But I think the whole thing will be changed, at any rate, this is what I was starting on...
Good Friday Thoughts on the Cross.
Today is called “Good Friday”, but there is nothing particularly Good about a day of the week. In fact there is nothing good in all of creation on this day. Except one man - Jesus. Nothing else and no one else in all the world is “good” today. We have all turned our backs on Jesus, and in doing so, we have turned our backs on God.
There is no communion today. Not because Jesus refuses fellowship with us, but because we refuse fellowship with him. Remember on Maundy Thursday, at the last supper, Judas left the table and went out into the night to betray Jesus. Today we have all joined Judas. We have all left the table, we have all betrayed Jesus. The only song we rightly sing today is “We have decided to follow Judas.”
Jesus fulfills prophecy today: psalm 22: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Jesus dies alone. He has been abandoned by his friends, his disciples his family – and now it seems, he has even been abandoned by his God.
What does it mean to be abandoned by God? For all our troubles in this life, we do not know what that really means. We know only the opposite. We only know what it is like for us to abandon God. Even in our darkest hours, we don’t know what being abandoned by God really means. We think we have been abandoned by God, but we haven’t been. Only Jesus really knows what that is like.
What is the cross of Christ? It is God the Father saying to Jesus – I reject you, I curse you, I punish you, I pour out on you all the wrath of God that has been stored up against sin from the beginning of the world unto its end. I treat you as that which I utterly hate - I treat you as sin. I treat you as if you had committed every sin ever thought of, every sin ever committed – from the slightest lie, to the worst rape, murder and torture. God the Father says to Jesus – “I abandon you”. I turn my face from you, I don’t know you.
Do you want to know what God thinks of sin? Look at the cross. Sin has only one goal – death. Do you want to see what sin looks like from God’s point of view? Look at the cross. Sin looks ugly. When sin is stripped of all its outward clothes of glamour, and cleverness and fun, this is what it looks like.
Why is the cross? Who is responsible? Let’s bring them to justice. Here we are. We are responsible. Every single sin we have committed, and every single sin we will commit, is a hammer blow into the hands and feet of Jesus. Each one of us here today can say “I have been responsible for the death of an innocent person.” We are no different from the drunk driver who carelessly smashes into a family van. How do those people live with themselves? How do we? Do we know what we have done? We have been drunk with sin. We never thought it would lead to this. We have killed an innocent man.
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? What does it really feel like to be abandoned by God? God is the source of all life and goodness. Outside of God there is only death and darkness. Death and darkness deeper than our worst nightmares. We all know darkness; but think of this: We only scratch the surface of suffering, and despair, and darkness, and death. Jesus knows its depth. Jesus went beyond the mere physical suffering of the body, the humiliation and rejection of everyone around him. Jesus went to that place where God himself says “I hate you”. Complete and utter separation from God. An emptiness deeper and colder than anything we can imagine. A place so far from God that perhaps in those words Jesus himself – God’s only Son – doubted whether or not this was really the end. As far as Jesus was concerned at this point, it was the end. Perhaps in those words Jesus himself doubted whether his heavenly Father would save him.
God demands justice. God is far more just than we are. God demands that those who break his laws must face the consequences. God may with all justice look at each one of us and say: “You have broken my laws, you must face the consequences”. What are the consequences of sin – those trivial little things (after all, I am basically a good person, aren’t I) - -?? -- what are the consequences? The consequences of sin are the cross. Sin is a capital offence. That is where we should be. God is perfectly within his rights to say to each one of us – hold out your hands – it is time for the consequences. Do you think you can get away scott – free forever? Do you think I don’t see? Or do you think that you are God? Do you think you can act as if I have no say? Do you think that I won’t reckon up the accounts of judgment when I want to? Do you think you will never have to face me, in all my glory and splendor and holiness? The great men and women of bible fell on their faces in fear when I approached them. Are you better than them? Do you think you will be able to stand when I summon you to my judgment seat? You don’t know me if that is what you think.
What will you have to say for myself? What excuse will you bring? There is no excuse good enough. Can you say “I didn’t know”? I’ve been telling you all throughout history what I require – you know the commandments, you know the difference between right and wrong. And the penalty for sin is death
What will you say for yourself? Will you say “I couldn’t help myself”? Didn’t I give you free will? You have the freedom to do and choose whatever you want. You know when you’ve made choices for good – and you know that you have made choices for evil. And the penalty for sin is death.
What will you say? Will you say “I’ll take the punishment”? You won’t survive it. Do you know what the full weight of the wrath of God would do to you? The 10 plagues of Egypt on the hardened heart of Pharoah were just a warm up for judgment. The flood that covered the earth in Noah’s day will seem like a puddle. All the grief and sorrow and pain you’ve ever known in all your days will be nothing compared to the full force of my wrath vented on your sinfulness.
What will you say?
Before you have a chance to say anything, Jesus will speak. And he will simply say, on your behalf “The Cross”. He will stand between you and the judgment of God, and the Lamb who was slain will say: “The Cross”.
Beyond our understanding; God himself took the punishment. Jesus says – give me the punishment that they deserve, and give them the reward that I deserve. Jesus took the blow of God’s wrath, so that we would not have to. God took the penalty himself. He himself suffered in our place. Would you take the punishment of the drunk driver who killed your wife or husband? Would you offer to take the punishment of the murderer and rapist who stole your child? Of course the punishment would be terrible – it looks like the Cross.
Jesus said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus was forsaken, so that you wouldn’t be. All the punishment for sin was laid on the back of Jesus. When God sits in judgment of the world, Jesus will stand between you and all of God’s righteous wrath, and Jesus will say - “the Cross”. Jesus will say – I paid the penalty for sin. I suffered that wrath. Let this sinner go free. For my sake, Father, for the sake of my Cross, let this sinner go. I took the death – give this sinner life; I took your wrath; - give this sinner your love. I took the sin – give this sinner righteousness. I descended to hell – give this sinner a place in heaven.
And we, who chose to leave the table of fellowship with Jesus, will be invited to the great feast of heaven. The wedding banquet of the Lamb.
And then the only thing that we will be able to say is