Friday, April 14, 2017

A Good Friday Sermon

And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ Mark 9:47-48

I don’t know what Jesus was feeling when He said those words. But I do know that He was describing something that He would experience. He was describing the hell He would suffer. And He endured that hell while He was on the Cross.

What I’m going to do tonight is remind you of some of what the Scriptures have to say about hell. And I do this not to make sure that you have orthodox views of the afterlife. I’m going to do this to help you to understand better what Jesus did for you.

The first thing to consider is simply this: hell is painful. That seems pretty clear when Jesus refers to the fire of hell. Whether this fire is literal or simply imagery doesn’t really matter. The point is clear. Hell is painful.

And why is it painful? It’s painful because hell is about the anger of God. However unpopular it might be, these days, to speak about an angry God, it’s just a fact: God gets angry. He gets angry because of sin. And as angry as He might have gotten at Israel in the wilderness or when they went after false gods or some other time, He has not yet gotten as angry as He will be when, to use Jesus’ language, He throws people into hell.

God will have good reason for His anger. He has created us. And He has done that with a particular purpose in mind. He has created us so that we would live in loving relationship with Him. He is to be the center of every person’s life. That is what makes life worth living, a loving relationship with Him. But, we have refused to live His way. And such refusal is not just wrong. It’s not even just rebellious. It is insulting. It’s telling God to get lost so that we can live our lives the way that we want, with our desires and dreams at the center. Whether we have clearly stated that intention or not, we have lived this way. And we all know it.

Along with creating us, God has created hell. He has created it as a place of justice for our insulting sin. That means that He has created it as a place of anger. Hell is where He will vent the full force of His anger against those who have sinned. And that alone will make hell painful.

What I have described is not just the hell that awaits. It’s also what Jesus experienced while He was hanging on that Cross: the anger of God. And He experienced that anger because of the sins that had been laid on Him. The pain of the Cross was so much more than what those nails did. Jesus suffered the pain of hell because of insulting sin, the insulting sin of so many, because of our insulting sin.

But all of that may not have been the worst part of the hellish pain that Jesus experienced. Has there ever been a relationship that was closer, more affectionate, more loving than the relationship that Jesus had with His Father? The Father called Jesus His beloved Son, and Jesus confessed His own love of the Father. At one point, Jesus said, ‘The Father and I are one.’ Whatever else that may mean, those words include Jesus’ experience of a deeply emotional bond with His Father. But all of that was wiped out on the Cross. ‘My God, my God, why have You forsaken me!’ Jesus quotes the Psalm as an expression of His own sense of desertion. A relationship that had been so beautiful - and that to such a degree that we may never understand - was shredded into ugly little pieces on that Cross. Jesus was disowned and repudiated by the Father. I don’t think that we will ever adequately understand what that felt like.

We have come together to be reminded of what Jesus has endured for us. And now that I have reminded you, what should you do? What does Jesus expect of us now? What should we do with this? There have been those who have thought that it makes sense to feel guilty. After all, it was their sin that placed Jesus on that Cross. But can that be what Jesus calls for? Did He ever say anything like that? No. What has He said? ‘Follow Me.’ Being reminded of what Jesus has done for us on the Cross gives us good reason to follow Him. Here is someone worthy of our obedience and our affection. What He has endured for us is proof enough that He is worthy. A greater appreciation of what Jesus has done for us should lead to a greater desire to give ourselves wholeheartedly to Him and to His service.

But remember what else Jesus means when He says, ‘Follow Me.’ He also means, ‘Come with Me and watch how I live so that you can live that way, too.’ If you are moved by what Jesus has done for your sake and for the sake of others, then imitate Him. You will never be called to atone for the sins of other people. But you are called to endure suffering for their good. Follow Jesus. Imitate Him as your model. A nd He will tell you when and how to suffer so that good may come to those around you and that to His glory.

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