETE


It was three o’clock. Jesus called for water. He could hardly speak. A soldier fixed a sponge on a spear and held it up to his lips. It was terribly bitter but it was enough. He strained to raise his head and look up to heaven. “It is finished,” he cried and then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

At the time, the moment was filled with too much emotion for those words to sink in and to ponder what they meant. But later as the early Christians read John’s Gospel and heard again those words, it dawned on them just how powerful these dying words of Jesus were. John wrote his Gospel in Greek, and those last words of Jesus are just one word in Greek – tetelestai (pronounced te-tel-es-sty).

The expression “It is finished” or tetelestai was well known to them. It was a part of everyday language.

When a servant had completed a difficult job that his master had given him to do, he would say to the master – tetelestai – “I have overcome all the difficulties; I have done the job to the best of my ability. It is finished”.

When the Jewish people went to the temple with their sacrifice, the High Priest would examine what was brought. Most likely, he didn’t speak Greek but he would use the Hebrew equivalent of tetelestai – meaning, “Your offering is accepted; it is perfect”.

When the merchant at the market place made a sale and the money was handed over, he would say, “tetelestai – the deal is finished, complete. The price has been paid in full. I am satisfied”.

When an artist had finished a painting or a sculpture he would stand back and say, tetelestai – it is finished; there is nothing more that can be done to make this piece of art any better. This painting is complete.

When a boy recited to his father a difficult passage he had learnt from the Scriptures or a girl showed her mother the bread she had baked for the family, they would say tetelestai and the parents responded with, “Well done, my child, I am very proud of you.”

When Jesus spoke those final words he wasn’t just saying, “This is the end of me” as if there was nothing else to do but to give in to his enemies and die. His last words weren’t a final surrender to the power of Satan as if to say, “You have won. I’m done for”. These words don’t tell us that Jesus was dead now and that’s all there is to it. He is finished and so is everything that he stood for and promised during his earthly life.

All those who heard the word tetelestai – the servants, those who offered sacrifices at the temple, the buyers and sellers at the market place, the artists and parents and children understood that Jesus is saying that his job of saving the world has been completed.
He has finished the task and nothing can be added to what has been done.
Jesus has paid the price in full – he has cancelled all debt.
His sacrifice has been a perfect one, acceptable to the heavenly Father who, looking down on his Son hanging lifelessly from the cross, said, “Well done, this is my dear Son with whom I am well pleased”.
Tetelestai – it is finished. Everything is complete!

What is it that is finished when Jesus says, “It is finished”?

Reconciliation is finished. The word ‘reconciliation’ has been used a lot in connection with the relationship between the aboriginal people of our country and the rest of the community. The terrible things that happened in the past have caused a rift between black and white people. Efforts have been made to heal the differences, to close the gap caused by past actions, to restore friendship, to be reconciled.

A terrible gap has come between God and all humanity caused by sin and evil. Our offences, our disobedience, the hurt we have caused God and others have destroyed our relationship with God. Recall a time when you have done something that has hurt someone else and because of that your friendship with that person has been damaged, a gap has come between you, and you felt uneasy when you met that person, in fact you may have avoided that person. All of that doesn’t change until you put aside your differences and friendship is restored.

In the movie Grand Canyon, a tow truck driver is threatened by five troublemakers as he attempts to rescue a terrified motorist. He says, “Man, the world ain’t supposed to work like this. Maybe you don’t know that, but this ain’t the way it’s supposed to be. I’m supposed to be able to do my job without askin’ if I can. And that dude is supposed to able to wait with his car without you rippin’ him off. Everything’s supposed to be different than what it is here.”

And he’s right. Everything’s supposed to be different. God created a perfect beautiful world and he made people to live in harmony and peace with one another. But look what’s happened. We all know what an effect our poorly chosen words and lack of consideration have on our relationship with family members and friends. Greed and selfishness destroy friendship and separate people and nations. That tow truck driver hit the nail on the head when he said – “Man, the world ain’t supposed to work like this”.Sin has a devastating effect on our relationship with God. Sin separates us from God and if we want to have any hope of going to heaven to be with God, then someone had to deal with sin and restore our relationship with God. So God sent his Son into the world for this very purpose.

Jesus died on the cross to get rid of the power of sin to condemn us. His death bridged the deep gulf between God and us. “Salvation is finished”, Jesus cried. The restoration of the friendship between God and humanity has been finished. The task for which God’s Son came to earth has been completed.
He has won forgiveness for all people.
Nothing else needs to be done.
Salvation is complete. “It is finished”.

That’s why we call today “Good Friday”. It certainly wasn’t a good day for Jesus. He endured pain, soul-wrenching agony, hanging by the nails in his hands for hours, death on a rough wooden cross, for our sakes. We call today “Good Friday” because the cross is proof of the powerful love that God has for each of us. No one, not even God, would do something like that unless he truly loved us. Here we see a love that was prepared to endure the ultimate in order to rescue us.

We have known love to do some very powerful and strange things. A teenager Arthur Hinkley lifted a farm tractor with his bare hands. He wasn’t a weight lifter, but his best friend, eighteen-year-old Lloyd, was pinned under a tractor. Arthur heard Lloyd screaming for help and Arthur somehow lifted the tractor enough for Lloyd to wriggle out. His love for his best friend somehow enabled him to do what would normally be impossible.

There is the story of a priest who offered his life in place of a teenage boy in Nazi Germany. His offer was accepted and the priest died to save the boy’s life.

