Friday, April 22, 2011

Sermon for Good Friday (by lay-reader Brian Popp)

IT IS FINISHED - JESUS’ VICTORY ON THE CROSS

Have you ever considered what difference the death of Jesus on the cross on Good Friday has made in your life? Has it changed the way you practice your faith? Is it a contributing factor to how you view life after death? Do you truly believe the story of Jesus death and resurrectio and its meaning to our Christian faith? How confident are you in your eternal future?

Our gospel reading from John this morning encompasses the arrest, trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus. It is an amazing story about the VICTORY of Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God and Son of Man. It includes the last days of His life on earth including the denial of Him by Peter to His horrible suffering and death at the hands of an unruly Jewish mob and corrupt, if not cowardly, leaders like Annas, Caiaphas and Pilate who feared Him and weren't quite sure how to handle Him! Pilate finally bows to the mob and Jesus is crucified on the cross at Golgotha.

I have had a challenging time trying to decide what topic to speak to this morning because of the many themes in the Bible readings for Good Friday. After considerable thought and prayer I have decided to spend a few minutes discussing Jesus' last words on the cross before he gave up the spirit - IT IS FINISHED! The meaning of these words has always intrigued me so I decided to do some research! It is worth noting that these words are only found in John's Gospel. They are not contained in the gospels of Matthew, Mark or Luke. The Apostle John may have been an eye witness to the crucifixion of Jesus! (John 19:35 "He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.")

Together we have just read the entire story from John's gospel describing the sequence of events leading up to Jesus final words on the cross when he shouted " IT IS FINISHED". Then He bowed His head and gave up the spirit. These final words are a CRY OF VICTORY!

John 19:28 states : ” Jesus knew that all was now finished”. He was aware of every Scripture that spoke of His atoning death as the promised Messiah. In the last few weeks of His life Jesus had been orchestrating events so that His death would fulfill all prophecies. For example, he fulfilled the ultimate commitment to reconciliation through sacrifice. He willingly gave His own life so that we might live! As Isaiah 53:6 states:

"All we like sheep have gone astray;

We have all turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on Him

the iniquity of us all."

Let us now consider three main themes underlying the actions Jesus took to help fulfill the promise made about his crucifixion and subsequent death on the cross.

The first of these themes is His obedience to His Father.

As a child growing up in rural Saskatchewan I followed my father's direction and advice on most things. I remember him telling me not to become a health care administrator - my chosen profession for over 40 years! I wasn't always an obedient son!

Jesus knew His role in life from a very young age. Matthew 1:21 states that

"She will bear a Son and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

Our reading from Hebrews 5 this morning also tells us in verse 8

"Although He was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered."

His life on earth was spent teaching and preaching the word of God. There was no doubt about the Father's expectations. He knew what his demise would be. Every part of Jesus' life and passion was not only the Father's plan of redemption but a consequence of the Son's obedience to it. Jesus was crucified with prior knowledge of the Father.

Jesus’ knowledge that all was now completed in John 19:28 was His awareness that all of the steps that had brought Him to the point of pain and impending death were in the design of His Heavenly Father. The completion of Jesus work is the fulfillment of Scripture and the performance of the Father's will." IT IS FINISHED" in John 19:30 represents the triumphant completion of Jesus' work here on earth, not a moan of defeat. The death of Jesus is His own act of love and obedience to the Father. It is the "finishing" of the work He was born to do (and died doing)!

Our second theme centers around the fact that Jesus willingly and triumphantly died on the cross for us. He lovingly accepted the role that had been given to Him by the Father at birth. As the Son of Man he willingly accepted his role as teacher and preacher. He experienced the pain and suffering of a human being and the persecution from those who would not or could not accept Him as their Lord and Saviour. He was a willing sufferer. His heart was set on the salvation of sinners.

All His suffering was endured voluntarily and of His own free will. Even when he was convicted by the mob who shouted "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" he carried His own cross like a common criminal ! He declined the sour wine offered by the soldiers to relieve His pain and suffering. He finally shouts "IT IS FINISHED" to signify the successful completion of His life here on earth and His commitment to save sinners and dies on the cross for us! These final words were a cry of VICTORY - not defeat!

The third theme confirms for us that His death on the cross affords us the opportunity for eternal salvation. Hebrews 5:9 says,

"And having been made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him"

Jesus suffering and death on the cross was necessary for our salvation. We must trust and believe as Christians that there was a purpose behind the sacrifice of God’s only Son for our salvation. I’m certain many of us remember learning and memorizing John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life”.

The terror of death has been defused by God’s love for us. As believers we have a unique opportunity from God but we must receive and appropriate it for ourselves. Jesus says in Matthew 10:38 :

"Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me!"

Therein lies the challenge - how do we become worthy of Him? Surely it is by turning to Him in gratitude for what He has done for us on the Cross, and in putting our trust in Him to save us, and in taking His love and obedience on the Cross as the pattern for our daily lives!

I have shared with you my understanding of what Jesus encompassed in His final words from

the cross - "IT IS FINISHED".

While His life here on earth was finished because He had accomplished His role as given to Him by His Father our role may only be starting! We have much to do to become disciples here on earth and teach the true meaning of the crucifixion.

Have you contemplated the questions I posed at the beginning of my sermon? What difference has Jesus death on the cross made in your life? I'm not sure there are any easy answers. Let me suggest something in closing. Proverbs 3:5 offers:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight!"

Pray that Jesus final words on the cross - "IT IS FINISHED" may kindle hope and joy in your heart that your renewed faith journey might begin !

Finally, in the words of the first verse of an 18th century hymn :

"Tis Finished! so the Saviour cried,

And meekly bowed His head and died;

"Tis Finished - yes the race is run,

The battle fought, the Victory won."

AMEN

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