Sunday, April 01, 2007

Matt's Messages - What's So Good About Good Friday?

“What’s So Good About Good Friday?”
April 1, 2007
John 19:16-42

Today is Palm Sunday, and next Sunday is Resurrection Sunday.

Palm Sunday reminds us of the Triumphal Entry of Jesus as King into Jerusalem which we’ve sung about this morning (and He’s a king like no other – riding in on a donkey!), and Resurrection Sunday is the day when we celebrate [big time!] Jesus rising from the dead. And we’re going to celebrate it next Sunday with some baptisms (some mini-resurrections).

The Friday between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday is often called “Good Friday.”

This is the day that we remember the crucifixion. The day when Jesus died on the Cross.

We don’t normally have a Good Friday service at this church, so I want to take some time today to think about Good Friday.

And here’s my question: “What’s So Good About Good Friday?”

I mean, after all, this is the day that our Lord was killed!

Good Friday was the day that the most wicked act in all of human history was committed.

More wicked than the Nazi Holocaust.

More wicked than Cambodia’s Killing Fields.

More wicked than September 11, 2001.

More wicked than the Fall of Man in Genesis 3!

A perfectly innocent man was murdered on Good Friday. How is that good?

What’s So Good About Good Friday?

John chapter 19 tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and of some of the things that happened that day.

And while many of them were EVIL with a capital E-V-I-L, God had good plans for each of them. And we benefit from them today. They are good for us.

John 19 tells the Good News about Good Friday.

The Good News begins with bad news. V.17

“So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others–one on each side and Jesus in the middle.”

For any Christian, these words are terrible to read. Roman soldiers made Jesus, as was the custom, carry the cross-piece, the horizontal bar across his scourged back out of the city to a place called the Skull–what the Hebrews called Golgotha (or what we call (from the Latin) Calvary). At the place called the Skull were probably 3 or more wooden posts pitched vertically from the ground.

And our Lord Jesus, and two other men, whom we know (from the other gospels) were thieves and robbers deserving of this death, the Lord Jesus and these two men were laid down on the ground on top of their cross-beams and nails were pounded into their wrists to attach them to the cross-pieces. And then the cross-beams were lifted up onto the stake-poles and fastened. And then, nails were driven into their feet to attach them to the stakes. And then, they hung there and died.

One scholar writes, “the victim could hang in the hot sun for hours, even days. To breathe, it was necessary to push with the legs and pull with the arms to keep the chest cavity open and functioning. Terrible muscle spasms wracked the entire body; but since collapse meant asphyxiation, the strain went on and on” (Carson, 610).

That's what it means in v.18 when it says that they crucified him.

We’re used to crosses being decorations. We wear them around our necks and put them on our church walls.

But the cross was a cruel instrument of torture and death. And sometimes we need to take some time to think about it.

“They crucified him.”

What’s so good about that?

Let me tell you one. #1. JESUS WAS PROCLAIMED THE KING. V.19.

“Pilate [the Roman governor] had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross [the word “cross” appears again and again in this chapter. And we should wince every time it is mentioned]. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, ‘Do not write 'The King of the Jews,' but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’”

Pilate was a loser. He wasn't able to say “no” to the Jewish leaders who wanted to kill Jesus, he didn't have the guts to let him go free, and he refused to consider Jesus' claims to true kingship (read chapters 18 and 19). But, out of spite for the Jews, he had this placard made to hang above Jesus' head. The Jews hated it, but Pilate, out of scorn, would not change it. It read very simply, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Pilate meant it as an insult. But he couldn't have been more right. As hundreds of Jews walked the road into and out of Jerusalem that day, they read that sign. A proclamation of his kingship, of his Messiahship, the fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises of an anointed leader who would lead the Jews out of bondage and into freedom. A sign that proclaimed the king.

It was written in 3 languages: Aramaic (the common language of the Jews of that day), Latin (the official language of Roman law), and Greek (the trade language that allowed everyone in the Western world to speak with one-another). There was no mistaking what was being proclaimed here. Jesus of Nazareth is the King of the Jews!

Jesus Was Proclaimed the King!

