he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Isa 53:12 +INPFSS+
Tonight we do not mourn Jesus dead.
We do not grieve for him as we would grieve when a good man dies.
This is not like when Princess Diana died in 1997.
Our sorrow should not be for the one who has died.
We are not to feel sorry for Jesus.
This is not some terrible accident, that we wish would have been avoided.
This is not a tragedy that we recall for some emotional response.
This was no accident.
Everything that happened on this day, 2000 years ago, everything that happened to Jesus was intentional.
It was the chosen will of the Father. And not just as some back-up plan, but, as Revelation 13 tells us, The Lamb of God was chosen to be slain from the foundation of the world.
And it was the will of the Son also. As we have recorded in John 10:18, No one can take Jesus' life away from him; he lays it down of his own accord.
And as we hear in John chapter 12: Jesus tells his disciples that it was for this very hour, for the terrible 3 hours from noon until 3pm, on THIS day, it was for this very hour that he came into the world.
To die a criminal's death. To die on a cross.
But why? Why did he die? Why did he take up his cross? Why did he lay his life down? Why?
For you. For me. For us. For every human being.
Because we are all of us – you and me – sinners.
Now “sinners” is kind of a church-y word, so let me un-churchify it:
You and me – we are vile. We are offensive. We're selfish, and perverted. We are dirty. We stand guilty before God, for disobeying him and for besmirching his Goodness. We are doomed to die. And not just bodily death, but eternal death. Eternal darkness and misery away from the God that we ourselves have consciously rejected with our actions.
And it is because of all of these things. Because of our sin, that we needed rescuing.
Because of our sin, that God chose the cross.
He chose to fix what was broken.
To take away the sins of the world.
To make humanity well. And not just well, but God-like. Immortal.
But how could such a great mass of sin be taken away? Who could possibly be strong enough for such a task? What appeasing sacrifice could ever be made that would be sufficient to atone for the whole lot of it?
Only God himself could do it.
And so he did.
God the Son took on human nature, disguised himself on earth by becoming fully human.
And he offered himself, out of Love, to the Father's will, that mankind might be saved.
And so he endured the spitting. And the scorn. And the shame.
The torture, the crown of thorns, the hard wood of the cross.
The nails. The mockery. The desolation. The descent to the realm of the dead.
He endured all of those evils. For us. For our sake. In our place.
He who know no sin became sin, so that we might be rescued from our sins.
He suffered so that our suffering could be healed.
He died so that we might no longer die.
And so here at last we see the appropriate object of our sorrow and grief tonight:
Not our Lord, who gallantly suffered for our sake. In itself, as far as we are concerned – that is a cause for rejoicing. Not for sorrow. That's why it's called GOOD friday.
No, our sorrow is not for him.
Our sorrow should be for ourselves.
As Jesus told the women of Jerusalem as he was carrying his cross to Golgotha:
We should weep for ourselves, and not for him.
Weep that MY sins, caused such suffering to be necessary.
Our sorrow should be that we caused such wounds, upon our Lord who loves us so much.
But Good Friday is not just about sorrow. Or Sin. If we stop there, we'll be stuck.
Because Jesus is not dead, but alive. He was raised from the dead, which we will celebrate tomorrow night with all the appropriate joy and festivity.
And in recalling our Lord's death on the cross, we are not pretending that Easter didn't happen. We're not trying to transport ourselves merely to the first Good Friday.
No. The reason we recall the Cross in the excruciating details of the Gospels is because our Risen Lord eternally pleads the merit of his own sacrifice before the Father.
Having been raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven, Jesus is our Great High Priest, as Isaiah says, making intercession for the transgressors.
Jesus is right now doing what he has been doing every moment of these past 1986 years – he is presenting himself in our place, before the Judgment seat of the Father. He is saying to God the Father, “forgive these ones, not for their sake, but for MY sake.”
He is actively interceding, for all those who turn to him for help. All those who pray to him for salvation. He advocates for. He stands in the gap for.
Every sin added to the book of our lives, when we ask for forgiveness, he is blotting out with his own blood, which poured forth from his most precious wounds.
He makes intercession for the transgressors.
Lastly, his intercession goes both ways. As the middle-man, so to speak, between God the Father and ourselves, he pleads to God, for us, and he also pleads to us, for God.
Jesus himself is interceding, holding forth his nail-scarred hands to you and to me saying, “See what love I have for you! See what love the father has for you! Don't live in your sins unrepentant any longer. Come to me! By the merits of these wounds, I will heal you.”
His wounds plead to God for us, but they also plead to us, for God.
Will you answer his questions? Will you respond to the plea he is speaking to our hearts again tonight?
Eternity hangs in the balance. It always does. Tonight if you hear his voice. Do not harden your heart.
In fact, I invite you to pray with me now:
Lord Jesus, though many of us have heard this Gospel a thousand times before, we respond to it afresh tonight. We ask that you truly WOULD forgive our sins. We ask that you would heal our sickness. We ask for eternal life in your name.
We thank you for your loving-kindness in giving yourself to us on the Cross. In Laying down your life for us whom you have called your friends. We thank you for bringing us peace with God.
We will never ever cease being grateful. And with your help, we will never forget nor lay down your cross. Amen.