It is Good Friday – the day we remember Christ’s victory over sin, death and darkness.
It did not seem much like a victory to Jesus’s disciples on that day, as the sky turned dark and the joy of the previous evening’s Passover celebration faded in their minds. But looking back we call it Good Friday because we remember His victory, so hard won by Him as he was crucified on the cross, is also the means of our Victory, and our way to Salvation.
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
Mary’s deep anguish at watching her son’s agonising death on the cross was felt like a sword piercing her heart. This was Simeon’s prophecy given to Mary shortly after His birth (Luke 2:35).
There are many people in this country today feeling that same pain. I heard on the radio this week a lady describing her heartbreak at not being able to be present to see her husband as he struggled on a ventilator in intensive care. Yet, God is always present, He gives us His Hope and He left us with His Holy Spirit to comfort us through all our struggles and present difficulties. Jesus’ caring voice to Mary from the cross was no more than a whisper, and His voice to us may seem quiet at times but it is most definitely still there to be heard. God has responded to our pain and suffering, His Spirit is with us and in the pages of the Bible and in the message of the Cross, we can hear His voice today.
‘The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ John 1:29
Right at the start of Jesus’ ministry, His death was prophesied by John the Baptist.
‘In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’’ Mathew 3:2
When he saw Jesus come down to the river to be baptised at the start of His ministry, he referred to Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’.
‘John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ John 1:29
John was making the prophecy that Jesus would be the means of our salvation and was referring back to the Passover, the event that defined Jewish history, when the Egyptian Pharaoh would finally let God’s people, the Israelites, go, and Moses would lead them to the promised land.
‘The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt’ Exodus 12:13
On that first Passover, God instructed Moses to tell the Israelites that the plague that was about to come over the land would not affect them, if they followed God’s instructions. The Passover meal was to be shared by families each alone in their own households. They were to sacrifice a lamb and mark their doorposts with its blood, then go inside and close the doors. They ate the meal of the lamb and the unleavened bread in haste, as the plague passed over them. Each year the Israelites remembered this event by recreating that first Passover, and Jewish families continue this tradition to this day with their Passover Seder meal at home. No Rabi or priest is required, only the family together remembering what God has done for them, for it is the Lord’s Passover.
In John’s gospel account of the crucifixion of Jesus he refers to Jesus as the Passover lamb, (John 19:36) he repeats this in his prophecy of the end times and the final fulfilment of God’s plan for the restoration of the world at Jesus’ second coming in the book of Revelation (Rev 13:8)
As Christians, it is no coincidence that we celebrate Easter at the same time as the Passover, for it was during the Passover celebration that Jesus was killed upon the cross. We no longer need to make any sacrifice, for Jesus was our sacrificial lamb. Isaiah prompted by the Holy Spirit made the prophecy that Jesus would die for us ‘like a lamb to the slaughter.’
‘Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,’ Isaiah 53:4-7
Remember that in the Passover the blood of the lamb was be used to mark the doorposts and signify the people’s reliance on the mercy of God. How fortunate we are that we no longer need to mark them with blood, for it is Jesus’ blood that was shed on that Good Friday 2000 years ago that covers us now and always.
‘ …you were redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.’ 1 Peter 1:18-21
We have access to God directly through Christ.
‘From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”’ Matthew 4:17
We do not need any mediator other than Jesus Christ himself, priestly or otherwise. We are the body of Christ and ‘each one of you is a part of it’ wrote the apostle Paul. (1 Corinthians 12:27)
‘At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split’ Matthew 27:51
‘Why?’ many people will be asking ‘is God not doing anything about this terrible situation in the world today?’ But what we read in the Bible, is that He has already given us all that we need in Jesus. The curtain torn in two in the temple, from the top to the bottom, was a sign from God that access to Him would no longer be veiled and that we have direct access through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Christ’s death on the cross was a once for all, for ever, event, an outpouring of love for the whole world.
God knows our pain and our suffering. He mourns and grieves and weeps over it. We can not fail to see the extreme difficulties we are facing in our villages, towns and cities here and around the world. The pain of separation from loved ones and the helplessness felt at not being able to speak with those being treated or even able to hold their hands and sit by their bedside. This pain is very real, and Jesus has not left us alone to bear it, but He is with us and He is with them, as He promised.
Jesus said ‘’surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ Matthew 28:20b
Just as the pain and suffering of the world is evident to us, so too is God’s creative and sustaining love. We look outside and see the sun shining, the leaves are unfurling on the branches, the cherry is in blossom, daffodils and wildflowers colour the grasses, and the darkness of winter is giving way to the longer hotter days of spring.
The Bible from its first page to the last, tells the story of God’s plan of redemption, our salvation and His total love for us. The way for us to have a totally fulfilled life both now and eternal life, and peace. Within its pages we see time and time again where God has pointed to His people the means of Hope and an answer to fear. But it is our choice, our free will – we need to choose Him.
‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’
One of the symbols used by pharmacists and the medical profession is a snake wrapped around a pole. This refers to the passage in the book of Numbers in the Bible where Moses is leading the people through the wilderness and the desert, through hard and difficult terrain and they were beset by a plague of snakes. God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole and tell the people that if they were bitten by a snake all they had to do was look up to the snake on the pole and they would live. The Apostle John tells us that to receive our eternal life and eternal salvation we are to look up to Jesus (John 3:14).
‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’ John 3:14-17
God has given us the blessings of modern medicine, and He has also given us Christ who offers us life everlasting.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things’ Col 3:1-2
God’s answer to the pain and suffering of the world was to send Jesus to defeat death and His Holy Spirit to Comfort us.
How thankful we can be that we no longer need to mark our doorposts with the blood of a sacrifice, we don’t need to look to a snake on a pole, instead we trust in God’s promise through Jesus, repent, look to the cross and believe the Good News.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Revd Stuart Huntley
‘Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”’ John 11:25-26
If you want to ask Jesus to be with you for the first time or recommit yourself to Him, you might like to pray this prayer:
Jesus, I believe that you are the Son of God, you are Lord and you died on a cross for me and for everyone. You took all my shame, guilt and sins upon yourself; they are paid in full. You were raised from dead and you are alive now, seated at the right hand of God praying for me.
I turn away [repent] and confess all the things that I have done wrong; my sins, guilt and shame and ask for your forgiveness and your help to stop doing them. [You may want to add some specifics here…] I am saved by grace and not by anything I have done or works that I can do.
Jesus, I invite you to come into my heart right now and set me free to live my life with you. Help me begin my journey with you and lead me into my new life ahead. I am never alone, you promise a helper, the Holy Spirit, to come and live in me and I ask and invite you Holy Spirit to fill me now and thank you.
I am a new creation, I am born again and saved, the old has gone, the new has come.
Thank you Jesus, Amen.