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As followers of Jesus, we need to embrace Good Friday, which is a little bit like saying we need to embrace torture.

From that time on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"
Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men."
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."
Matthew 16: 21–25

Here are four preaching points for Good Friday:

Friday is the Road to Sunday:

Good Friday is the day we remember the crucifixion of Jesus, but there’s more to it than remembering; our task as preachers is to call people to the Cross. We want to embrace the resurrection, but Jesus calls us to the Cross, too. The famous sermon says, "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!" More properly, the point of the story is that Friday is the road to Sunday. There's no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. There is no resurrection without the Cross. Our job as pastors is to tell the truth to His people: there's a Good Friday for all of us.

Everyone Has a Problem with the Cross:

The very idea of Good Friday causes us concern. The problem is that both his power and wisdom led him to the Cross, a brutal denial of everything he had done before. Those who had seen his power wondered why he seemed powerless at his greatest need. Those who saw his intelligence wondered how someone so smart could miscalculate so badly. Both sides missed what Jesus and his Father were saying: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone, but if it dies, it produces many.” (John 12:24) Not just his words, his very life is a parable.

It wasn’t just the people of Jesus’ day who had a problem with the Cross. The people we speak to week after week have a problem with the Cross. Religious-minded people want miracles and power. Intellectually-minded people want wisdom and truth. What God offers us all is first the Cross. The earliest believers called the Cross “the wisdom of God and power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:23–24) This is a stumbling block for us to consider today: that both his power and wisdom led him to the Cross. People prefer not to dwell on such things. After all, who respects suffering? When is the last time you spoke to your people about suffering?

You want to tell a story worth telling? Try this one: things are always darkest just before they go pitch black. And then, in the blackness of the truth—the truth that our own power or smarts are never enough, we discover that we need to rely solely on the promise of the Father.

Friday Means the Beginning of Change:

Good Friday provides the opportunity to proclaim, "Once you’ve been to the Cross, everything changes." Stumbling blocks and foolishness turn into power and wisdom. The Cross changes everything. If something’s pursuing you, then perhaps the event that will change everything for you is the Cross. If nothing is changing, maybe you haven’t been to the Cross.

Easter is indeed about the empty tomb. But first, it’s about the Cross. Why are we in such a hurry to rush Jesus up to heaven? Is it because the Cross doesn’t fit into our picture of how things ought to be? It didn’t fit into anyone’s picture back then, either. Friday is the road to Sunday. It was the road for Jesus; it is the road for us.

Jesus Demonstrated Faith over Circumstances:

Can we be honest with our congregations? Can we say, "God promises never to forsake you," but it doesn’t always feel that way, right? Here are two of the phrases Jesus uttered on the Cross: “Why have you forsaken me?” and “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” How can those two go together? Even at his death, Jesus showed us how to trust the Father beyond the circumstances.

Jesus predicted his death and resurrection. It's one thing to predict the future. It's quite another to go to the Cross willingly. At least three times, Jesus shared his destiny with the disciples. They didn’t understand. More challenging still is the fact that Jesus embraced this destiny by faith. He knew the Father’s promise of resurrection, but death still lay ahead of him. And death was still death, even for Jesus. It was his trust in the Father’s promise that caused him to wager everything he had, his very life. As a man, Jesus modeled how to trust the Father.



Ray Hollenbach helps pastors and churches navigate change. He's the founder of DEEPER Seminars, weekend leadership retreats focused on discipleship in the local church. His newest book is Deeper Grace, a guide to the connection between grace and spiritual maturity. Ray currently lives in central Kentucky, coaching and consulting church leaders. You can visit his blog at Students of Jesus.

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Dennis Cocks

commented on Apr 2, 2012

The points in this article are great. But let me point something out about "Good Friday." Jesus said He would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. (Matt. 12:39-40). How do you get three days and three nights into Friday - Sunday? Some try to explain they were part days, part Friday, Sat., Sun. But what about the nights? You only have Friday night and Saturday night because Jesus arose early Sunday morning. People believe Jesus was crucified on Friday because He had to be taken off the cross and buried before the Sabbath (Mark 15:42-43). They believe this is talking about the Saturday Sabbath. But there were other Sabbaths besides the weekly Sabbath. The feast were considered Sabbaths. (Lev. 23). John says the Sabbath that Jesus had to be buried before was a "high day Sabbath" (John 19:31). Jesus was three days and three nights in the tomb. How long is a day? Look at what Jesus says about Jonah in Matt. 12:40. Jesus establishes the length of a day in Gen. 1:4-5. And then he says in John 11:9 "Are there not twelve hours in the day?" Twelve hours in the day and twelve hours in the night. Twenty-four hours to each day and night times three equals 72 hours. There were three Sabbaths in a row when Jesus was crucified. Thursday, the Passover Sabbath; Friday, the Feast of Unleavened Bread Sabbath; and Saturday, the seventh-day weekly Sabbath. The Jewish day begins at 6:00 P.M. not 12:00 midnight as ours does. It runs from 6:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. So when it is 6:00 P.M. Wednesday by our reckoning to the Jews Thursday is begining. Jesus was buried at 6:00 P.M. on Wed., the 13th of Nisan. The 14th (Thursday) began at this time and ended 24 hours later. This is one day and one night. Friday made 2 days and 2 nights. Saturday made 3 days and 3 nights. Jesus was buried at 6: P.M. Wednesday and resurrected at 6:00 P.M. Saturday, This made Him exactly 72 hours in death just as He said he would be. The Friday crucifixion only allows for 36 hours for the time of the entombment. This is just a very brief explanation of a sermon you can go to on this site if you wish entitled "Was Jesus Crucified On Good Friday?" in my sermons. It will go into more detail than time or space allows here. And before commenting I suggest you check that sermon out because it might answer any questions you direct towards me on this subject.

