Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday: the ultimate sacrifice for all of us

Today is Good Friday. The day that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Just five days before, Jesus entered Jerusalem with praise and fanfare. The crowds laid palm branches on the road in front of him as he rode into the city on a donkey. He would spend his last days teaching, giving his disciples last minute instructions and preparations for his coming death. He came to take the sins of the world. Many people Christ’s victory over sin and death came with his death and resurrection. I see that it happened before in a place called the Garden of Gethsemane.

Thursday night, midnight, Jesus knows the end is coming. He comes to the garden to pray as he struggles with the next hours will bring. He prays for deliverance. He begs his Father for a way out. He begs for another way to accomplish his mission. But he knew there wasn’t any way. He prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their [the disciples] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21 NIV). You and I are a part of this prayer. His final prayer is for us. He saw us in a life that is not fair with pain and struggles that we did not ask for. He did not want to leave us. It was in the garden that the battle was won. It was once Jesus received the gentle but firm “No” from his Father. He decided to fight no more. “For it was in the garden that he made his decision. He would rather go to hell for you than go to heaven without you" (Lucado, 1992).

Once he left the garden, Jesus would be faced with the ultimate betrayal. A kiss from a friend. Betrayal. When your world turns against you. Jesus is led away and first given over to Caiaphas, a high priest, who accused Jesus of blasphemy (Matthew 26:57-67, Mark 14:53-65, Luke 22:54, 63-65, John 18:24). A crime punishable by death (Leviticus 24:16). Then he is brought before the Council of Religious Leaders who sentenced him to death (Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 15:1, Luke 22:66-71). Finally he appears before Pilate, the Roman governor, who can find no fault with Jesus (Matthew 27:11-26, Mark 15:1-5, Luke 23:1-6, and John 18:28-38) but turns him over to be crucified to appease the crowd. He would be flogged, mocked, given a scarlet robe and a crown of thorns as the Roman soldiers spit on him, struck him with a staff and made to carry the cross to Golgotha “The Place of the Skulls.” Once on the cross, insults would be hurled at Jesus. He hung there until he died with a final cry “It is finished (John 19:30). Jesus who understands betrayal from those who are supposed to be trusted. He understands shame and pain. He understand all the human emotions and situations that we face every day because he faced them too. He suffered at the hands of the Romans and died on the cross for us so that our sins could be wiped away. He is the ultimate sacrificial lamb, innocent and chosen to die for others.

You ask yourself why? Why would Christ do that? Why would he die if he were innocent? The answer: for us. As quoted from Max Lucado above. He’d rather go to hell for us than go to heaven without us. “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” (John 3:16). He came to save us from our sins (John 3:17). The perfect song to illustrate this point is by the Christian group, Avalon. “We are the Reason” is usually played at Christmas but it speaks to the reason why Christ was born, lived and lived: for us. This song always brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. If I try to sing it, my tears choke me and I am overcome with the power of what Jesus has done for me, for all of us. The chorus says “We are the reason that he gave his life/We are the reason that he suffered and died/To a world that was lost/He gave all He could give/to show us the reason to live.”

As a Christian, I think of Jesus and what he has done for me often. And I am still amazed at the love that Christ has for me. This Friday, as we all prepare for Easter Sunday, gathering with family and friends, even some who are working, think of the importance of today. Think of one Friday, some 2,000 years ago as one man died on a cross. Think about one man agonizing in a garden and prayed for you. Think of the pain and humiliation that he suffered for you. Think of how a method of execution become a symbol of hope.

The last week of Jesus is told in
Matthew 21-27
Mark 11-15
Luke 19-23
John 12 -19

And the Angels were silent (1992) Max Lucado