Welcome to Life Baptist Church, or shall I say the first annual FBC/LBC joint Good Friday Service. Maybe next year, Pastor Smith will lead. We can alternate, take turns? All that to say, it doesn’t matter who’s in front. We are all one body in Christ and we are happy that you are here.
Starting from a year ago on Good Friday, we switched from a traditional service format with songs and message to more of a prayer service and it was a blessing to many. So what I learned last year is that the less I speak, the more people are blessed. Which is fine. I think given the occasion of Good Friday, less speaking and more praying is in order.
After a few opening remarks, we’re going to watch a clip from the Passion of the Christ. Then, we’re going to go straight into about 30 minutes of prayer. To help the prayer time along, we will project slides with verses and reflection questions related to Christ’s suffering. So some of the slides deal with sins against Jesus. These are personal, private sins. Sins against Jesus, the head of the church. It’s between you and him.
But also Christ suffered because of sins we commit to one another. These are sins against the body of Christ, which is comprised of Christians. Because Christians are called the body of Christ. And to God, it makes no difference. You sin against Jesus, the head, or you sin against the body, it doesn’t matter. Sin is sin. Because Christian life involves one whole, one body, which includes the head down to our toes. So some of the slides involve sins against the body and our need to forgive one another.
During the slides, there will be prayer music in the background and each song is about 5 minutes long so when the song ends, that’s the cue that the slide has changed. Feel free to pray alone or pray with someone else as the Lord compels you. 6 slides, 5 minutes per slide so 30 minutes in total. And I can think of no better way to wrap up our this service than to partake in the Lord’s Supper.
I admit, I only saw the movie, the Passion of the Christ, all the way through one time. It’s very hard to stomach so I wanted to give an early heads up. We all know the cross was a gruesome, brutal method of execution so why show it?
Well, this past week was Passion Week and passion refers to suffering. We intentionally remember the passion or the suffering of Jesus Christ. His physical suffering, but also his emotional suffering of being forsaken by God and being abandoned by disciples, the loneliness, the shame, the mockery, the injustice. Christ suffered on many levels.
If that’s the reason we’re gathered, why do we call this day “Good” Friday? I mean, we are talking about a horrible execution, a murder. We’re talking about human depravity at its worst. We’re talking about a dead man. If anything, one would think, this day should be called Bad Friday, Terrible Friday, the worst Friday imaginable. Why is it Good Friday? Because as believers, we know that Friday is not the end of the story. Easter is coming.
Then, why do we make Good Friday, which if you think about Jesus bleeding and suffocating to death, why is this particular Friday such a big deal?
Can’t we just gloss over it? I mean, let’s celebrate, right? It’s party time for us believers. Yet, we don’t. We do pause and we do remember what Christ did. Why? Two reasons.
One, our sin was that serious. If there were any other way that we could be saved, I’m sure God in His infinite wisdom would have found some other way and avoided the death of His only begotten Son whom He loved. If a doctor said to me, your son Timothy is dying of a rare disease, as a father, you bet that I would seek second, third, fourth opinions, I would try all kinds of treatments and I would leave no stone unturned because I don’t want my son to die. And if there were any other way to save sinners, God would have found an alternative to the cross.
But Good Friday tells us that there was no other way. Sin is this serious. Repentance is this critical. For you to recognize, it’s my sin that put Jesus on the cross and there was no other way, that realization becoming personal and spiritual eyes being opened is the difference between heaven and hell.
Second, Good Friday is important because it connects to our level of gratitude for Easter Sunday. If someone buys you a Big Mac, you are grateful. I like Big Macs. Thank you. If someone buys you a steak from Ruth Chris, you’re much more grateful. Your gratitude is affected by the size of the gift. If you are walking across the street and a car is coming and you don’t see it. And suddenly, someone pushes you out of the way and saves your life and in the process, your rescuer is maimed, paralyzed, permanently. Guess what? You’re indebted to that person for life. Your gratitude toward that person is much, much greater than if he bought you a Big Mac. Because that person saved your life.
On Good Friday, we take time to consider what Christ did for us because when you realize, Christ wasn’t just maimed, nor was he just executed instantly by a bullet, but he bore the full punishment of a brutal cross for hours and endured a punishment you and I deserved. And if you realize Christ saved me, not for 50-60-70 years in this life. But he snatched you and me out of the pits of hell and saved you for billions and billions and billions of years. He saved you eternally. How much greater will our gratitude on Easter Sunday be having gone first through Good Friday?
Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to reflect on Christ’s suffering by reading over the various gospel accounts pertaining to the events leading up to the crucifixion. If not, that’s okay. You can ignore the slides and take full advantage of tonight and open up your Bibles and spend time reading. Locate yourself in those passion accounts.
There’s a slew of characters. Maybe you can identify with the crowds. So fickle – one moment waving palm branches and shouting, Hosanna in the highest. And the very next moment, shouting, crucify him, crucify him, crucify him.
Or maybe you can identify with the disciples. Jesus took several of his most trusted disciples to pray with him at Gethsemane. Jesus knew they were all going to fail him and flee so he didn’t ask them to do too much. Just pray with me. Guys, this is the night where I really, really need your prayers. Just pray with me, just 1 hour, that’s all I ask. And even that simple request in a time of desperate need was not fulfilled. Because the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Or Pilate, a governor, a person of position, someone who had the appearance of power. Yet he was utterly powerless and instead he was enslaved by the praise of men and he couldn’t release Jesus, though he tried several times. Pilate found Jesus to be completely innocent, yet the shouts of the crowds prevailed and Pilate sentenced him to be crucified.
Or the religious leaders. They didn’t commit any blatant sins like adultery or murder. In fact, they fasted, they prayed, they knew Scripture. People who looked polished on the outside. Yet Jesus said, out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. And these religious leaders spoke murderous threats that eventually led to the arrest, a phony trial and the horrific death of an innocent man. And if the spoken words are a reflection of our hearts, then the hearts of these religious leaders were indeed evil. Clean on the outside, but inside, rotten to the core.
There are many characters. Can you locate yourself in one or several of these characters?