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Good Friday

Good Friday  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Jesus, who was innoent and entirely in control, died because of us and on our behalf. As our Saviour, we should respond to him in humble repentance and joyful faith.

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Who is this man?

Jesus is innocent

Luke goes out of his way to highlight, again and again, that Jesus is innocent. Take a look at 22:52-53 (read). Nevertheless, they seize him and beat him and mock him. They then take him to Pilate where they have to present the false charges in a political perspective to get Pilate interested. However, upon examining Jesus, Pilate concludes (read 23:4). Pilate sends him to Herod, because Jesus was from Galilee which was under Herod’s jurisdiction, and yet even Herod cannot find any guilt with Jesus. So Pilate concludes (read verses 13-15). He wants to release Jesus but the crowds demand his death, so Pilate again reiterates Jesus’ innocence (read 23:22). Again and again in this narrative, we see that Jesus is innocent. He is not guilty of any of the charges. Even the criminal being crucified next to Jesus recognizes his innocence (read verse 41). And when Jesus dies, the Roman centurion, having taken in all that has happened, concludes (read verse 47). Jesus was innocent. The man who was killed was not guilty of anything. He was righteous, he did nothing wrong, and yet he was executed. The first thing Luke wants us to know about this man, is that he was innocent.
There is something absolutely devastating about travesties of justice. When innocent people get punished for something we didn't do, we recognise the deep horror and injustice of it. This was highlighted recently in the Netflix documentary of Kalief Browder. Kalief was an African American teenager from NYC. In 2010, at age 16 years, he was accused of stealing a backpack and put into prison. Because of this, he spent his 17th birthday behind bars and was unable to finish grade 10. After more than 400 days in prison, Kalief misses out on his High School graduation, while waiting for a trial. He described life inside prison as “hell” and was beaten by both inmates and prison guards. At the age of 19, he attempts suicide for the first (but not the last) time, whilst being held in solitary confinement. In 2013, after 3 years behind bars, almost 2 full years in solitary confinement, Kalief is finally released—without a conviction and without an apology. Browder never recovered from the trauma of prison, and at the age of 22, he committed suicide. Kalief was innocent; a victim of injustice. Good Friday begins with the recognition that Jesus was an innocent man, yet treated as though he were guilty.
But things get even more complex, because although Jesus is completely innocent, he is also in total control.

Jesus is in control

Take a look again at 22:49-51—Jesus rebukes his disciples for fighting back. He knows that he must be taken; he allows himself to be taken. After being beaten, he is brought before the chief priests and yet refuses to answer their questions. He does the same with Pilate and Herod. Instead of anxiously trying to vindicate his innocence Jesus exercises control by remaining silent.
Why does he do this? Because the innocent man knows that he must embrace the cross. And instead of being drawn into political or theological debates, Jesus resolutely determines to control the movement and ensure that he moves towards his death. Jesus is utterly in control; while the disciples are overcome with fear, while Pilate is overcome with pressure, while the soldiers are overcome by their sick humour, Jesus remains in control. Look at verse 27, where we see a group of women weeping and wailing for Jesus—he’s so in control of himself, that though he is going to his death, he comforts them (read verse 28). Whilst being crucified, Jesus is so in control of himself that he is able to pray (read verse 34). Jesus is so in control, that he even chooses the moment of his death (read verse 46). Jesus voluntarily gave up his life unto death.
And so Luke confronts us with this paradox: Jesus was innocent, and yet in total control of his own crucifixion. Jesus was a victim of injustice, but there’s more going on—he voluntarily gave up his life. Why would he do this? Why would an innocent person choose to die?
Well, it’s because Jesus is the Saviour.

Jesus is the Saviour

Notice the different titles that are used to refer to Jesus throughout this passage: he is, according to the disciples, the Lord (22:49), which is to say that Jesus is the Master. He is, according to the Jewish leaders, the Messiah (22:67), which is to say that he is God’s anointed, chosen King. He is, according to Pilate and Herod, the King of the Jews.
What happened on that first Good Friday is not just the tragic death of an innocent man. It was, rather, the death of God. This was not just a prophet’s death, although it was that. This was the death of God’s Anointed, the Messiah/Christ, the King of the Jews, the Son of God, the Lord. That’s who Jesus is.
Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 597.
So when we think about Jesus, who comes to mind? A good man? A wise prophet? A noble teacher? He is those things, but in a secondary way. Primarily, Jesus is God’s Anointed Messiah. Luke wants us to be clear that Jesus is the Saviour; the innocent Saviour who was utterly in control of his death.

Why did he die?

Because of others

Jesus died because of the sins, weaknesses, and failures of others.

