Friday, April 3, 2015

A Good Friday Sermon

During the past two Sundays I have explained to you what Jesus has saved you from. I've talked to you about sin and about hell. What I'd like to do tonight is to remind you of how He saved you from sin and hell.

Paul wrote,
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus 'knew no sin'. He never sinned. He had no experience of it. But on the Cross that changed. He became a sinner. He took our sin and made it His. So, He became guilty. We are used to the feeling of guilt. But before that Friday Jesus never experienced that feeling. It must have felt very alien. It must have made Him feel dirty. Remember that He was the Holy One of God. Except that, on that Cross, He wasn't. He became the Sinful One. And so as a sinner, as a guilty sinner, He was condemned by the Father. The Father, who had been so pleased with Him and had said so at His baptism and again at His transfiguration - the Father became disgusted with Him. The Father became His enemy and turned against Him. How could He not? How else could the holy God respond to Jesus, the sinner?

Along with the guilt of sin, there was its corruption. Beauty suddenly became ugliness. The absolute contrast between the beauty in Himself that Jesus was used to and the ugliness that He became is beyond our ability to understand. We understand neither that beauty nor that ugliness. But imagine what it would feel like to wake up one morning to find that you are leprous. Your skin is horrible. It's peeling off revealing the raw flesh under it. And it's not just on your arms or legs. It's all over you. And it's on your face. It's everywhere. Ugliness. What Jesus felt was worse than what that would be for you. The corruption of sin.

Then, there is hell. One of the images of hell that stood out to me last week was the darkness, especially as you see it in contrast with God who is light. Remember, where there is no God there is no love, no peace, no kindness. So, along with everything else, being in hell is lonely. But it is not the loneliness that comes when your spouse dies. It is the loneliness that comes when your spouse rejects you and leaves you. It's a loneliness with a special hurt. The weeping and gnashing of teeth make more sense to me now. And isn't that what Jesus felt when He cried out to the Father, the Father with whom He had such a deep and close relationship, only to find the Father rejecting Him? A loneliness with a special hurt.

Jesus has saved you. He has saved you from sin and from hell. And He has done that by taking on Himself your sin and its consequences; consequences for this life and the next. That's what was going on as He was hanging on that Cross.

So, in light of all of this, how should you respond? Jesus has suffered for you. Should you feel bad or guilty because He suffered in your place? I really don't think so. The Scriptures never call for that. Understand what has happened. You have been given a gift, a very costly gift. And it is a gift specially made to be given to you. What do you do when someone does that for you? Do you feel guilty that he or she has gone to the trouble of giving you such a gift? No. You say, 'Thank you'. That works here also. A simple 'Thank you' goes a long way. A simple 'Thank you' is fine. As time goes on what you will find is that your sense of gratitude grows as you understand better the costliness of Jesus' gift. And even as that sense of gratitude grows, a simple 'Thank you' still works. Paul guides the way.
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.    
Here's another response that makes sense. Understanding something of the gift of Jesus will help you to see that you are loved. Isn't that what normally happens when someone gives you a special and costly gift? 'This is for you.' And as you open it, you see that it really is for you. The person thought long and hard about this gift before buying it. It shows his or her love for you. Is it any different when it comes to Jesus' gift for you. Again something from Paul. 
The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Those two responses, being grateful to God and being assured of His love, these are what God desires to see in you.