Good Friday 2023: Why should people consider something as dark and terrible as the shame and violence of the cross of Christ? When Jesus was betrayed, condemned, abused, crucified, died, and buried. Because you can’t fully appreciate the majesty and the beauty and the power of the resurrection without first gazing upon the hill of Calvary. Recorded on Apr 7, 2023, on Matthew 27 by Pastor David Parks.l
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Good evening, everyone, and welcome to our Good Friday service. I’m Pastor David, and whether you’re joining us in person or online today, I’d like to welcome you to Appleton Gospel Church. As a church, our mission is sharing good news, and I hope you experience that today, even as we consider something as dark and terrible as the shame and violence of the cross of Christ. But I don’t think we can fully appreciate the majesty and the beauty and the power of the resurrection without first gazing at the hill of Calvary and consider the atoning sacrifice of the Son of Man, offered on our behalf. The darkness of Good Friday makes the light of Easter Sunday shine all the brighter. I don’t have many announcements for you today other than to invite you all back for Easter. We have two services on Sunday, one at 9:00 am and one at 10:30 am. But for now, would you join me in prayer as we open God’s word? Let’s pray. If you have a Bible/app, please take it and open to Matthew 27. As we’ve done in years past, we’re going to read through the whole account of the suffering, death, and burial of Jesus on that first Good Friday. I would encourage you to follow along in your own Bible as we will not be putting so much scripture up on the screens. Or, if you’d like to just listen to the narrative, that would be fine, too. I’ll only make a few comments on each section as we go. So first, we see the Son of Man betrayed.
Betrayed: Matthew 27:1-10 (NIV), “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. 2 So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor. 3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.” 5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. 6 The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7 So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8 That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.” Jesus knew and had told his disciples on at least three different occasions before arriving in Jerusalem that he would be delivered over to the Jewish chief priests and teachers of the law (elders) who would condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentile rulers to be killed. He knew this would happen, but he still came. This wasn’t an accident; the cross was central to the mission of Jesus. Part of the Roman occupation of Judea at this time meant that the Jewish people could not carry out capital punishments on their own. The chief priests and elders had condemned Jesus but they couldn’t put him to death. This is why Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in Jerusalem, was involved. Jesus had also known that one of his closest followers, Judas Iscariot, was going to betray him. If you’ve ever been betrayed by someone close to you, you know how much that hurts. Judas had sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, but then later changed his mind and couldn’t live with what he had done. What a tragedy. If only he had confessed his sin to Jesus, perhaps things could’ve been different. Second, we see the Son of Man condemned.
Condemned: Matthew 27:11-25 (NIV), “11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. 12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor. 15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him. 19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” 20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. 22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” 23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” 24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” 25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” An innocent man condemned to die, a guilty man freed, religious leaders acting out of self-interest, a political leader acting out of fear, and a crowd close to riot. Pilate didn’t find that Jesus had committed any crime, much less one deserving of death. But in the end, Pilate did what every corrupt and cowardly leader does: he did what was easy, not what was right. He washed his hands of the blood of Jesus, when (if he only knew!) he needed the blood of Jesus to wash him. There’s a tradition that Pilate later became a Christian, but God only knows. The sad irony is that Jesus was, in fact, the King of the Jews. He was the Jewish Messiah, the anointed one sent from heaven to save God’s people. He deserved shouts of praise from the crowd, not angry shouts for his death. But look at Jesus, calm, not anxious, not fighting for his rights, not even arguing. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth (Isa 53:7). Why? Because the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (Jn 10:11). Third, we see the Son of Man abused.
Abused: Matthew 27:26-31 (NIV), “26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. 27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.” Before he even got to the cross, Jesus was betrayed, falsely accused, unjustly condemned, whipped, stripped, mocked, and beaten. He endured all manner of physical and emotional abuse. He was publicly humiliated. If you ever had to endure abuse, if you were ever physically or emotionally abused, Jesus knows what that feels like; he understands. Fourth, we see the Son of Man crucified.
Crucified: Matthew 27:32-44 (NIV), “32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews. 38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” Cyrene was a city on the coast of North Africa and Simon was probably in town for the Passover celebration. The reason Simon was forced to carry the cross isn’t stated but is presumably because Jesus was already whipped and beaten (which could’ve killed him on their own). Matthew doesn’t spend much time explaining crucifixion, probably because their original audience would’ve been familiar with the brutal practice. But to be crucified typically meant that you were nailed to a cross in the shape of a T or an X with nails through the wrist and ankle bones. The Romans were experts at this, knowing how to prolong the pain, sometimes for days. People were often crucified at eye level to increase their shame. Eventually, people couldn’t continue to push themselves up to breathe and would either die of heart failure or suffocation. It was so barbaric that the Romans only crucified foreigners, slaves, or traitors, not regular citizens. The fact that Jesus was willing to be crucified for anyone, much less for us, is astonishing. But even on the cross, people misunderstood and mocked him. Fifth, we see the Son of Man died.
Died: Matthew 27:45-56 (NIV), “45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” 55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.” Many curious things happened when Jesus of Nazareth died. First, the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn in two. This barrier that represented the separation between God and mankind was no longer needed, because the death of Jesus made a way for people to be reconciled to God and be with him. It was torn from top to bottom because God did it. Second, there was an earthquake. This often happens when God shows up. But I can’t help but wonder if the earth itself knew that something incredible was happening to its creator. “The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” (v. 19) The cross of Christ provided the way for people to become children of God. Did the earth know this? Third, the bodies of many of the saints were raised to life. I wish we had more information about this, don’t you? But life after death is one of the main consequences of the person and work of Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (Jn 11:25-26) The death of Jesus means we can have eternal life. Death and grave no longer have any hold. Fourth, a centurion, a Roman officer in charge of 100 soldiers, saw all that happened and made a confession of faith, “Surely he was the Son of God!” Finally, amidst all the mocking and lies, we find a true confession truly made. Surely Jesus, the Son of Man, was also the Son of God. He was constantly saying things that only God could say and doing things that only God could do. Surely he was the Son of God. Fifth, and finally, Matthew records that a company of women stayed until the bitter end. Jesus always had women in his group of disciples. He called them to follow him, he taught them, and some even funded his ministry. This is a curious fact because if all this was all made up later, as some people claim, you’d never make up a story where the male apostles are mostly missing while the female followers courageously stay with Jesus. It’s so historically strange that the only explanation is it must be what actually happened. Apostles like Matthew told the story this way because it was the truth. So many unexpected details in this story. But now, Jesus was dead. The one who had healed and had fed and taught so many people, the one who had even raised the dead himself, was dead. To the shock and dismay of his friends, family, and followers, he was dead. Some people had expected him to raise an army and drive the Roman oppressors out of Israel. Others had expected him to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth, a kingdom that would last forever. But no one expected him to actually, willingly die. They just didn’t understand…not yet. Sixth, we see the Son of Man buried.
Buried: Matthew 27:57-66 (NIV), “57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. 62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.” The stage is now set for Easter Sunday. When you know what’s coming, you can’t help but feel hopeful. But on that first Good Friday, Jesus the Son of Man, the Son of God, was betrayed, condemned, abused, crucified, died, and was buried. Why? Well, because of God’s great love. Jesus died because of the grace and mercy of God for sinners. On the cross, Jesus made atonement for our sins, he paid the price we could never pay. He took our sin and gave us his righteousness. He took our shame and gave us his grace. He took our death and gave us his life. He took our abandonment and gave us his sonship and his inheritance. This is what the Son of Man accomplished. This is why the Son of God died: For you, and for me. May we join the angels and the saints in glory and look again with wonder upon the cross of Christ. Let us pray.