Judas betrayed him

In 22:47 we see Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss—the horror of betraying a friend was dramatically heightened by using a kiss to do so. And we know that Judas did it for money, he considered money to be more valuable than the life of the Messiah. Jesus died because Judas betrayed him.

His friends abandoned him (Peter)

Luke particularly focuses on the way that Peter abandons Jesus. Having followed them to the courtyard of the high priest, Peter is asked in three different ways whether he was with Jesus (22:54-61). And three times, Peter denies it. Having had the opportunity to identify with Jesus, Peter abandons him—just as Jesus had said.
So Judas betrayed him; Peter denied him; thirdly—the religious leaders framed him.

The Sanhedrin framed him

Jesus is brought before the Jewish leadership and questioned about being the Messiah. Yet, we see in 22:67-68, that Jesus knew that answering their questions was useless because they had no desire to learn from him—only to condemn him. Which is exactly what they do; they condemn him on religious grounds—for blasphemy. But what’s so revealing about their wicked motives is that when they present Jesus to Pilate, the political ruler, they have to frame him as a political revolutionary.

Pilate used him

So after being condemned by the Jewish religious leadership, Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, who alone possessed the authority to execute. But, as we saw, when Jesus is brought before Pilate the charges on which he is brought are changed from religious grounds to political grounds. In other words, charges for which Pilate might condemn him. But upon inspection, Pilate was convinced Jesus was innocent. But look at 23:5 (“they insisted”)—the chief priests and the crowd want him dead. Although Pilate will keep protesting Jesus’ innocence, it will fall on deaf ears and Pilate will have to choose between doing what is right and doing what is politically expedient. In the end, Pilate appeases the bloodthirsty crowd by handing Jesus over. The one human being who had the most to do with Jesus’ crucifixion was Pontius Pilate. He had the authority to release an innocent man or crucify him. He chose the latter to preserve his political career.
Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 583.

Herod toyed with him

Herod had a desire to see Jesus perform a miracle, but when Jesus refuses to play along, Herod’s cruel sense of humour comes out. Dressing Jesus in a robe, Herod mocks the idea that Jesus could be a King.

Soldiers mocked, beat, and crucified him

In the end, it’s the Roman military who will crucify Jesus. And along the way he is mocked and beaten (read 23:36).
So why did Jesus die? Well, Jesus died because Judas betrayed him, because Peter abandoned him, because religious leaders framed him, because Pilate used him, because Herod toyed with him, and because the soldiers mocked and crucified him. Jesus’ treatment was completely unjust—he died because of the sins and weaknesses of others. Jesus died because of others.

On behalf of others

We see this really clearly from 23:35 onward (read 35-39). Three times the same taunt is used —and of course you realise the profound irony within it: Jesus could only save others by not saving himself. It is precisely because Jesus is the Saviour that he must suffer and die. So Jesus dies in our place, as our substitute.

Jesus saved others by not saving himself

But there is more going on here: Luke shows us that by highlighting two remarkable things—darkness covering the land, and the temple curtain tearing.

Darkness came over the land

Read 23:44-45a. The darkness should be understood as a sign of the cosmic significance of what was happening. You see, what was taking place was not simply the death of an innocent Jew. It was not just the death of a righteous prophet. It was far, far more. This was the death of God’s Son by which he bears the sins of us all.
happened. That beautiful, shining, loving face of the Father withdrew into the dark, frowning, punishing face of
wrath. He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us (). The Son of God himself “bore our sins in His
body on the tree” (). He became accursed for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on
a tree” ().
—that God the Father’s “eyes are too pure to look on evil; He cannot tolerate wrong.”
At 3 o’clock that dark Friday afternoon, the Father turned His face away and the ancient, eternal fellowship
Thabiti Anyabile, writing about this moment on Good Friday, says, “on that dark mid-day on Golgotha, when the sun refused to shine, the unimaginable and indescribable happened. The beautiful, shining, loving face of the Father withdrew into the dark, frowning, punishing face of wrath. He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us (). The Son of God himself “bore our sins in His body on the tree” (). He became accursed for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” (). At 3 o’clock that dark Friday afternoon, the Father turned His face away and the ancient, eternal fellowship between Father and Son was broken as divine wrath rained down. In the terror and agony of it all, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
between Father and Son was broken as divine wrath rained down like a million Soddoms and Gomorrah’s. In the
terror and agony of it all, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
“[T]his was his chief conflict, and harder than all the other tortures…. For not only did he offer his body as the
price of our reconciliation with God, but in his soul also he endured the punishments due to us. … Nothing is more
Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 595.
dreadful than to feel that God, whose wrath is worse than all deaths, is the Judge. … [H]e maintained a struggle
John Calvin writes, “[T]his [experience of being forsaken] was Christ’s chief conflict, and harder than all the other tortures…. For not only did he offer his body as the price of our reconciliation with God, but in his soul also he endured the punishments due to us. … Nothing is more dreadful than to feel that God, whose wrath is worse than all deaths, is the Judge. … [H]e maintained a struggle with the sorrows of death, as if an offended God had thrown him into a whirlpool of afflictions.”
with the sorrows of death, as if an offended God had thrown him into a whirlpool of afflictions.”[1]
emotionally on the cross, and separated spiritually from the eternal Father with whom He had always lived faceto-
In Jerusalem, on that first Good Friday, we get a picture of what hell is as the Son of God was cut off. Jesus was cut off socially, deserted emotionally, and separated spiritually from the eternal Father with whom He had always lived. So why did Jesus do it? Why did Jesus embrace the Father’s wrath?
face. That’s hell.
The answer is as simple as it is profound: Jesus bore the wrath of God the Father in order to tear open the curtain (read 23:45b).

