Good Friday Service

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Good evening, North Hills family. Over the past few weeks, collectively, we’ve endured an odd season. Christians around the world have stretched stiff muscles by exercising faith in new ways — gathering in small groups online, communicating electronically, and praying from a safe six foot distance. Further, Christians around the world are mourning the loss of our Easter gatherings, as are we. Our Easter gathering is a unique, powerful, and passionate service. The loss of that gathering feels weighty. So, for us as a family, before we get to Easter, perhaps this year more than any year in recent memory, a Good Friday service is most appropriate.

Good Friday services at North Hills are an attempt to allow us to feel the weightiness of the death of Jesus. We ponder the sacrifice before we celebrate the resurrection. We sing lament before we sing praise. We’re silent prior to shouts. We mourn before we rejoice. This Good Friday, let’s bring the laments of our world into perspective by focusing on the death of Jesus. The journey of Jesus to the cross and tomb passes through the very same feelings we have today — isolation, loneliness, and weariness. Jesus, in terms we are using today, “self-isolated” to the point of skies going dark. Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Friends, Good Friday is a perfect moment for us to reorient ourselves outside of today’s circumstances to the vast, grand beauty of the birth, life, death, and the ultimate resurrection of Jesus. During times like these, our greatest hope and fuel is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us spend time tonight considering both.

“Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you — his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind — so shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that has led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil among the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Hebrews 5:7-9, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”

John 19:1-5, “Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him saying, ‘Hail, King and the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.’ So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and a purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’

“When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said, to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore, he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.’”

“From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.’ So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ So he delivered him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of the Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’ Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priest of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but rather, “This man said, I am the king of the Jews.”‘ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written.’”

“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.’ This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, ‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’ So the soldiers did these things but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

“Since it was the Day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness — his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth — that also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.’ And again another Scripture says, ‘They will look on him whom they have pierced.’”

“After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish Day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.”

Connor Hubbard will be sharing God’s Word with us this evening. Connor has been around North Hills Church his entire life. After recently graduating from Furman, Connor is pursuing higher education in seminary. Connor is going to walk us through Paul’s statement about boasting in the cross of Christ.

Good evening. We’re going to keep meditating on the cross and thinking about what it means. Why Paul boasts only in the cross. Father, would you be glorified in your cross. Be glorified in your Son and the cross. May we come to know him in a deeper, more full way, and would you be glorified as we think about and meditate on the cross and remember what you’ve done. I pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ? What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ? Paul gives us three options in 1 Corinthians. He says,

“We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, [to those who are called] … Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

So, a stumbling block, folly, and Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ? Is it bothersome?  Something to trip over that’s in the way? Is it bizarre? Kind of weird, what is that? Seems outdated, childish, maybe fairy-talish? Is it bothersome, bizarre, or beautiful? Is it the strength of your soul, your life, freedom, daily food, joy, your only boast?

“What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ?” asks an old pastor named J.C. Ryle. And he goes on to say that “a man must be right on this subject or he is lost forever.” In other words, there are a lot of things that you can be wrong about and it’s okay. But a man must be right on this subject, or he is lost forever. Paul says that the cross is beautiful. In fact, he says it’s his only boast. In Galatians 6:14 he says,

“Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I don’t think our modern church-ized ears and minds can quite hear the weight of what Paul is saying here. He is saying, may I only ever boast in a cross, in a crucifixion, in a mechanism of torture and shame and brutality. May I only ever boast in a gas chamber or a lynching tree. You see, the sick feeling that you and I get when we think of the horrors of a gas chamber or the de-humanizing of a crematorium oven or the gut-wrenching shame of a lynching tree, that sick feeling that we get in our stomach may be what Paul’s first readers and thinkers would have thought and felt about the cross. They knew what crucifixion was. They had probably, most likely seen one. They knew that it was one of the most horrific ways to die.

As one historian puts it,

“Crucifixion was thought of as the most horrible, painful, torturous and humiliating form of execution possible. If Romans wanted to simply kill someone without a fuss, there were plenty of other means possible. Crucifixion was reserved for special cases.”

In order to prepare the victim for crucifixion they were scourged. And Roman scourging was not a spanking. Whips were wound together with glass and metal, designed to tear open the skin and often leaving the victim’s intestines exposed. The Romans had to be careful not to scourge too much before crucifixion, lest the victim die too soon and therefore too mercifully. And on top of the pain and the torture, the purpose of crucifixion was to maximize the victim’s shame. Victims were stripped naked. They were nailed to wood. And then they were lifted up, or exalted, as a mockery of those who would lift themselves up against Roman power. They were often placed in strategic locations just outside major cities, along the road, often up on a hill so that anyone going by could see. This is the image that Paul’s first readers and hearers would have had about a cross. This is what they would have thought and felt about a cross.

So why, Paul? Why do you boast in a cross? Paul knew what a crucifixion was. He had probably seen one too. Which makes it all the more astonishing when you hear him say,

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But Paul sees beauty in what was once bothersome, was once in his way, something that he needed to move out of the way, to get out of his way. Paul sees beauty in something that was once bizarre, foolish, shameful. Maybe Paul can help us see the beauty in the cross and answer for us why he boasts in a cross. Why, Paul? Why not Jesus’ empty tomb? Why not the throne that he’s reigning on right now? Why do you boast in a cross?