And then there was the young soldier who had been condemned to death by Oliver Cromwell. He was to be shot at the ringing of the curfew bell. His fiancée climbed the bell tower and tied herself to the clapper of the giant bell so that it would not ring. When the bell did not ring, soldiers went to investigate and found the girl battered and bleeding from being bashed against the sides of the bell. Cromwell was so impressed by her love for the young man that he was pardoned.

Because of love, people do extraordinary things for others. They give us a glimpse, a small glimpse, at the kind of love that God has for us. God the Father sent his dearly loved Son into dangerous territory. He allowed his Son to be treated cruelly. He stood by and watched his innocent Son be nailed to a cross and to hang there in agony. He could have rescued him and cursed those who were treating him so brutally and maliciously. He allowed his Son to carry the sin of all humanity and so become repulsive even to his own Father. I don’t think we can fully appreciate what it meant for the Father to abandon the Son and let him died at the hands of evil people. When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” we sense something of the terror of bearing the weight of the sin of all humanity.

God did all this for us. He did all this because of his love for us.

Paul writes, “God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! … We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son.” (Romans 5:8,10). That’s how much God loves us – Jesus died for us even though we don’t deserve it. His death has made us God’s friends.

Jesus’ announcement, “It is finished” is clear and simple. Jesus has completed his task. The reason why he came as a human has been fulfilled. He came so that you and I can have forgiveness and salvation. He came to give us the victory. He came to ensure that we would enter his kingdom and live forever.

Today we’re going to do an “Altar Call”. You don’t have to get up; you don’t have to raise a hand or say a word. All I want you to do is close your eyes. For a short while, I want you to think about what Jesus has done for you through his death on the cross. Visualise in your mind the suffering Saviour. Think about the love that God has for you, and thank him. Ask God to wrap you tightly in his love – forgiving you, watching over you, guiding you. If you feel that Jesus and his love for you are not real for a large part of your life, ask for his help.  

 
 
 
 

 

 

We pray:
Loving God,
what you have done for us in Jesus’ death on the cross is far more than we deserve. His death has made us friends with you again. His death has given us forgiveness and the hope of life forever. Everything is complete. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Amen.

I can’t bear to look.

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

I can’t bear to look Isaiah 52:13-53:12

 

There are some things in this world that we just can’t bear to look at or dare to love.  Mould is something we all hate to see or smell, especially if it is growing on something we just took a bite out of!  It looks horrible, all fury, bluey and black in colour and it also smells terrible.  What good could come out of such a disgusting growth?   Penicillin!

Yes, from something so foul actually extrudes something that is a life giving antibiotic.  Out of a dying, mould infested piece of bread is harvested a life saving drug named penicillin, a drug that ushered in the new world of antibiotics; a drug that now save hundreds of lives each day. From something we cannot bear to look at comes a life-giving drug.

While there were no cameras in Jesus day, the prophet Isaiah gives us a word picture of God’s chosen messiah, Jesus; whom we picture in our minds as beautiful, with long flowing blond hair with strongly contoured cheek bones.  Isaiah, prompted by the Spirit, 1000’s of years before his birth, depicts Jesus like a piece of mould.  Someone we could not even bear to look at.

He writes ‘there were many who were appalled at him–his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likenessHe had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him–Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.’

Jesus, hanging on the cross, looks for all purposes like a dying piece of bread covered in mould, rather than the ‘bread of heaven’ that he said he was.  He is bruised by his beating, bleeding from his whipping; agony is on his face.  His flesh cut so badly you could see his muscles and tendons being ripped from his joints as he is suspended by just three sharp nails.  His bones are all showing.  There is nothing of him that would make us want to look at him.  No, he was to be despised.   Jesus, the bread from heaven, the life giving bread hangs dying, like a piece of bread covered in mould.  What good could come of this?

He is indeed the bread of heaven, the bread of life, because out of Jesus veins pour a life giving flow of blood.  He is precisely the bread from heaven because he is dying, disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.  We can’t bear to look at him because he is our sin; he is the ugliness, the smell, the horror of our sin;  he is the bread from heaven, covered in the mould of our sin, so that through his death for us, out of his veins would flow the life giving blood that will heal us from death.

Isaiah foretells this saying ‘he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.’   It was our sins that he died for, it is his blood that gives life.

Penicillin was invented many years ago, but today we receive its benefits as we take its healing properties into our bodies.  In the same way, Jesus died on the cross some two thousand years ago, but his blood still flows for us today, filling us with its healing properties as we drink of the cup in Holy Communion.  Jesus comes before us today, in the word of God through simple bread and wine, nothing to look at, no beauty or majesty to attract us to it, nothing in its appearance that we should desire it.  Many– hide their faces and esteem it not.’  Yet, by the very word of God, this simple bread and wine is the body and blood of Jesus that freely gives us the forgiveness of sins and victory over death that he won for us that first Good Friday.

Martin Luther speaks of it this way ‘If now I seek the forgiveness of sins, I do not run to the cross, for I will not find it given there. Nor must I hold to the suffering of Christ…in knowledge or remembrance, for I will not find it there either. But I will find in the sacrament or gospel the word which distributes, presents, offers, and gives to me that forgiveness which was won on the cross. Therefore…whoever has a bad conscience from his sins should go to the sacrament and obtain comfort, not because of the bread and wine, not because of the body and blood of Christ, but because of the word which in the sacrament offers, presents, and gives the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for me.

And the peace which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus this Good Friday.  Amen


[1]Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther’s works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Vol. 40, Page 214). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.