Summary: Good Friday address with the text - Lamentations 1:12“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around & see. Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me, that the Lord brought on me in the day of His fierce anger”
In parts Matthew’s passion & death narrative is read throughout the service which had the sermon very near the end & was followed with an extended period of silence.
Text - Lamentations 1:12“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around & see. Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me, that the Lord brought on me in the day of His fierce anger”
Sometimes in our theology we strive to make Jesus like us, hence we have ridiculous hymns like Jerusalem asking the ridiculous question - “And was the Holy Lamb of God on England’s pleasant pastures seen” - of course He wasn’t!
Similarly in the famous Jesus of Nazareth we see that most English & bright blue eyed white of white actors Robert Powell as Jesus. A less Jewish man you couldn’t wish to find.
We try to make things easier for us & today I want to speak against those tendencies. I think it is important today to think about the cross & the cost to Jesus so that might be left under no illusions about exactly what this is all about.
We sometimes sing “There is a green hill far away outside the city wall” don’t we? I’m told it is a comforting hymn, some would say a beautiful hymn, but it is a hymn I dislike with a passion - why? Apart from some problems with theology Cecil Frances Alexander seems to be conveying I deeply object to the notion that Jesus died on a green hill - He simply didn’t - it’s not true.
It is an attempt to make the cross that little more easy to deal with, obviously for all the right reasons - but wrong none the less. Wrong for we all need - however old or young - to understand the depths Jesus went to for us.
So often we beautify the crucifixion - maybe more than any other single event. It was not a green hill, it was not beautiful - it was hideous. How hideous? Well let’s think about it for a moment.
Deliberately from the perspective of Jesus the man because we don’t have time today to contemplate how this was for Jesus to separated from rest of Godhead.
So just from point of view of human being what was it like - what is this suffering?
It was hell.
In Graham Kendrick’s words ‘Hands that flung stars into space to cruel nails surrendered’.
It was the Creator of heaven & earth alone in disgrace; not on a beautiful hill side but on a rubbish tip, a heap of rotting flesh & bone, a place that must have stank.
It was a place that would have been filled with foul language & abuse - the last place on earth you would ever wish to die.
I understand why we want to lessen the reality - but today of all days simply cannot.
If the setting was bad what about the manner of death? Crucifixion was the cruelest execution ever invented. We use & view crosses nowadays - handle them almost forgetting what it is - it is a form of torture unrivalled.
The guillotine or beheading was almost always quick & painless, there was no time to actually feel your death because as soon as you felt the blade you were dead, but the cross was so horrific, so inhuman that even the Romans outlawed it.
Why? Because death could take not just hours but on occasion days; the body suspended in the air - tortured between earth & sky.
Yet Jesus did not have to just endure this public fate worse than death, he had to endure a flogging that almost killed him prior to being crucified – not with a whip but a cord probably encrusted with sharp stones & the like to rip the skin apart & designed to inflict as much pain as possible. It also would have caused massive bleeding & hastened death.
Yet still we romanticize cross. We wear them around our necks - some even have Jesus on them, but a Jesus so removed from reality it is ridiculous.
The cross was inherently by design about two things: death & more importantly almost shame. So the person being crucified was almost always stripped naked & hung out on the cross naked to maximum shame effect.
It is horrible isn’t it?
I know from some of your faces some are a bit appalled PAUSE
We need to understand the enormity of what Jesus endured for us, for only then will we understand just how precious we are to Him. He did it because He wanted to rescue us, to save humanity - & the cross & an empty tomb accomplished all that - all humanity freed if they so desire.