I want to start and say what an honor it is to be here preaching to you on Good Friday. A very special day to be worshipping and what a great honor to get to be a part of worship with you. This day is a day of remembrance of what our God did for us. A day of remembrance of the punishment that set us free from sin and death.
As I prayed and prepared for this lesson I thought of the common verses used to talk about the cross, but did not feel led to them. I was leaning toward Deuteronomy 21: 23 “his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.” And the theme I have tonight comes from there but I’m going to start in the beginning, because to truly appreciate the cross we have to see its purpose.
(Holding up a cross on a necklace) Everybody knows what this is. Some of you may have one around your neck right now. A cross is one of the most popular and cultural divisive symbols there are. You see it around peoples necks, tattooed on their bodies, hanging on the walls of their house. People see the cross and regardless of whether they are a Christian or not they immediately think that it is the symbol of where Jesus died. They may even know that the cross represents forgiveness of our sin. I remember a popular song on the radio when I was a teenager and a line in it said, “She wears a cross around her neck…” A line later it finishes,”…And the cross is from someone she had not met.”
A lot of people cling to the cross for salvation but they do not understand the cross. They do not know the Man, the God that hung upon it for the salvation of His people. The cross should break us down every time we think about it.
An example; my father passed away a couple of years ago. My mom keeps pictures of him everywhere, but the one that I want to use as an example of the cross is the one she has on the dash of her van. Every time she checks her speed or gas level or anything that makes the vehicle go she sees the picture of my dad. She is then reminded of the man that gave 42 years of his life to her. This can lead to a smile as she remembers him, or tears as she misses him.
The cross should be that picture for us. We should smile as we think of how much God loves us. We should smile when we think of the things He has done for us, and tears should come when we think of the sacrifice and pain our sin placed upon Him. The cross should represent something that tears us apart.
Two of my favorite verses in the bible are Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… And John 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
These two verses bring me to my knees when I think of what they mean. Colossians 1:16 kind of finishes up this thought. …all things were created through him and for him. You see Jesus was there in the beginning where it says God created the Heaven and Earth. And when God said Let us make man in our image. It was Jesus He was talking to. Okay that is simple and not so overwhelming, but Jesus is the Alpha and Omega he knows the end from the beginning. So when God said let us make man in our image Jesus knew about Genesis 3. It wasn’t a surprise when Eve ate the fruit. And He knew the consequence and He knew what He would have to do to fix it.
So Genesis 3 God places Adam and Eve in a garden tells them this is all for you but in the middle of the garden are two trees. One is majestic it brings life it allows you to forever walk in my presence but the other tree is horrible. It brings with it death and evil stay away from it.
So what is the first thing they do, of course eat the forbidden fruit. So this brings sin into the world, a curse and death. Just like Adam we will sin given the first chance.
Now we jump forward several thousand years. Jesus comes to the Earth as a man with a mission. From the day he was born He was heading straight for the cross. All of Jesus life was spent heading to the cross.
As Jesus preached and was persecuted He knew the cross awaited him so that he could bring about forgiveness for the ones that were persecuting Him. Jesus stepped down from heaven to take His place on the cross to pay our debt.
So when we see a cross what should we see. Over a100 years ago preacher named J.C. Ryle did a sermon entitled Freedom. In it he mentions 8 things Christ accomplished on the cross. I’m going to use his list as the basis of what I’m going to say.
On the cross Christ stood in our place. Christ did not sin against God. You and I did. We were the ones in rebellion against God. Only one sin on our part is necessary to send us to hell. We have committed more than one sin against God. So we stand condemned to die
But Christ died on the cross in our place. I don’t think we fully grasp that we have a fear of dying; we mourn those we lose to death. We don’t fully understand what it means that Christ died in our place. If you are a Christian you will not die. Christ has already done that for you. Death here is just the beginning. A caterpillar was not born to be a caterpillar but to be a butterfly. He just has to wrap himself in a cocoon to get to what he was truly meant to be. If you are a Christian this is not what you were meant to be this is just preparation for something much more beautiful that Christ made possible for you.
Because of our sin we were meant to suffer. Because of Christ taking our place on the cross, we do not have to suffer. Our happiness should not depend on anything in this world our hope and happiness should be placed solely on the work Christ did upon the cross.
There was a curse upon us. It was placed there when Adam sinned in Genesis 3. But Christ removed that curse. Deuteronomy 21:23 said that a man hung upon a tree became a curse. Christ hanging on the cross became our curse. He took it from us and removed it.
He paid the debt we owed God and made restitution for our sin. There is no way we could have accomplished that but because of the cross and Christ we do not have to. Our sin is removed when we truly trust in Christ.
The cross became our guarantee. Because of it we have hope in a promise. A promise of eternal life; of life in the presence of God. When you look at a cross that should bring a smile. That is your deed of entitlement. Everything you owed God was paid right there. Your freedom from sin was paid. Your fear of dying was removed, because now you have the guarantee of eternal life.
The last thing is Christ on the cross became the representative of his people. Christ humbled himself to die for your sin. Christ humbled Himself to make eternal life with the Father possible for you. The cross should remind us to humble ourselves for others. It should remind us to make sacrifices to bring others to see the cross for what it is.
The cross should remind us that that everything we do should be part of our mission of heading towards eternity. That we have a promise and hope that nothing can take away from us. The cross should be a reminder of how much God loves us.