Friday, April 3, 2015

The Cost of Good Friday

Sometimes we hear people refer to the gift of Easter, and on Sunday we are going to reflect on the generosity that made Easter a reality for us, and for the gifts that are extended to us because of the resurrection.  But that is Sunday and this is Friday. 

You see there couldn’t be a Sunday without a Friday.  Easter Sunday couldn’t and wouldn’t exist without Good Friday.  Because every gift, at least every gift that is truly a gift must cost somebody something.  It might be time, it might be money but there is a cost there.  And so before Jesus could be raised from the dead he had to die, before we can accept the gift of salvation a debt has to be paid, in order for a sacrifice to be acceptable there has to be a cost to the person making the sacrifice.  Without a cost it might be a nice gesture but it wouldn’t be a sacrifice.

It was British playwright John Osborne who said “The whole point of a sacrifice is that you give up something you never really wanted in the first place.”    But that isn’t really sacrifice, And on the Friday of the Passover weekend, the concept of a sacrifice would be understood. 

Jews from around the world would have gathered in Jerusalem to worship God and offer sacrifices as a part of that worship.  And while we might not be able to get our heads around the concept of animal sacrifice today, that was the norm two thousand years ago.  And so on that weekend there were lambs and pigeons that were brought to the temple and bought at the temple for the express purpose of being offered to God as a sacrifice in the temple.  And each of those animals cost somebody something.  There were also financial offerings that were given that weekend, and regardless of how much it represented for the person who gave, that money could have been spent somewhere else on something else. 

And so before we can get to Sunday and see the gifts that were given we are going to settle in for a little bit on this Good Friday to see what those gifts cost.

Three years before this chapter of Jesus’ story would conclude, it began and the story was defined by probably most memorized verse in the bible.  John 3:16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  Listen to that again, John 3:16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  For those of us who are parents here is the question: who is there in the world that you loved so much that you would willingly sacrifice one of your children for them?
And so the first point is the most obvious point and that is Friday Cost the Father His Son The Trinity and the nature of God is and will remain a mystery to us until our eyes are opened on the other side of eternity.  How can one God exist as three persons?  How can there be a Son who has always been? 
I have always maintained that a God that we could explain or understand would not be much of a God.  I don’t understand everything about my smart car, I can’t explain how my computer works and don’t even get me started on my lack of understanding of women. And that’s all right.   And yet we have the desire to be able to understand and explain the greatest mystery of the universe. 
And we may not understand it completely, but we can understand the relationship that exists between a parent and a child, that we can understand. And as parents we can understand how we feel when our child is bullied or hurt and for some of you, you can even understand the pain of losing a child. 
And if you knew that your child would suffer humiliation and physical pain and separation from you that would be heart breaking.  Even if you knew that in the end it would be all right, you wouldn’t want your child to go through that. 
But that is what happened on Good Friday, and God the Father’s heart must have been broken when he heard his Son call out from the cross, Mark 15:34 Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
 Can you imagine having your child think you had turned your back on them in their time of greatest need?
But it wasn’t just the Father that paid a price on Friday.  You see  Friday Cost the Son His Life  And I know from our perspective we might be thinking “Yeah, but on Sunday he rose again.”  True but on Friday Jesus died.  And he didn’t just die peacefully in his sleep or suddenly without notice.  Sometimes in the case of a sudden death you will hear folks say “But luckily they didn’t suffer.” 

The reality is that Christ did suffer.  He suffered emotionally as the religious leaders and the political leaders lied about him and his executioners mocked him. 

He suffered physically through the punishment that was heaped upon him.  If you read through the accounts from the four gospels, they spit on him, they beat him with their fists, they slapped him, they whipped him, they jammed a crown made from large thorns unto his head, they pulled his beard and then they nailed him to a cross.  And he hung for hours under the hot sun, listening to the crowd that had gathered mock him as he slowly and painfully suffocated. 

And he knew it was going to happen. Let’s read a conversation that Jesus had with the 12 in Matthew 20:17-19 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him. “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”
And just hours before in the Garden of Gethsemane he had cried out to his Father, Luke 22:41-42 He (Jesus) walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
And often we stop there, we talk about what Good Friday cost the Father and what Good Friday cost the Son.   But it went deeper than that. 

Friday Cost Peter His Pride  Peter, Peter, Peter.  Peter was Jesus closest friend, one of the first of the 12.  It was Pete that Jesus confined in, it was Peter who walked on the water with Jesus, it was Peter’s Mother in Law who Jesus healed.  Peter was there from the beginning and as the end of the story was drawing near, when Jesus celebrated the Passover with the twelve it was Peter who vowed that he would be there at the end.  That he would never deny Christ and that he would willing give up his life in defence of his best friend. 

But Jesus had never asked Peter to die for him, he had simply asked Peter to live for him, and at the end of the day Peter did neither. 

If you don’t know the story Peter, has three opportunities to acknowledge his relationship with Jesus.  And three times Peter denies that he even knows who Jesus is.  And as Peter denies his best friend for the third time he turns and looks into the eyes of that very friend.

And he saw everything that he had learned and everything he had witnessed over the past three years washed away.  How could he ever be more than a fisherman after what had happened?  How could he be forgiven?  How could he ever speak the name again of the one who he denied in his greatest time of need?

And so Peter was a very different man at the end of the Friday than he was on Thursday when he pulled out a sword and attempted to take on the entire group who had come to arrest Jesus. 

I’m sure the question was burning deep in Peter’s heart; What must Jesus think of me?

And so on Friday Peter represents every one of us who has ever failed in our Christian walk, who has ever denied Christ by our actions and feels deep within our hearts that we can never face Jesus again. 

Friday Cost Jerusalem its Future  On Sunday I spoke about Jesus weeping over the people of Jerusalem.  The incident is recorded in Luke 19:41-44 But as they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation.”
The gospel tell us that one of the fears that sparked the religious authorities to have Jesus arrested and killed was a fear of the Romans. They were afraid of how the occupying army would view this popular young preacher and how they might react.

Forty years later their worst fears were realized when the Roman armies destroyed the city of Jerusalem.  And when Jesus prophesized about that event he lays the blame at the feet of those who had rejected him.  And while that seems harsh it goes back to what happens tomorrow reflects the choices we make today.  And on that Friday afternoon 2000 years ago Jerusalem choose to reject the one who had come to bring peace.

History tells us when Titus the Roman General who led the destruction of Jerusalem was offered the victor’s wreath he declined the honour saying that he had simply served as an instrument for the wrath of God. 

So understand that Jerusalem becomes an analogy for those who would reject Christ.  Jesus is not “a way” to God, Jesus is “The Way” to God.  That is why he told his followers in John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”  Who can come to the Father by a route other than Jesus?  According to Jesus no one. 
And that broke Jesus’ heart, the reality that the very ones who he gave his life for would reject the grace that he had to offer.
 And so as we gather to remember this morning we remember the cost of that Friday morning almost 2000 years ago, a morning that cost the Father his Son, cost the Son his Life, cost Peter his Pride and cost those who rejected Jesus their future. 

And today is Friday, but Sunday is coming as we celebrate not the cost of the crucifixion but the generous gifts of the Resurrection.

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