Now, you say, “Pastor Matt, that's not what they saw.” And you're right. But it was there! Jesus was reigning as King of the Universe on that tree. He was winning a people for himself–a kingdom unlike any other kingdom there ever was or ever will be.

Colossians 2:15 puts it this way, “...having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

And that notice hung above his head was the universal proclamation of his kingship. Just as he said, he died. He was lifted up. But his shame was to be his glory. He reigned from the tree!

I know it doesn’t seem like it.

Heather and I went to see the high school musical on Friday. A lot of very talented West Branch kids doing the West Side Story.

There was a line it that really caught my attention. Nearly everybody was getting killed in various rumbles and doing awful things.

And one of the better characters said this to a gang member. “You make this world lousy!” To which the kid replies, “That’s the way we found it.”

This world is lousy was the message.

This world is messed up and broken.

It needs a king to set it right.

Well, that King has come. And the world put Him to death.

But in that death, He was reigning.

And one day! One day, coming soon, He will set it all right. And it won’t be lousy again.

One day that proclamation of the Kingship of Jesus that Pilate started will be universal–“at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:10-11a)!

Just like the sign above his head on Good Friday. Jesus of Nazareth–The King of the Jews.

Jesus was Proclaimed the King.

Believe in His Kingship. And look for the day when He will return.


What’s so good about Good Friday?

Jesus fulfilled prophetic scripture. Verse 23.

“When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. ‘Let's not tear it,’ they said to one another. ‘Let's decide by lot who will get it.’ This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, ‘They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.’ So this is what the soldiers did.”

Don't lose the horror of this.

While Jesus was beaten to a pulp and hanging basically naked on a Cross, suffering for breath with nails through his hands, the soldiers are playing a game of dice for his clothes.

It appears that there were four of them entrusted with the job of executing these prisoners. And it was the privilege of the executioners to possess the clothes of the doomed. One got his belt, one his sandals, one his head covering, and one his outer robe. That left only his inner garment or tunic. This was too valuable to just cut up because it was woven in one piece, possibly by Jesus' own mother who was standing nearby. So they played a game of chance to see who would walk away with his tunic.

Cruel and heartless, was it not?

But underneath and behind their actions was the fulfillment of the words of David in Psalm 22:18, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”

John saw here nothing less than the fulfillment of the Scriptures! What God had said would happen to Great David's Greater Son the Messiah came to be. The soldiers meant it for evil, but God was fulfilling his Scripture through them–for our good.

There is more. Skip down to v.28.

“Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips.”

The soldiers unwittingly fulfilled Scripture. But v.28 says that Jesus knew that He was fulfilling all the Old Testament Scriptures of a suffering Messiah. He even asked for something to drink and was given wine vinegar, a common sour wine to fulfill David's words in Psalm 69:21, “They gave me vinegar for my thirst.”

What was happening here? Was Jesus just parched?

Of course he was thirsty, he was dying in the noon-day heat and struggling against asphyxiation. But more than that, he was being the perfect fulfillment of the promises of a Suffering Servant who would save his people from their sins by going through great torture and humiliation.

And that's good news. Because if God could not keep his promises in little things like gambling for clothes and drinking vinegar-wine, then we could not trust Him to keep His promises in the big things: like our forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit, and answered prayer, and turning all things for our good, and graciously giving us all things, and never leaving us or forsaking us, or resurrecting our bodies to enjoy him forever.

You and I can trust God to keep His promises because in Jesus' death we see the perfect fulfillment of the Scriptures.

And there is more.

After He died. Skip down to v.31.

“Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. [He was totally dead.] The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. [John wants you to believe!] These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken,’ and, as another scripture says, ‘They will look on the one they have pierced.’”

Even in His death, Jesus was fulfilling prophetic scripture.

Here we have Psalm 34:20 about His unbroken bones (which we’ve seen again the book of Numbers!) and Zechariah 12:10, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

Even in His death, Jesus was fulfilling prophetic scripture.

And John writes it here so that (v.35), “you may believe.”

Do you believe God’s Word?

Do you trust in His promises?

The men have been studying 2 Peter. And in chapter 1 of that book, Peter makes this bold claim: God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. How? Through our knowledge of him who called us by His own glory and goodness. And through these, He has given us His very great and precious promises.

