Week Commencing 25th March 2018 With a PDF found here
Notes for next Sunday’s sermons on Good Friday and Easter Day
On Good Friday this year, we’ll explore three passages from the Epistles which speak very clearly about the theology of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Romans 5:1-5
- 1 Peter 2:18-25
- 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
On Easter Day, we’ll look at the astonishing news the angels at the empty tomb had for the women who had arrived early to anoint Jesus’ body – He is not here, he is risen – Luke 24:1ff
DAY 1: Read Romans 5:1-5
The ‘therefore’ at the beginning of the passage, alerts us to the fact that what is being taught, arises directly from the previous chapter, namely that Abraham was not put right with God through the law, but by trusting God. Similarly, God will credit us with righteousness (the declaration that we are ‘right with him’) when we believe (trust) Jesus who died and rose again for this very purpose.
Therefore, since we have been justified (ie, declared to be right with God), through faith (ie, but trusting), we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is entirely through the action of Jesus – by his death and resurrection – that we have gained access into this grace by which we now stand before God as righteous. And we rejoice in the hope of glory – that is – we look forward with joyful anticipation to that great day when we will literally stand in his presence. This makes our suffering for Jesus, bearable, because we know that we have a hope which is far better than anything this world can provide! Our hope (in the future glorious kingdom), is confirmed in our hearts by God’s Holy Spirit at work in our hearts.
In vv5-8, Paul wants to make sure that we understand that all of this – our justification – our standing before God – our joy – our hope – is entirely God’s doing and none of ours. So he points about that we were completely powerless to do anything about our situation – we were still sinners – but Christ died for the ungodly thereby demonstrating powerfully and clearly, his amazing love for us.
This Easter, I want you to be entirely clear about this: you were undeserving, lost, without hope and cut off from God. But God loved you so much, that he sent his Son Jesus to die for you, even when your back was turned against him, so that you could be cleared and thereby be declared ‘right’ with God. It wasn’t because he foresaw you would turn to him. It wasn’t because he thought you had potential. It wasn’t because he thought you weren’t too bad! It was simply because he set his heart on you. Yes, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
DAY 2: Read 1 Peter 2:18-25
Our focus from this passage on Friday will of course be vv21-24. In encouraging slaves to bear with suffering for good and enduring it, Peter is not endorsing slavery or harsh treatment of slaves. He is merely addressing the reality of life in his time and helping slaves so suffering to endure, with the example of the Lord Jesus Christ firmly fixed in their hearts. Jesus’ suffering ‘for good’ was the supreme example in such suffering.
As Peter lays Jesus’ example before them, we gain insight into the theological significance of Jesus’ suffering. Remember that Jesus had committed no sin. He didn’t deceive. He didn’t retaliate when insulted, he didn’t make threats when he suffered. Rather, in all that he went through, he continued to trust God, knowing that God is just.
What was the point though of Jesus’ suffering? He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins, and live for righteousness.
In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the worshipper would symbolically transfer their sin to the animal which was then slaughtered in its place. Yet that sacrifice, was only symbolic and always pointed forward to the cross, where Jesus actually bore our sins. He bore our sins, points out Peter, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness. That is, so that sin’s penalty (death) would be taken and sin’s power (hold over us) would be broken resulting in us being able therefore, to live out our status of being right with God. When he adds by his wounds you are healed, this has nothing to do with healing illness. Jesus’ death on the cross was for the ultimate healing of the broken relationship between us and God, not so we could be healed from a cold or a cancer! Oh yes, there will be no more sickness and death and dying in the new kingdom, and sometimes we are given a glimpse of that now as a friend is healed, but that healing is not because of Jesus’ death on the cross, but because he comes in power to make all things right.
This Good Friday, come to church with a thankful heart, that your sin has been borne by Jesus on the cross and rejoice that sin’s penalty has been taken and sin’s power over you broken, enabling you to say ‘no’ to sin and ‘yes’ to all that is right!
DAY 3: Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Do you want to know what happened on Good Friday? Here it is: v19 God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. How? How did he reconcile the world to himself? v21 – God made him who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.
This is as simple as it is profound. Sinless Jesus became sin. That is, he took on our sin. Sinless Jesus bore the weight of the sin of the world over all time! He did that so that through him, we might become (be declared) right with God. A great exchange has taken place. Our sin was put on Jesus. Jesus’ righteousness (the state of being right with God) was put on us. By that means, through that kind generosity, everything that cut us off from God has been removed, so that we might be wonderfully reconciled to him.
What’s so good about Good Friday? While we were sinners Christ died for us. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree. God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, not counting people’s sins against them! That’s why Good Friday is worth celebrating – yes, celebrating. Of course it’s a sobering day because the seriousness of our rebellion, took the death of sinless Jesus to address. But it’s a great day – because the impact of our rebellion has indeed been addressed, so that we are now declared to be right with God! Alleluia!
DAY 4: Read Luke 24:1-8
Jesus didn’t stay dead! How gloriously wonderful! When the women who were planning to anoint Jesus’ body arrived at the tomb, the stone sealing the entrance had been rolled away. The message from the messengers could not have been clearer: He is not here; he has risen! Jesus had told his disciples on at least three occasions that this would be the case: but to no avail; they had been kept from understanding. Now, however, everything began to fall into place and they remembered his words. Jesus is alive today! His resurrection from the dead is his victory over sin and death and the sure sign he was who he claimed to be! My prayer is that Easter 2018 will bring great joy, as your see with great clarity, why that first Easter weekend, changed the world forever!