“2000 YEARS AGO, ONE MAN CHANGED EVERYTHING”

JESUS – THE ONE WHO WILLINGLY LAID DOWN HIS LIFE THAT WE MIGHT BE SAVED

WHY IS GOOD FRIDAY “GOOD”?

In the past the word “good” meant “holy”. So, this Friday is holy – because of what happened 2000 years ago, because of what Jesus did for us 2000 years ago. Because on this day 2000 years ago Jesus died for us – a holy, self-less, act. And this made it good for us. Until that holy day we were lost and helpless and hopeless; after that day all who have accepted what He did for us in dying on the Cross for us were saved, found God, safe and secure and full of hope for tomorrow.

JESUS, BY LAYING DOWN HIS LIFE, CHANGED EVERYTHING

One of the enduring positive memories that we will all have at the end of this awful time is of doctors and nurses and care-home staff, with gowns and gloves and face masks, courageously and selflessly providing love and care and medical attention to the sick and dying – placing themselves in the “front line”, in direct contact with those who are infectious and being willing to self-sacrifice so that others may be saved.

How right and proper it is for us to honour these brave men and women. How right and proper it is for us to stand on our doorsteps and clap them, sing songs to them, colour rainbows for them that we place in our windows. How right and proper it is for us to praise them, thank them and pray for their safety in all that they do.

I was particularly moved this week by the story of a 68 year old doctor, Alfa Saadhu, who died of COVID-19 after freely-choosing to come out of retirement to “do his bit” and caught the very infection that he was fighting against.

How right the Bible is when it declares:

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15: 13)

These were words spoken by Jesus, 2000 years ago. And He looked at His disciples and declared

“you are My friends” (John 15: 14)

Today we remember the One who sacrificed Himself so that we might live. Today we remember the One who chose to place Himself in the “front line” for us, who chose to come into direct contact with us. God cried out that we were all spiritually terminally ill. All have “sinned” – all were going to die both physically and spiritually.

And God had compassion on us. He was not willing that any should perish. So, He came down from Heaven to earth because

“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)

Although our doctors, nurses and care-home staff rightly take every precaution to keep protected from the virus, Jesus took no precautions. He exposed Himself fully to us in every way – the good, the bad and the ugly; the sick and the well, the prostitute and the priest, the thief and the generous, the prince and the pauper. And why? Because He loved each and every one of us – then and now.

Although our doctors, nurses and care-home staff hope to not catch COVID-19 and die, and our prayer is that they are safe and protected, He knew – and decided – from the very start that He was going to lay down His life for us – and although, in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked if there was another way, yet He went willingly – as a lamb to the slaughter – to the Cross so that our spiritually terminal illness might be destroyed and that we might be forgiven and that we might live forever – saved!

[The song “Mary did you know?” is a beautiful picture of God’s knowledge – from the very beginning that His Son was going to have to lay down His life for all of us who are spiritually sick]

Jesus knew, the whole time that He walked amongst us, that He was NOT going to be protected, but that He WAS going to have to lay down His life for us. One poignant example of this is found in Mark 8: 31-33 –

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’

Today, the doctors, nurses and care staff are making a difference – and deserve our thanks and praise (I hope – I really hope – that the end of this they get a medal!). 2000 years ago, one man changed everything – for everyone – for all time. That man – Jesus Christ – deserves our thanks and praise – today and always.

2000 YEARS AGO, THE FACTS OF WHAT HE DID CHANGED EVERYTHING

Jesus was not just a Good man; Jesus was not just a wonderful Teacher; Jesus was not just a Miracle worker; Jesus was not just a Healer; Jesus claimed to be Immanuel – God made flesh; He claimed to be the Messiah – the one anointed by God to be the Saviour of the World; He claimed to be able to forgive a man’s sins; He claimed to be the only way to the Father in Heaven. And for this He was hated by the religious leaders of Israel.

They sought for a way to arrest Him; they falsely accused Him; they struck Him on the cheek; they sent Him to Pilate for judgement; they insisted that He be crucified; they agreed to His being stripped and whipped and a crown of thorns rammed down on his head. Without even realising it they prophesised that

You do not realise that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish (Caiaphas, the High Priest cited in John 11: 50)

Without realising it they were the ones who were sick and that Jesus was going to be dying for their sins as well.

And so the Gospel writer, Luke (chapter 23 verses 32-47), takes up the story:

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’[c] And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’

36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’

38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’

42 Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[d]

43 Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’[e] When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’

2000 YEARS AGO, EVERYTHING CHANGED FOR THOSE WHO DIDN’T EVEN KNOW HIM

Jesus, we read here in Luke, cried out while on the Cross:

‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’(Luke 23: 34)

What a cry of hope for us all!

The Jewish leaders didn’t know what they were doing. He WAS the Messiah! He was the hope of all the world! But He asked God to forgive them, for His act of self-sacrifice was for their good too.

The Romans who actually crucified Him did not know what they were doing. He WAS the LORD of lords and KING of kings. But He asked God to forgive them, for His act of self-sacrifice was their good too.

The doctors and nurses and care staff are wonderfully sacrificing themselves today for those who know what is happening and what the staff are doing.

Jesus 2000 years ago changed everything by sacrificing Himself for those who did NOT know what was happening and what He was doing.

But He loved them then and us now – and has sacrificed Himself for us all.

We deserve the punishment for our sins – which is death. But, all we have to do is that which was done by one of the thieves on the cross (a man who understood that he deserved what was happening to him) – believe in Him NOW, turn to Him NOW and say in faith:

‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ (Luke 23: 42)

And the joyful Good News from Him will then be:

‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ (Luke 23: 43)

SO, LET US GIVE THANKS THAT 2000 YEARS AGO, ONE MAN CHANGED EVERYTHING

The highlight of any Good Friday service is the taking of communion – as we take the bread we remember His body that was broken for us on the Cross. As we take the wine we remember His blood that was shed for us on the Cross.

Jesus became, on that day 2000 years ago, the Passover Lamb. Ever since the time of the Exodus the Jews remembered the night that the angel passed over the Israelites and inflicted death on all the first-born of Egypt so that Moses might finally be able to take the people of God out to slavery and towards the Promised Land.

Now, on the night before He was betrayed – the evening of what we call “Maundy Thursday” – Jesus sat down with His disciples in the upper room and His serving of Passover changed everything –

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[b] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ (Matthew 26: 26-27)

Jesus declared that He died so that we might live, so that our sins might be forgiven, so that we might not suffer the consequences for our rebellion against God. His death changed everything!

And just like He gave thanks on that day to God, so we are called to give thanks this day to God for the fact that 2000 years ago, one man changed everything

2000 YEARS AGO, ONE MAN CHANGED EVERYTHING

Till then the only hope was to follow PROCEDURES

Now it was about following a PERSON

Till then it was all about obeying RULES

Now it was about being in a RELATIONSHIP

Till then death was the ENEMY

Now death became a DOOR to eternity

Till then death was PUNISHMENT for sin

Now death heralds the REWARD for faith

Till then death was the END

Now death is the BEGINNING

For the one who still does not know what they are doing this time of crisis is one of hopelessness and fear.

But, for the one who now does know what Jesus has done, and has received Him, then this is a time of peace and hope.

2000 years ago, one man changed everything!