And He keeps every one of them!

Jesus fulfilled prophetic scripture.

Believe Him for His promises.

Here’s one of His promises. “Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you.”

And that’s illustrated here by #3. JESUS CARED FOR HIS PEOPLE.

Go back up to verse 25. After they cast lots for His clothing. V.25

“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother [that should make us think, huh? Imagine watching the bloody execution of your son!], his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”

Jesus is in utter agony right now, but there is still a tender moment at the Cross.

Not only were there four hardened soldiers at the Cross, but according to John, there were also at least four loving ladies there, too. Three Mary's and one sister: Mary the mother of Jesus, her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary from the city of Magdala, (that is Mary Magdalene).

The disciple whom Jesus loved was standing nearby, too. I think that is probably John, our Gospel-writer. And Jesus, between excruciating breaths, gives Mary to John and John to Mary. There is a little, informal adoption going on here. Jesus was making sure that Mary was going to be cared for. None of his natural brothers were yet his disciples, and so, Jesus made sure that Mary had someone to look after her. And vice-versa, too. Jesus was giving someone else to John to love him, to be a loving companion, and care-giver. “Here is your mother,” he said to John. And John took that responsibility to heart.

What I see here is the loving care of Jesus for his people.

He could be thinking just about himself–He’s going through torture! More than just the physical, the weight of the sin of the world was on His shoulders! But even with His last dying breath, He is caring for the needs of those who belong to him.

That's good news isn't it? Because He isn't suffering now at the right hand of the Majesty on High, and so now we can be assured that He will take care of those of us who believe on Him.

My logic is this: If Jesus took care of His own at the darkest hour of His life, how will He not also, take care of us now that He has been restored to the glory that He had before the foundation of the Earth? He will!

Jesus Cares for His People.

So, cast your cares on Him because He cares for you.

Are you worrying about something right now?

Cast it on Him!


“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

Jesus died with a loud cry. In Greek, it is just one word, Tetelestai, "It is Finished!" or "It is Accomplished!"

This was not a shout of desperation. It was not “I am finished.”

No, it was a cry of triumph and victory, “It is finished!”

What Jesus was saying was that His redemptive, saving work on the Cross had been accomplished. He had brought the Father glory by doing the work He gave him to do. He had made the Father known. He had fulfilled all the prophecies in Scripture about His death. He had born the sins of the world on His shoulders. He had been the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. His work was accomplished. Sin had been dealt with. The wages of sin is death, and Jesus had paid the wages in full–for all who put their faith in Him.

Peter put it this way, “Christ died for sins once for all (it is finished!), the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

Paul said it this way, “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus said in Mark 10:45 that He came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. He paid the ransom. He took the Father's wrath.

It is finished. The full payment for our sins was accomplished by His death on our behalf.

There is nothing more that we can do or could add to pay for our salvation.

The debt is paid for. We can be forgiven! It is finished!

Have you put your trust in the finished work of Christ? And the finished work of Christ alone?

You can’t pay the penalty for your own sins.

You can’t work it off.

You can’t deserve it.

But if you trust Jesus and Jesus alone: It is finished FOR YOU!

Jesus paid the full penalty for sin.

I challenge you, if you have not, today, put your trust in Him and what He did on the Cross–alone.

What’s so good about Good Friday?

The good news! The glorious gospel of grace!

Put your faith in Jesus and Jesus alone.

With His last dying breath, He proclaimed the Good News: It is finished!

So proclaim the good news!

I want to you show one last thing.

In His death on Good Friday, Jesus was inspiring bold witness.


“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”

And we’ll get the rest of the story next Sunday.

But I want to you to think about these two guys for a second.

First, there was a man named Joe, and his hometown was called Arimathea. And at some point, Joe had come to believe that Jesus was the Christ, but until this day, he had not done a thing about it in public, where it counts. Joe was a secret disciple (which is really no disciple at all!). Though a wealthy man, he was afraid of the Jewish religious leaders and what they would say and what they would do to him if he came out for Christ and stood for Jesus.

