Good Friday – What Love Made Him Do

John 19:28,30 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

God died on the Cross for us.

No, that’s wrong. Or rather the way we think about that statement is wrong. Perhaps “wrong” is too strong a word. Perhaps I should say that it is inaccurate.

Why? Because often when we talk about “God” we think of God in terms of this world, and more specifically in terms of humanity. And that is inaccurate.

When Jesus dies on the Cross, this has effect on every cubic millimeter – micrometer – of the universe. It has effect on the whole universe because its Creator dies on that Cross. The repercussions of the Cross explode throughout the vast expanse of all space because its Creator hangs dead.

The philosophy of evolution bombards us with how we are an insignificant accident within the universe. Christmas and now Good Friday stand to refute that claim. It is bewildering that the Creator should pay such attention to us – even the Psalmist [8:3-6] declares his puzzlement:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet

Yet as Hebrews 2 declares, it is a Human – God come into the flesh – Who sits on the throne of God’s eternal Kingdom, Who fulfills the description of Psalm 8 to the extreme, as all things are right now being placed under His feet, as He rules literally over everything. It is this God, this Creator, Who dies on the Cross for you and me.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…,” and again we think about this passage in an inaccurate way.

When a family brings their child to be baptized, I will sit down with the parents, and if possible the sponsors as well, to discuss what baptism is. Within that time together, I will ask the parents,

“Look at your child. Do you love him/her?”
“Oh, yes!”
“Do you love him/her a lot?”
“Oh, yes!”
“As you think about your child, would you put him/her to death for the sake of someone else?”
Usually there is a look of surprise and confusion.
I continue with: “Even if you knew that the child would rise after three days, would you put him/her through suffering, agony, and death for the sake of someone else?’

Of all the couples I have asked, I have only gotten one “maybe.” All the rest, and I would stand among them, have said no, they could not bear to put their child through that, even when there would be the prospect of a resurrection.

Why then do we think of it as of minor consequence to the heart of God when He must do that very thing to His own, only Son? Yes, it was the plan from before the foundations of the world, but does that make it any easier when He hears the pounding of the nails, when He hears the cries from His Son; when the Son begs His Father, “Why have You forsaken Me?”?
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How often have you seen, or been the family, who surrounds the bedside of a person suffering and perhaps even dying? There is that relentless helplessness of those who must watch – “If only I could give you some of my strength! If only I could take some of your pain! but I cannot!!”

God the Father, Whose word brings planets and galaxies into being, to Whom nothing is impossible, must stand and watch His only Son writhe in pain and hear Him plead – and can do nothing! For the first time in all eternity, the mighty God faces helplessness because something stays His hand! What could bind His hand when there is nothing else in all creation which could? What is it? Simply, His love for you and me.

If it were us in His place, how we would pace until a path was worn, tears streaming down the face. Do you really think that God was insensitive to His Son’s death? Yet such is His love for the humans of this tiny dot in the universe.

How often in John 3:16 have we been eager to get to the salvation part, which is indeed wonderful, and have not really stopped to consider the cost of that salvation?

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “’Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ …And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” [Luke 22:42, 44].

Jesus was not saying to Himself, “Well, tomorrow, I get to save the world, and then three days after that I will rise again. That will be nice! I wonder … did I put that leftover roll from supper in my pocket? I guess not. Too bad.” So often we have reviewed the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with a certain dullness, as if to say that “sure it was hard for Jesus, but He knew He would rise from the dead, so it could not have been so bad.” Now, we probably would really not say it that way, but often we can have that kind of attitude about this weekend.

Medical science tells us that when a person is under extreme stress, the fine capillaries under the skin can burst, having the result of a bloody sweat. I have never seen anybody under that extreme a stress. Only one Person that I know of has ever had that condition: Jesus. If we had ever had that kind of stress in our workplace, we would have quit long ago. But there was One Who, although He asked to be released, did not quit. Such stress would devastate us, making us feel like a limp dishrag, helpless to face what relentlessly was coming, all the while feeling like useless garbage. But there was One Who presented Himself quite in control throughout the ordeal to come, even to equipping His enemies with what they needed to destroy Him.

We know the answer why He did not turn away: it was because of such is His love. Yet what would have happened if nobody had responded by believing in Him? What would have happened if Jesus faced all of this to no result? We judge the value of something by its outcome. We judge its worthwhileness by its effectiveness. We would consider Jesus’ death as useless if nobody responded in faith. Would He have also? Would He have still gone on with such determination to His suffering?

The answer is that, yes, Jesus would have done it anyway. That’s because His action was not based on what He would get, His action was based upon His heart. Our reaction does not fill His deeds with value, rather it is His love which compels Him to do everything He can to call us to Himself. He will do what is in His power: Jesus will face the road to the Cross, the Father will stand helpless before His suffering Son, the Creator will send ripples throughout the universe on account of tiny earth-bound humans. This He will do. This is what He has done. This is His love.

At first, some may think that we should respond in tears and great wailing for what our sins have compelled God to do for our sakes. Often we have held the idea that we should be sorrowful as we leave this service. In a sense it is right to do so. There is need for repentance. However, oddly, there is even more reason for us to leave in celebration. Why should we want to do that??

Good Friday is the climax of Lent, but it is far more than that. It is the grand climax of the plan established from before the beginning of the world. It is the grand climax that all creation has been waiting for since the fall of Adam and Eve. It is the grand climax in answer to the burdens and guilts of humanity. It is the grand climax that stands in opposition to the greeds, selfishnesses, hatreds, and all the rest which have become such a part of common human life for thousands of years. Yes! Our sins have put Him on the tree, but it is that tree which has provided an everlasting remedy to the soul-sickness which has for so long ruled humankind.

Imagine the crowd erupting at the end of a hard battle at the hockey rink or football field. Imagine the person who has worked on a project over many years and through many sleepless nights, and now finally, as the last piece is put into its place, his voice rings out, “It’s done, I’ve done it!” – “Tetelesthai!” – “It is finished!” The voice rings out with confidence. The voice rings out with satisfaction. It is worth it – because My heart has done it!  Never will this have to be done again – never!  It is finished!

Is this a time for misery? No. Is it a time for repentance? Yes! Is it a time for amazement? Yes! Is it a time for awe? Yes! Is it a time for us to erupt into what John describes in his first letter: “We love because He first loved us” [I,4:19]? Very much so! It is a time that as we leave this service, we look at the people in our families, in our congregation, in this world around us, in the driver who has just cut us off, in the clerk who was surly with us, fascinated by how much the heart of God has loved them, just because He loved them, just like He has loved us.

Yes, it is a time for celebration, and for us to “love because He first loved us.” This is Good Friday.

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