Good Friday Sermon

April 10th, 2020

Gospel Reading:

John 19:1-16: Jesus Sentenced to Be Crucified

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. 16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

Sermon: Good Friday

Many people, both Christians and non-Christians, ask what is good about Good Friday. What possible benefit can there be from watching an innocent man die? How could the crowds justify their hatred and distrust for a Jewish teacher and healer? How could Governor Pontius Pilate order the crucifixion of a man with zero evidence of any crime? How could the Jewish religious leaders demand crucifixion for a fellow Hebrew? What is good about Good Friday?

Perhaps we should consider the children’s reactions. I am confident their observations will stir up some raw emotions in many adults who consider themselves to be Christians:

Jesus had to die because the governor didn’t like him. He didn’t like him because everybody liked Jesus and nobody liked the governor. At Easter, we have eggs because chickens are born at Easter time.” (Bella, age 7).

We have chocolate eggs to celebrate Easter because the tomb was empty and most eggs are hollow, except when they have chocolate candy in them” (Piers, age 8).

Jesus died because of God’s love and at Easter time we have eggs because they are a sign of new life. They’re made of chocolate because chocolate is really nice and Jesus was a really kind person” (Molly, age 8).

It’s important to know that it was, in fact, religion that killed Jesus.  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were jealous of the fevered support and mass following that Jesus had. So they plotted a way to get rid of him by accusing him of blasphemy: claiming to be the Son of God. They succeeded, or so they thought, but for only three days!  Not much has changed; religion is still trying to kill Jesus today. 

Mega-churches celebrate the magnificence of their cathedrals, the thousands of people in worship, and the exorbitant salaries their pastors demand. Tourists make pilgrimages to visit St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, or the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. By sharp contrast, the small country churches around the world praise God from whom all blessings flow. They recognize what God has done by sacrificing his Only Son so that sins could be forgiven, new life in Christ Jesus could be received, and the gift of eternal life could be offered to all who believe in Christ as Savior.

Jesus’ betrayal and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane occurred exactly the way God planned it. Jesus prayed with sweat drop of blood while his disciples slept. Judas Iscariot kissed the master on the cheek to identify the suspect for the Temple guards. Caiaphas the High Priest orchestrated a kangaroo court complete with false witnesses. Given the choice between freeing Jesus, who was without sin, or the murderer Barabbas, they chose Barabbas. With paid demonstrators in the crowd before Pontius Pilate, they shouted and demanded that Jesus be crucified.

Jesus suffered immense humiliation and pain while confined for less than 24 hours. He was beaten, flogged, scourged, punched, and spit upon. Film depictions of these abuses were far too gruesome for many viewers as they hid their faces in shame. Severely injured and bleeding, Jesus was paraded through the streets of Jerusalem along what is now called the Via Dolorosa, or the Way of Tears. When Jesus collapsed under the weight of his own cross, a bystander was forced to carry the cross all the way up to Golgotha, called the Way of the Skull. For six hours, Jesus gasped for air with his hands and feet nailed to that cruel cross.

We marvel at Jesus’ composure as he uttered his Seven Last Words on the cross:

Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

Today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)

Woman, behold, thy son! Behold, thy mother! (John 19:26-27)

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)

I thirst. (John 19:28)

It is finished. (John 19:30)

Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. (Luke 23:46)

At the precise moment of Jesus’ death, four remarkable events occurred:

  1. The sun was darkened. (“From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land” (Matthew 27:45). This was a sign of impending judgment.

  2. The curtain separating the Temple courts from the Holy of Holies was torn in two. “The curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51). Christ tore down the wall which separated Jews from Gentiles.

  3. An earthquake shook the land. “The earth quaked, and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51). Biblical earthquakes often accompanied divine revelation or a unique act of God.

  4. The bodies of those in the grave were raised to new life. The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matthew 27:52). Jesus Christ is the author of life and breath and the source of eternal life.

As Paul Harvey always said at the end of each radio broadcast, “Now you know the rest of the story.” Good Friday was an essential part of God’s plan of salvation. Events unfolded exactly as God intended. Jesus Christ came down to earth to save sinners. He freely gave his life on Calvary to defeat the powers of sin and death. Satan had no victory; Pontius Pilate will long be remembered as a spineless puppet of Rome; Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. That’s the good news for today and every day!


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