But now, God worked in his heart to be bold. The Gospel of Mark tells us that Joe boldly approached Governor Pilate and asked for permission to bury Jesus. Normally, crucified man would get tossed with a bunch of bodies in a shallow common grave, if they got buried at all. But Joe boldly approached Pilate for permission to give him a proper Jewish burial.

Think about that. This man, Jesus, was just convicted of treason and hung on a Cross. And Joe was publically identifying himself with that convicted, executed prisoner. It would gain him nothing in the eyes of men, except scorn and possibly the same fate, if he was judged to be a partner with Jesus in the rebellion. But boldly, he identified with Jesus in his death. Jesus was inspiring bold witness.

And Joe wasn't all. There was also this man named, Nick.

Jesus was placed, somewhat hurriedly (because the sun was going down) in a new tomb in a nearby garden, a place that everyone knew. [Which puts away all of the theories of that Jesus Family Tomb nonsense, of course.]

And Jesus was buried by Joe and Nick.

You remember, Nick, the Jewish Religious Leader and Teacher. In John 3, Nick came to Jesus at night time [Nick at Nite], probably so that the other Jewish Religious Leaders would not know that Nick was interested in Jesus. He was afraid of them.

And on that night, Nick learned about the kingdom of God and how you must be born again to enter it. And how you must your faith in the Son of God who was given by God the Father because he so loved the world, and that the Son of Man would be lifted up that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life (John 3:3, 16, 15).

And at some point, it seems that the fear of Nicodemus turned to faith. Because now, at Jesus' death, he is boldly helping Joseph of Arimathea take the body down and wrap the lifeless corpse of our Savior in strips of linen, laden with the Jewish burial perfumes of myrrh and aloe.

Why do I say that his fear had turned to faith? Not only because he was burying a convicted criminal and sure to be, at best, ridiculed, and at worst, tried for treason himself. But also, because of the amazing amount of costly perfume that he brought.

In Greek measurements, it’s 100 litrai, which is about 75 pounds. He must have had servants along to carry all of that and help with the body! That was a weight of perfume reserved for royalty. A great Rabbi (Rabbi Gamaliel) was once perfumed at his burial with 80 litrai. This was 100 litrai! This was an embalming fit for a king!

Nicodemus had come to recognize the (#1) Kingship of Jesus, and he treated Him even in his death as a great King! His fear of the Jews had turned to faith in Jesus, and publically, he was showing it by putting his money where his mouth was, his wealth where his faith was.

Even in his death, Jesus was inspiring bold witness. These men were risking their money, their reputations, and their lives for King Jesus.

What about us?

What are we risking for King Jesus?

Are you a “secret disciple?” Which is really no disciple at all?

Or are you bold in witnessing to King Jesus?

It should be easier for us! Because we know that He came back to life!

What about us?

Are we only coming to Jesus at night (maybe just on Sunday mornings and not all week.)?

Do our neighbors know, do our co-workers know, does our family know that we believe that Jesus is the King and that “It is finished?”

Can they tell by what we sacrifice and risk for Jesus: our wealth, our reputation, our lives?

Are you a bold witness for Jesus? Am I? Or are we too afraid?

Next Sunday, Rusty and Chris Maines are going to stand up and give their testimonies.

And then they’re going to come back here and get dunked.

That takes some guts. They are going to run a risk.

But what’s so good about Good Friday is the Good News of Jesus Christ!

And He is worth it!

Who do you need to tell this week?

Tell everybody you can – without fear!

Tell them:

1. Jesus Was Proclaimed the King of All.

- Believe in His Kingship! It’s coming!

Tell them:

2. Jesus Fulfilled Prophetic Scripture

- Believe in God’s Promises! They are great and precious and sure.

Tell them:

3. Jesus Cared for His People. He was carrying the weight of the world, and He still took time to care for the temporal needs of His people.

- Cast Your Cares On Him!

Tell them:

4. Jesus Paid the Full Penalty for Sin.

- Trust in the Finished Work of Christ Alone.

Tell them:

5. Jesus Inspired Bold Witness. You’re not going to be a secret disciple any more.

- Tell Everybody You Can - Without Fear!

What’s so good about Good Friday? The Good News of Jesus Christ.