Good Friday 2023
Join us as we look to the cross and remember What He's Done for us on Calvary.
Sometimes it is hard to process truth you don’t really want to hear. Take the disciples as a case study They were so excited about the Messiah walking among and leading them with amazing teaching and even more jaw-dropping miracles, they utterly failed to comprehend how the tragedy of His death had to preceed the triumph of His life. Yes, they didn’t understand how His degradation had to preceed His exaltation.
Yet when that fateful Friday occurred, none of them could say, “We had no idea this would happen.” They couldn’t make this statement for He had continually told them how His redemptive plan would unfold prior to the establishment of His kingdom plan.
- After the miracle of turing vast amounts of water into wine at the beginning of His ministry at a wedding, He, who would become the Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7), traveled up to the mountain city of Jerusalem to observe the feast. It would be the first of three (John 2:23; 6:4; 11:55), and possibly four (John 5:1), Passovers He would observe. After clearing the Temple precincts of greedy moneychangers making vast amounts of money selling sheep and doves to would-be worshippers at inflated prices, certain angry Jews wanted to know who gave Him the authority to kick these businessmen out with a whip. They wanted a sign to verify His authority, so He gave them one: “19Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20 The Jews therefore said, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body (John 2). He told them they would kill him, but He would raise His body up, but nobody was listening.
- After Christ’s transfiguration and expulsion of the demon from the little boy afterward, Jesus met privately with His disciples and told them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day” (Matt. 17:22). His statement grieved them, but they really didn’t get it.
- Speaking to Jews about how He was the Good and True Shepherd, He told them He would also be the Father’s sacrifice for His chosen sheep: “15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 "And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd. 17 "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 "No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father" (John 10). Here they learned that His impending death would be something He would completely control, and His resurrection also be orchestrated by Him. Yet, again, no one was listening.
- When He verbally took the hypocritical, vile, and power-hungry Pharisees to the proverbial theological woodshed in Matthew 12 after they attributed His miracles to the power of Satan, they arrogantly wanted a sign from Him to verify His identity.He gave it to them, but His revelation went over their heads: 38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." 39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 "The men of Nineveh shall stand up with this generation at the judgment, and shall condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here (Matt. 12). Imagine the hubris of their question. He had just shown Him His deity by restoring the withered hand of the man (Matt. 12:13). How did they respond? They wanted to kill Him (Matt. 12:14) for He defied their rules, regulations, and authority. Later they sought a sign to establish His divine credentials. What more did they need? He gave them a sign all right. He would permit them to place Him in the earth by killing Him, and then the implication was that He, like Jonah, would arise to life. Sad, the Ninevites repented at the witness of one godly man who performed no miracles, but the Jews of Christ’s day would not repent when the God-man walked among them and verified His identity with outright organic miracles. How hard is man’s heart? Hard enough to move to kill the God-man Jesus, but He was in control of even that move on their part.
Jesus told the people and His disciples on numerous occasions He had come first to die, but no one seemed to wrap their minds around His prophetic utterance.
The people, however, along with their leaders, wasted no time trying to help Him fulfill this stated life goal.
- When He started His ministry by telling His hometown folks in Nazareth during a synagogue reading from the Prophets He was, in fact, the messianic fulfillment of Isaiah’s seven-hundred-year-old prophecy (Isa. 61:1-2a; Luke 4:16ff), they didn’t take the news too well. Immeidately they went out of their minds and tried to silence Him: 28 And all in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; 29 and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff (Luke 4). Here’s a picture of the cliffs in the area. What happened? Luke tells us: 30 But passing through their midst, He went His way (Lk. 4). Amazing. He just quietly and unnoticeably just slipped through their murderous midst. Why did He escape? Because it wasn’t the right day and time for His prophesied death. The fateful Friday was still coming.
- Later as hatred and opposition to His truthful teaching soard as the religious and political leaders whipped the people into a feeding frenzy over getting Jesus, He covertly had to slip into Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:10). While there, He strategically and courageously showed up at the Temple. It didn’t take long for Him to start speaking truth about His mission and person and also taking the false teaching of the Pharisees to task. They tried to arrest Him but couldn’t (John 7:32-33). However, when He told them that He was none other than the great I Am, the God of the Old Testament (John 8:58). they went berzerk. What did they do? They picked up stones to stone my Jesus, your Jesus, for blasphemy, but He, once again, passed unnoticed right through their murderous midst (John 8:59). Why did He escape? Because it wasn’t the right day and time for His death. The fateful Friday was still coming.
- When He traveled to Jerusalem later to observe the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, the festival of lights, He, again, boldly entered the Temple Mount to teach. He didn’t mince words nor seek to speak in a congenial, meek fashion. On the contrary, He went so far as to say that He and the Holy Father were one (John 10:30). How did the leaders respond? As they typically did as He continued to get to them by challenging their false teaching and worthless traditions with outright truth backed up by hard, empirical miraculous evidence: they grabbed stones to stone my Jesus and your Jesus for blasphemy (John 10:33). What did He do? John says, “He escaped out of their hand” (John 10:39). At one point, they had Him in their sights, and then He just melted away somehow into the murderous mob. Why did He escape? Because it wasn’t the right day, the right time, or the right religious feast for His prophesied death. Also, the fateful Friday was still coming.