The curtain was torn in two

What does this mean? Well, if you read the OT story, the temple curtain was the barrier that separated people from God. So the temple was the building in which God dwelt. But the temple had a very special place, a small inner room called the Holy of Holies. And God did not allow people to come into the Holy of Holies. His perfection and holiness made it inaccessible to sinful people. And that separation was seen in the curtain—the curtain was a visible reminder that people could not access God’s presence. The curtain was a barrier. So the tearing of the curtain symbolizes the truth that the death of Jesus has made the way open into the very presence of God. The curtain is torn, the KEEP OUT sign has been removed, access to God can now happen because of Jesus.
So here’s what we must remember and treasure: Jesus willingly suffers being rejected by God so that we can be accepted; Jesus willingly suffers punishment so that we can be forgiven; Jesus willingly embraces abandonment so that we can be adopted.
Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 347.
So why did Jesus die? Well, Jesus died because of others—because of their sins, failures and weaknesses. But Jesus, at an ever deeper level, died on behalf of others—because he willingly chose to be punished for our sins. He chose to be forsaken so that we could be forgiven.
You may remember the tragic events in Paris a couple of years ago. Paris suffered a horrific terrorist attack. Of the many stories that emerged, I was struck by one particularly: there was a mom by the name of Elsa Delplace. When the gunfire began at the Bataclan Theater, Elsa lay down on top of her five-year-old son in order to protect him. In this, she was shot and killed. Police would later find Elsa’s son alive underneath her body, covered with her blood. She had become a human shield for him. Amazing, self-sacrificial love. Elsa gave her life for her son’s. She died so that he could live.
lay down on top of her five-year-old son in order to protect him. She
was shot and killed. Police later found Elsa’s son alive underneath her
body, covered with her blood. She had become a human shield for him.
This is the kind of love that Jesus has for you. A love that sacrifices, a love that shields, a love that saves. That’s why he died. The Saviour died for your, for my, salvation.
Amazing, self-sacrificial love. Elsa gave her life for her son’s.

How should we respond?

Humble repentance

23:48 (read)—this behaviour indicates not just a grief but also a sense of remorse, and the assumption of guilt. Because as we witness what took place, even 2000 years later, we realise that it was our sin that sent Jesus to the cross. It was not just the sins and failures of those around him in the moment—it was the collective sin and failures of humanity. And his death on the cross should produce a deep humility, even a sadness within us. We are so bad, that God himself had to come and die for us. We are so powerless, so wicked, so ungodly, that it took nothing less than the death of God’s Messiah to rescue us.
And so our first response should be humble repentance: in grief and humility, we should turn away from sin and selfishness, and turn towards Christ.
Have you done that? Has the cross humbled you? When I talk about a deep sorrow over your sin, do you know what I mean? Our first emotional response to the message of Good Friday is to be sorrowful, to be humbled, to repent.
But it is not the only response. We’ll think more about the glorious truths of the resurrection on Sunday, but for now I want to focus on the faith of the criminal being crucified next to Jesus.

Confident faith

Read 23:42-43. I love this. I’m not totally sure that this guy even knew all that he was asking for—he was certainly aware that Jesus was innocent, and that Jesus was a King. His words show that he realized at least that death would not be the end, and that beyond death was the kingdom. Jesus, as is typical, gives even more than we ask for: Not only would he have a place in the kingdom, but that very day he would enter Paradise.
Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 346.
This criminal placed his faith in Jesus and was richly rewarded. How much more confident should we be, having seen all that Jesus went on to do? Have you asked Jesus to remember you? Have you placed your faith in him?
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