We’re going to look at just one of those reasons that Paul sees beauty in the cross and that he boasts in it. And that is that in the cross, more than anywhere else, God’s manifold beauties are displayed and applied in such a way that unites God getting all the glory and us getting all the good. What do I mean by that? Just think with me for a little bit. God’s glory, our good. Two things that should be mutually exclusive. They should not go together. We have done nothing to add to God’s glory, to benefit him. In fact, we have only ever belittled God’s glory. Romans 1 talks about how we suppress the glory of God and lift ourselves up. We suppress the glory of God to lift ourselves up. So, anything that lifts God’s glory should be at our expense. Anything that elevates, that glorifies God, should come to our detriment. But somehow, in some mysteriously beautiful way, God unites his glory and our good.

How does this happen in the cross? In the cross God gets all the glory as the only Savior. God gets all the glory. He’s the only one who saves, and we get all the good. We get all the good as the ones who are fully and completely saved. God will not share his credit as the only Savior, as your only Savior. He will not share that credit. This is what Paul is fighting in Galatians when he writes this letter to the church in Galatia. He’s fighting those who were saying that “You can believe in Jesus. Jesus is alright, you can believe in him. But he doesn’t get you all the way there. You need to add a couple more things [for them, it was circumcision]. So, you can have Jesus, but you need to be circumcised in order to wipe your slate clean. In order for your sins to be forgiven, there are a couple more things that you need to do.” And Paul answers, Paul replies that when it comes to your justification, when it comes to you being forgiven for your sins, your slate being washed clean, that Jesus plus anything equals nothing. Jesus plus anything equals nothing. Look what he says,

“I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”

So, Paul is saying, there are two ways you can do this, two ways you can go about washing your sins clean. You can you can do it yourself, or you can run to Jesus and say, “Jesus, I need you.” You can do it yourself or you can cling to the cross where Jesus paid everything. And Paul is saying, you can’t dip into both. You can’t do it yourself and have Jesus help you when you need it. He will get glory as your only Savior.

When we think we can save ourselves we make two things too small — our sin and Jesus. We make our sin too small by thinking that the mess is not too big for us to clean it up. I can get over this hump. I can clean this up. I just need a couple more chances. Sin has never looked so sinful as on the cross. Sin has never looked so sinful as when the Creator, the Maker and Sustainer of the universe, the One who made the sun came into creation and was crucified by his creation for the sins of his creation. Sin has never looked so big as on the cross. Your sin is too big for you. So, we make sin too small. We make Jesus too small when we say, “Jesus, you gave me a good kick start. You got me started. You’re kind of running out of steam, but if you hand the baton off to me, I can take it from here.” But when Jesus on the cross said, “It is finished,” he meant it. When Jesus on the cross said, “It is finished,” he meant it. He paid everything. He paid once for all, for it all.

In the cross, man is seen as totally dependent, totally needy, totally helpless to save himself. And in the cross, God is seen as the only helper, the only need-meeter, the only one who can save us. You need someone to save you. I need someone to save me more than I could ever know. And Jesus, who stands ready to save you, is far greater than you could have ever dreamed.

As pastor and writer Timothy Keller puts it,

“The gospel is this: we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we have ever dared belief. Yet, at the very same time, we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

God will be exalted as your only Savior. And you will be fully, completely, eternally saved when you put your trust in him as your only Savior. This is indeed unbelievably good news. Come, take what you will of salvation, freedom, joy, life. Come, buy without money, without price. You can have it. It’s yours when you put your faith in Jesus. But you will not take credit. And that is good news too, because when we live to take credit, it’s both temporary and insufficient. It’s temporary in that it lives for temporary praise that will not last, temporary comforts that will not satisfy. And it is insufficient in that it will not count for anything in the end. When that day comes and you stand before your Maker, and you look at the credit that you’ve accrued, the accomplishments that you have outside of what Jesus has worked in and through you, and those stand before your Maker, before the eyes of the Lamb who was slain, they will dissolve. Trust me, they will dissolve. He made the sun. He’s brighter than the sun. You bring nothing; he brings everything. You get everything, and he gets all the glory. You bring nothing; he brings everything. You get everything, and he gets all the glory.

God has not only at one point on the cross unified his glory and your good, but when you put your faith in Jesus, these two are forever joined. This is your story. And that is the safest place that you could ever be because God will never, for the sake of his name, act like Jesus didn’t pay it all. He will never do that to his Son. He will never belittle Jesus’ suffering like that. He will not do that to his Son. So, how does God’s glory and our good become united? They become united in the cross when God is exalted as our only Savior, and we run to him and cling to him as the only one who can save us.

So, the saying, “God works all things together for his glory and your good” is not just sentimental. It doesn’t just happen. It was won. It was paid for. It was bought in the most brutal, the most shameful injustice that man has ever known. But now that it was bought it is ours. The truth, the promise, is ours. Jesus will not have died in vain. He will not have been spit on and mocked and scourged and laughed at in vain. He will not have drunk the cup of God’s wrath in vain. It is sure and unshakable. He will receive the reward for his suffering — a people who worship by the Spirit and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, boasting only in the beautiful cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And how should you gain from his reward? There is no answer. But this you should know with all your heart, his wounds have paid your ransom.

Jesus, as we continue to think about the cross, would you fill us with gratefulness, and would you receive all the glory as we are rescued. I pray this in your name, amen.

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