He used His divine powers to escape the murderous intentions of the crowds and religious and political leaders on more occasions than the ones we have briefly mentioned.
But we all know He eventually permitted them to arrest Him in the middle of the night in a lonely garden located due east of the Temple Mount across the Kidron Valley on the Mount of Olives.
- He could have kept Judas from betraying Him, but He didn’t, for He had a divine rendezvous with that fateful Friday of Passover.
- He could have called upon legions of angels to escort Him out of the garden that night, but He didn’t, for He had a divine rendezvous with that fateful Friday of Passover.
- He could have allowed Peter to defend Him with his sword in a Samson-like fashion, but He didn’t, for He had a divine rendezvous with that fateful Friday of Passover.
- He could have more than just physically leveled the temple police when they showed up to cart Him away on trumped-up charges (John 18:6), He could have vaporized them with a word, but He didn’t, for He had a divine rendezvous with that fateful Friday of Passover.
- He could have successfully and logically dismantled everything the power-hungry and jealous religious and political leaders said about Him at their three highly illegal and trumped-up trails in the middle of the night (John 18, Trial before Annas; Matt. 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18:24, Trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin; Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 22, Trail before the Sanhedrin), but He didn’t, for He had a divine rendezvous with that fateful Friday of Passover.
- He could have taken apart weak, gutless, and ruthless Roman and Jewish rulers like Pilate and Herod Antipas in His three illegal trials before them (Matt. 27:2-14; John 18:28-38, First Roman Phase before Pilate; Luke 23:6-12, Second Roman Phase before Herod Antipas; and Matt. 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15, Third Roman Phase before Pilate), but He didn’,t for He had a divine rendezvous with that fateful Friday of Passover. For the most part, His paltry verbal defense condemned them and validated His utter innocence.
So, not wanting to offend or inflame his volatile Jewish base, Pilate washed his hands of Jesus and sent Him to be crucified. Imagine the horror of this decision.
- Law didn’t matter. Lawlessness mattered.
- Truth didn’t matter. Falsity mattered.
- Legal order didn’t matter. Legal disorder mattered.
- Facts didn’t matter. Disinformation mattered.
- The life of an innocent man didn’t matter. Death mattered because it would finally silence Him . . . or so they thought.
In the middle of all of this injustice, murderous hatred, and lust for power, the Holy Trinity was at work executing to a tee its well-orchestrated redemptive plan, a plan they had devised long before the world was formed (1 Pet. 1:20). What did that plan consist of? It consisted of Jesus hanging on a cross to pay the penalty, as the true Passover Lamb, for our sins, as prophesied (Isa. 53).
At 9 a.m. on Friday morning, the Jews got what they wanted all along Jesus on a cross. They failed to realize, however, that they only had Him this time because He had permitted it. Why did He permit it now? Because now it was the right feast, day, and time for Him to fulfill His mission to be our Sacrifice so He could become our Savior at the moment of our childlike faith. So, apart from what the rulers thought, despite the joy they shared as they had finally got Him, He was right where He needed to be: nailed to a cross meant for sinners.
At noon, the Holy Father turned the lights of the cosmos down, and an eerie darkness descended on the world as the time approached for the Son of God to complete His final and ferocious battle with sin and evil.
At precisely 3 p.m., my Jesus, your Jesus pierced the darkness with a powerful, piercing scream of victory: It is finished (John 19:30). What was finished? God’s program to secure forgiveness for sinners by permitting His only Son to become our Passover Lamb. Was it by chance that this all occurred at 3 p.m.? No. As life flowed out of Christ’s beaten and battered body just outside the northwestern wall of the city of Jerusalem, the final blood of the final lamb sacrifice for Passover was sprinkled on the fiery altar in front of the Temple.
Priests formed two lines just to the north of the altar where the final lamb was slain. Some held small golden bowls, and others small silver bowls. As the blood drained from the little, lifeless lamb, the priests collected it in these bowls and passed them from priest to priest until they reached the final priest. He sprinkled the blood on the altar to verify that God’s fiery wrath was diverted from sinners to the chosen sacrifice. The empty and full bowls kept being passed until all the blood was applied to the altar, and the entire process finished precisely at 3 p.m.
The death of the greater Lamb, Jesus, is what counted that day at precisely 3 p.m. He controlled His whole death cycle all the way up to that fateful hour. When He screamed, “It is finished” (John 19:30). you would no longer need a lamb to secure coverage for your sin before the Holy Trinity. No, now you could have the blood of the Lamb of the most perfect and powerful Passover sacrifice ever given to mankind to cleanse your life from sin’s dreadful, deadly stain. All of this is why Paul could write later to Roman Christians:
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5).
Ah, there it is: “at the right time . . .” The time was 3 p.m. It was the time when THE Passover Lamb, Jesus, accomplished what all of these little Passover lambs sacrificed at the same time could never do.
Ostensibly, what has my Jesus and your Jesus secured for sinners like us as our Passover Lamb? Paul answers us in the ensuing three verses:
7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him (Rom. 5).
He has saved me. Has He saved you? If not, turn to Him in faith right now. If He has saved you, praise Him for a perfect redemptive plan executed with military precision.