Basil George

commented on Apr 2, 2012

Dear Dennis, I appreciate your interest to seek the truth. Your words show that you are watching the words very close. Let me explain my findings about this. THREE DAYS and THREE NIGHTS is a usage of Jews. When Esther in old testament fasted for three days, she went to the king on third day. According to them, part of a day was counted as a full day.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Apr 2, 2012

Basil George, yes I believe that EVERY word of Scripture is important and inspired. When Jesus said three days and three nights in Matt. 12:39-40 that is exactly what He meant. Again if Friday were the day of crucifixion then where is the third night? Some traditions die hard but the fact remains that the Word of God is true where traditions may not be.

Joseph Anweiler

commented on Apr 3, 2012

Brothers, Doesn't the fact remain that Jesus arose. To arise He had to die. Without the perfect sacrifice, there would be no forgiveness of sins. Without the resurrection and ascension there would be no proof of our hope. Jesus would just be another martyr. We do not have all knowledge, we only have the truth God gives us. Jesus died, was buried and arose on the third day! Praise be unto God! Grab on to the absolutes of the gospel message and spread that. There will be plenty of time in Heaven to sort out all those "Hard Sayings". Peace and Joy this Easter!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Apr 3, 2012

Joseph, of course the most impotant thing is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. But the Bible tells us to Study and rightly divide the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15). What do you think an unbeliever thinks when he hears maybe in church that Jesus said He would be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights and starts calculating (like it would really take a genius) and discovers that if Christ was crucified on Friday it doesn't add up? Should we not to the best of our abilities under the guidence of the Holy Spirit present the Word of God as accurately as we can? Do we really want to look ignorant in the eyes of those who need to be saved?

Robert Sickler

commented on Apr 5, 2012

Good points!

Robert Sickler

commented on Apr 5, 2012

Good points!

Gerald Selleck

commented on Apr 5, 2012

Dennis: You've touched on an age-old dilemma. One Christian Rabbi I listened to, made the point that there were 2 traditional nights for a Passover meal, depending upon which group you belonged to (Pharisees, Saducees, etc..). Jews did not celebrate all on the same night. However, his conclusion was that the Last Supper was on Wednesday, Crucifixion on Thursday, and Resurrection on Sunday.

Gerald Selleck

commented on Apr 5, 2012

Dennis: You've touched on an age-old dilemma. One Christian Rabbi I listened to, made the point that there were 2 traditional nights for a Passover meal, depending upon which group you belonged to (Pharisees, Saducees, etc..). Jews did not celebrate all on the same night. However, his conclusion was that the Last Supper was on Wednesday, Crucifixion on Thursday, and Resurrection on Sunday.

Gerald Selleck

commented on Apr 5, 2012

Dennis: You've touched on an age-old dilemma. One Christian Rabbi I listened to, made the point that there were 2 traditional nights for a Passover meal, depending upon which group you belonged to (Pharisees, Saducees, etc..). Jews did not celebrate all on the same night. However, his conclusion was that the Last Supper was on Wednesday, Crucifixion on Thursday, and Resurrection on Sunday.

Gerald Selleck

commented on Apr 5, 2012

Dennis: You've touched on an age-old dilemma. One Christian Rabbi I listened to, made the point that there were 2 traditional nights for a Passover meal, depending upon which group you belonged to (Pharisees, Saducees, etc..). Jews did not celebrate all on the same night. However, his conclusion was that the Last Supper was on Wednesday, Crucifixion on Thursday, and Resurrection on Sunday.

Gerald Selleck

commented on Apr 5, 2012

Dennis: You've touched on an age-old dilemma. One Christian Rabbi I listened to, made the point that there were 2 traditional nights for a Passover meal, depending upon which group you belonged to (Pharisees, Saducees, etc..). Jews did not celebrate all on the same night. However, his conclusion was that the Last Supper was on Wednesday, Crucifixion on Thursday, and Resurrection on Sunday.

Gerald Selleck

commented on Apr 5, 2012

Dennis: You've touched on an age-old dilemma. One Christian Rabbi I listened to, made the point that there were 2 traditional nights for a Passover meal, depending upon which group you belonged to (Pharisees, Saducees, etc..). Jews did not celebrate all on the same night. However, his conclusion was that the Last Supper was on Wednesday, Crucifixion on Thursday, and Resurrection on Sunday.

John E Miller

commented on Apr 11, 2012

With reference to Mr Hollenbach's fourth point, the two utterances do not "go together". The first cry was made at 12 noon when darkness fell on the earth. It signified the commencement of Christ's suffering for sin, His atoning work. Previously His suffering was for righteousness sake. In the first three hours on the cross He suffered at the hands of man. At the commencement of that suffering His prayer was for the forgiveness of His murderers. This cry was the woeful cry of the Son of God, forsaken by the Father whose company, fellowship and love had been mutually enjoyed since eternity. For three hours, hidden by the blackness of God's creatorial intervention to conceal such suffering, He atoned for the sins of all mankind. Before He cried, "Father into your hands I commit my Spirit" (Luke 23:46), He had already cried, "It is finished" John 19:30). The work of atonement had been completed. Communion with His Father had been restored. When we preach or teach on the events of the crucifiction we must be careful to be accurate in our consideration of the details that scripture provides.

Henry Verdier Jr.

commented on Apr 12, 2017

I thank the Lord for you Dennis Cocks...! Very interesting points!

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