Summary: A Good Friday message on the 7 Last Sayings of Jesus on the cross.
Good Friday Sermon - April 18, 2014 – Matthew 27:27-61
On Good Friday, there is a distinctly different tone to our worship service. Every other time we gather for worship throughout the year, we do so in the light of Easter Sunday, in the light of the Resurrection. That’s why normally there’s quite a bit of energy and joy in our worship.
But it’s our tradition as a church, to spend real time together reflecting on the events of that first Good Friday, long ago.
We do so to grow in our understanding and appreciation of the loss suffered on that day, of the love expressed on that day, and the Life given that day. [Pause]
This day. This terrible, terrible day. This day of loss, of sorrow, of disappointment and emptiness.
This day where, for all appearances, hope has died.
For the disciples, this is a day where the bitterest, ugliest reality they could have imagined, came true.
Their fears about Jesus entering into Jerusalem, into a toxic climate where the religious leaders were determined to no longer just challenge Jesus and try to trip Him up in terms of the things He taught, but it was clear their tolerance of Jesus had come to an end.
The disciples knew it, and they warned Jesus to not risk going into the City of Peace, Jerusalem.
But go He did, and going into Jerusalem, events unfolded just as ancient prophets had predicted.
We’ve heard read this morning many of those events, all of which led up to the crucifixion of Jesus.
And as Jesus died, He spoke. Elsewhere, when we hear Jesus speak, it is in parables, in sermons, in prayers that He uttered, in dialogue with others.
There He shared words in a relaxed setting, talking with people He loved, encouraging the weak, lifting up the poor, proclaiming Good News to everyone, challenging those who thought too much of themselves or their religiosity.
Here, His words spoken on the cross, are brief, uttered between agonized breaths, as the life was draining out of His body.
They are brief words, but they are potent words. They expose the heart of Jesus - why He came, His humility and compassion, His humanity and ultimately His full acceptance of His mission and His profound faith in the One Who sent Him.
The First Word: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34)
His first words uttered on the cross were a simplified expression of why He came in the first place. He prays for the forgiveness of the people who, with intent and malice, were killing him in the moment.
His prayer was for everyone involved in his murder: the crowd who celebrated His arrival on Palm Sunday and then turned against Him, crying out: “Crucify Him!” to Pilate, who had the power to release Him or not.
So He prays here for the common inhabitant of the city of Jerusalem, and He prays for those who had come to the Holy City on a pilgrimage.
He prays for Pilate who opened the door legally to His death. He prays for the Roman soldiers who mocked Him, (“Hail, king of the Jews!”), spit on Him, made jest of His Kingship, who shoved thorns in the shape of a crown on His brow. He prays for the religious leaders who stand around mocking Him:
42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
I want to suggest that He prays for you and me here as well. Even though we see Jesus and His humanity bared in weakness for us on this bitter, ugly day of Good Friday, we can’t forget that He is the Son of God who has chosen this path for Himself.
And as God-in-the-flesh, Jesus knows in His divinity all for whom He died.
That means on the cross, He knows you.He knows your life, your hurts, your pain, your mistakes, your sins, your regrets, your fears.
And for all, Jesus prays: “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing”.
He prays for those who sin in ignorance, but of course His prayer is broad and wide and He prays for us even when, with intent, we offended God and damage ourselves and others through our actions or inactions.
In His prayer here, a high priestly prayer, Jesus is our advocate before God the Father.
The Second Word: “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Jesus speaks this to a man who seconds earlier was heaping insults upon Him.