Readings for Good Friday
First Reading: Isaiah 52:13-53:12 The Suffering Servant of God
13 See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. 14 Many were amazed when they saw him—beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know he was a person. 15 And he will again startle many nations. Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For they will see what they had not previously been told about; they will understand what they had not heard about.
53 Who has believed our message? To whom will the LORD reveal his saving power? 2 My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. 3 He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care.
4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows* that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! 5 But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed!
Sermon – Good Friday
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving God and Father, today we gather with all those who mourn over the fall of humanity.
Our Lord Jesus counseled the Apostle Thomas after his resurrection “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV)
The Epistle of Hebrews encourages us that ‘faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. They were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.’ (Hebrews 11:1-2,39–40 NIV)
And Hebrews goes on to say that ‘ since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2 NIV)
Then the Apostle Peter wrote ‘To those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.’ (2 Peter 1:1–2 NIV)
So here we are together, honouring the sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God. We haven’t seen him teaching and healing in the Temple. We haven’t seen him being questioned by the religious leaders, and the Roman Governor. We haven’t seen him being whipped for our transgressions. We haven’t seen him ridiculed by the pagan soldiers. We haven’t seen him hanging on a cross. But we believe.
We have learned from the ancients of faith, that God prepared the world through his prophets for the arrival of a Saviour and Messiah. The arrival they only hoped for, but we have heard about from the Scriptures that witness what we have not seen, but believe.
We have received the encouragement that the faith we have in our Saviour is as precious, as valid, as powerful, as important as the faith of the Apostles, the Prophets, the Ancients of the Faith. Even our nearer forefathers of the Reformation who quoted the reality of Scripture that we are in a right relationship with God our Father, through the faith we have in Christ Jesus who sacrificed himself on the cross of crucifixion.
When Jesus whispered from the cross that “It is finished,” we can be assured that it was the end of the beginning of God’s presence among us, and the beginning of life in the presence of God’s eternity.
In the game of chess, there are three distinct patterns of the game. The opening, the middle game and the end game.
The opening when chess pieces are moved into place with purpose and plan, containing distinct advantages and weaknesses. The middle game when pieces are exchanged, and vulnerabilities are capitalized upon while advantages are championed. And the end game when the ultimate conclusion is played out with a sense of predestination, that both sides really expect.
Life is certainly not a game, but life does have similar patterns. We see from Scripture the opening pattern of life – with creation, then failure then flood then re-creation.
We see the middle pattern with selection of a man of faith, Abraham, and a covenant relationship with a nation, again failure and judgment and revival, played out over generations with the foresight of prophets and the actions of kings. Empires and nations rising and falling. We see the conclusion of the middle game with the birth, life and crucifixion of God’s Son, who entered humanity to usher in a new covenant between God and the people he loves so much.
And we see the beginning of the end game pattern with the resurrection, the call to discipleship, and the unfolding of history into the future from Apostles to modern Christianity.
All with a sure conclusion of utter defeat on the part of the devil and people of unfaith; and the ultimate victory of God’s plan. A plan for those through time and place who received Christ Jesus, those who believed in his name, those to whom God gave the right to become his children.’
We are part of this end-game strategy of life that God has willed when he scooped some dust together and breathed life into humanity. Because Jesus Christ fulfilled God’s plan for salvation, as he cried, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
For us now, in our generation, in our time, and in our place, we are called to be faithful in living the faith we have received by the Holy Spirit working in word and sacrament.
We are warned from Hebrews, ‘Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.’
As we approach the conclusion of our age, and the revealed victory of God’s plan for life, we are given the task to hold onto the faith we have received. To witness that faith by our actions, our attitudes and our words, as we play out our part of life as children of God who can be trusted.
To encourage each other, as we all face those times when we are tempted to doubt that final victory lies with those who believe.
To find enjoyment, fulfillment, and purpose in meeting together in fellowship as our hearts sing together the praises of our Saviour who died for us.
This is especially important now that we are closer to our Lord’s return than ever before in history. When we witness events and hostilities that surely point to the end of times. And yet, we realize as Jesus tells us clearly that only the Father knows when he will wrap up our game of life, close up his board of this age, and invite us to his after party at the great feast before he reveals whatever next he has instore for us. And it will be wonderful.
Because of Good Friday, we can hear the words of Hebrews with a new direction in our life, ‘dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. This is the new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us through the sacred curtain, by means of his death for us.’
As we face every difficulty in our lives, our Saviour is calling us to respond by recognising his presence with prayer, and living our salvation; by loving each other, and caring for those around us; by reaching out to someone who hasn’t yet confronted the death of our Saviour. Who hasn’t yet accepted the salvation that our Saviour offers from his glory through his resurrection.
And so, today, as we grieve the suffering and death of our Saviour, and we prepare to celebrate His awesome resurrection, let’s hold onto these words of Hebrews, ‘without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.’ And may the grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
Rev David Thompson.