Summary: An invitation to come to the cross and meet Jesus
Were You There?
Good Friday, March 29, 2002
It is a haunting question – were you there? Of course, the literal answer for each of us is no, we weren’t actually present at the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not like the witnesses we have just heard from. Not like Peter, and John, and Mary.
And yet the real answer to that question is a yes. We were there in a very real way as our sin – my sin – was placed upon Jesus. Isaiah 53:6 tells us “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Romans chapter 6 speaks of us being united with Christ through Baptism into both Jesus’ death and into His resurrection – that is the symbolism, we go down under the water as if going into the grave, we are raised up out of the water as an act of participating in the resurrection of Jesus. So yes, we were there. Our sin was placed upon Jesus as He hung on the cross. Jesus felt the weight of my sin, He took the punishment that I deserve, He paid the price for me. And He paid the price for you also.
(Rembrandt picture) – “The Raising of the Cross”. Note figure at Christ’s feet – it is Rembrandt himself. (detail on transparency).
I want to invite you to come to the cross this morning. To reflect on what the death of Jesus means for you, and for our world. I want to invite you to come to the cross this morning – but I don’t want you to come empty handed. I invite you to bring with you five things:
Come to the Cross: bring your sin
Good Friday must be a day of repentance. How can we gather around the cross, remember Jesus’ death for us, because of our sin, without searching our hearts and souls for the places where we have turned away? For the times we have been disobedient? For the habits we entertain that are wrong?
I don’t know why we carry our sin along with us. I do it too – instead of quickly running to Jesus, instead of running to the cross where I find forgiveness, sometimes I carry my sin around. I feel badly about it, but probably because of shame I don’t take it to Jesus right away. I’m ashamed to admit that, yes, I did it again. You know what this is like? It’s like getting all dressed up for an important party. And then as we walk out the door we see a big mud pile, and for whatever reason end up falling (jumping?) into it. But then instead of running back inside and getting cleaned up, we sit there feeling bad. Feeling sorry for ourselves. Feeling too ashamed. But while we sit there, we are missing the party. The festival is going on without us! My friends, let us hurry back and get cleaned off. Let us come quickly to the cross when we have sinned, and confess it and ask for forgiveness. Our Lord promised through John that “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9).
And here is the strange thing: as you bring your sin, you will find it is already there. You will find that Jesus already carries it, it is already on His shoulders, the penalty has been already paid. He is just waiting for us to let it go. To trust Him with it. And then to walk away free and whole.
Come to the cross. Bring your sin, and receive forgiveness.
Come to the Cross: bring your thankfulness
The second thing I invite you to bring to the cross is your thankfulness. Gratitude.
Imagine being sentenced to death. Imagine that you had commited a crime for which death was the punishment. You hear the verdict: “guilty.” You hear the sentence: “death.” Then you hear something else. A man in the back of the room steps forward, walks up the the gaurds who have you by the arm, and gently pulls the gaurds hands off of you. He offers His wrists, and they place the cuffs on Him, and march Him off to prison in your place. You are free to go; another has taken your place.
How would you feel towards that man? Certainly you would feel gratitude. Indebted. Maybe a little guilty that someone else took the punishment you deserved. But years later, as you watched your children grow and your friendships deepen and your face aging in the mirror, you would know – you would remember – that someone else gave their life so that you could live.