Welcome to our Good Friday Special Service.
After the trials on Thursday and Friday the sentence had been passed, not by Pilate the coward but by the stirred-up crowd.
It is said: Himself he could not save.
He was then taken by soldiers and beaten around the head with a stick and spat at and led out to die.
It is said: Himself He could not save.
He was on the cross nailed there naked with nails through hands and feet beaten within an inch of his life with whips with bone and glass in the strips.
It is said: Himself He could not save.
From a human perspective it was a done deal.
There was no let out clause from the moment Jesus was arrested in the garden.
There was really nothing that Jesus could do.
He was on his own since his disciples deserted him besides the one that had been with Him actually betraying Him.
The disciples did all they could to disassociate themselves from Jesus.
Once Pilate had passed the sentence of death nothing could stop the role of history playing out; Jesus was going to die and He could do nothing about it.
But what if this was not true.
What if he could have saved Himself?
I mean, if you could you would, wouldn’t you?
When the chief priests and Sanhedrin were striking him and saying “prophesy!”
do you suppose that Jesus did not know who was doing it?
Do you suppose He could not simply have walked out of there as He had done so on other occasions as when He was taken to the top of a hill to be thrown off and just walked through the crowd?
When the soldiers were beating him could He not simply have broken free?
Or when they were lashing him with the whip could He not simply heal himself?
Or when they offered Him a drugged drink at the cross that would have eased the pain why did He not drink it?
Or when they said “come down from the cross” could He not have done so?
For if you could you would, wouldn’t you?
The truth is not that ‘Himself He could not save’ it was that ‘Himself He WOULD not save’.
Not ‘could not’ but ‘would not’.
That just doesn’t make sense does it?
If he could save Himself why wouldn’t He save himself?
At every point Jesus could have avoided the suffering that He went through.
After all, this was suffering on a scale beyond our comprehension.
Yes, he suffered physically to the point that He did not even look human but He suffered mentally and spiritually too.
How do we make sense of it all?
He went through all that then for a reason.
Not saving himself means that he was either suicidal and had a greater purpose.
This was no death by cop suicide; He was not deranged so there must be a good reason, a very good reason; some sort of motivation; a purpose; a goal to not stop this monstrous travesty of justice from going through to the bitter end.
Are we not in the least curious to know why He would allow Himself to go through all this?
Why today is called Good Friday when it seems it should be a day as dark as the darkness that came over the land at midday?
What the mockers, the soldiers, the religious and political leaders did not know was that they were actually fulfilling prophecy that said that someone would come and suffer.
Not only that but that He would come to die.
This surely is clear in David’s Psalm 22 and in Isaiah 53 we have been reading this week and heard parts of today, written over 700 years before Jesus came.
And that by doing so He was also bringing about something that those who made it happen could also receive the benefits in some sort of twisted irony.
It is finished.
Those immortal words cried out from the cross.
And no sooner had he said these words he commended his spirit to God and died.
What kept Him on the cross?
What was it He had done, for Him to say it is finished?
It was whilst we were still sinners that Christ died from us, Paul declares.
That Friday was a Good Friday because something happened there on the cross that if we could completely understand and comprehend then it would blow our minds.
Staying on the cross, not saving Himself, saved us instead.
This is where it all is.
There was an exchange; His lost his life to give life to others.
There on the cross the darkness kept from view the terror of the time between 12pm and 3pm when Jesus took upon himself the sin of the whole world; past, present and future; He became sin.
This really is a mystery.
All sin was put on Jesus and Jesus became sin personified.
In that way God the Father could judge sin in His most awesome and terrifying wrath – and Jesus bore the brunt of it.
Oh how we treat sin so lightly.
How we do things wrong without barely a second thought.
And how it offends God.
Sin is serious.
Just one mark is enough to make us deserving of all God’s anger.
We don’t belong to ourselves.
We have no rights before God.
He created us and He expects us to treat him with respect and obedience.
This obedience though is of benefit to us because God knows best.
It’s like a computer programmer who creates a piece of software, who writes a manual on how it should be used and for us to ignore it and try and work it out ourselves, well, what happens is hit and miss but when we read the manual we get the full benefit of the software.
God has given us His manual about how we should live but instead we are content to try and work it out on our own; this is called sin.
We are worthy of God’s utter and complete judgement.
But this judgement was paid in full by Jesus on the cross.
Jesus’ name means ‘God saves’.
We deserve hell but Jesus took our place.
Now there is no judgement, no condemnation, no anger directed at us and we, like Barabbas, have been set free.
The curtain in the temple was torn in two the moment Jesus died symbolising that we all can now have access to God without fear of punishment.
When Jesus declared ‘it is finished’ Jesus had completed the work of salvation.
This is why it is Good Friday.
Jesus could have come down from the cross but He would not.
Not could not, would not because He knew that people like you and me would come to the foot of the cross and worship Him and love Him for all that He had done.
So what do we do?
Is it a Good Friday for you?
When we talk about the sin of the world being laid upon Jesus.
It was your sin too that was laid upon Him.
All your wrong.
All your anger.
All your bitterness.
All your jealousy.
All your lies.
All your hate.
All your stealing.
All your inaction.
All your pride.
All your sin.
You deserve to go to hell for your sins because you have not loved God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, because you have not loved your neighbour as yourself.
But, you know what?
Despite all of this Jesus loved you enough to take the punishment you deserve and suffer and die instead of you.
And, of course, this is true of me too.
There was a day in 1986 that I committed my life of Jesus.