The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving God our Father, today we gather with all those who mourn over the sin of humanity. Sin that required the sacrifice of a sinless Son of God, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Help us to experience, in a tangible way, Your presence in our lives and our worship. Open our hearts and minds that we may once again be drawn to the ‘lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Saviour and Lord, Amen.
I remember an image on Facebook that quoted Zig Ziegler.
F-E-A-R has two meanings …
Forget Everything And Run
Face Everything And Rise.
Today especially, we discover the reality of what Ziegler shares with us. Good Friday vividly shows the contrast between our Saviour Jesus Christ, the believers who followed him, and the society who determined to destroy him. And it poses a unique opportunity for us to face everything that would try to destroy our faith, and rise above it to preserve our trust in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Our Lord Jesus Christ faced everything when he sacrificed himself in crucifixion. He protected us from all that separates us from God, by being separated himself when he covered himself with our sin. He opened eternity for us when he spent three days confined to hell offloading all those sins in a place designed for Satan and his dominion. He made all the difference when he was raised again in victory and promised to be with us until the very end of the age. We have been redeemed from destruction when God entered humanity in his Son our Saviour. We received life eternal when Jesus died on a cross as a sacrifice for us.
In Matthew’s Gospel, we discover a description of the redemption we have in Christ Jesus. The temple curtain was torn in two when Jesus breathed his last. God removed every obstacle between people and himself. God demonstrated that the death of Christ Jesus opened up for us access to the Holy of holies—to the very presence of God.
The writer of Hebrews recalls this event, “we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.”
John’s Gospel tells us that when Jesus was baptised in the Jordan River, God spoke to him, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” These were words of promise and victory. When Jesus died on the cross, he cried out the words “It is finished”, this too was a cry of victory. Jesus accomplished what God, his Father, had sent him into humanity to do.
Jesus faced everything and overcame the final temptation in accepting death on our behalf. Like others who face everything and rise. It is like the athlete who enters a marathon race with the single-minded intention of both reaching the finishing line and coming in first. It is like the student who finally reaches the goal of graduation with a degree after years of study. It is like the author or artist, who after years of research and struggle finally complete their masterpiece, their most significant and enduring work. It is like a survivor after great suffering who recuperates completely.
For John the words of Jesus, “It is finished,” are the epitome of Christ’s life and ministry; the words are spoken by the King of kings on his throne of pain, which was the cross.
Jesus won the victory over sin, evil and death by willingly, and lovingly allowing himself to submit to these powers. In so doing, he defeated them. People no longer need priests or holy men to stand between us and God. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we can boldly enter into God’s presence. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, ‘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.’ Because he faced everything and rose to the challenge.
As we confront the gruesome death of Christ Jesus, we also confront our response to the new relationship we have with God through his sacrifice. We can determine not to take God for granted. Not to live our lives as if Jesus had never entered humanity. But instead to celebrate our new relationship with God every day through the words we use, the actions we take, and the attitudes we adopt. We can face everything we encounter in our Christian life, and we can rise above the temptation and challenge to live with joy in our lives.
We are all part of God’s plan. We are all destined for a place in eternity with our Saviour. We only need accept that plan. And let the Holy Spirit guide us day by day, step by step, bravely toward our destiny as children of God.
It will not be easy, and we will never be perfect, but we can be confident that God is not finished with us yet.
It is clear to me that if I am to faithfully fulfil my part in God’s plan, I need to be steady in my relationship to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I can do this by remaining in fellowship with Christ Jesus and with others in our community who also believe in Jesus as Saviour.
As Hebrews puts it, ‘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.’
By his death on the cross, Christ Jesus faced everything and rose to his rightful place in eternity. He will return once more, briefly, to bring all things to conclusion in the plan of God our Father. Yes, “It is finished,” But it is far from over. By his death, life has begun.
Each day we live, we are closer to the day that Christ Jesus will return in glory. Whether he calls us home, or he returns, we will glorify him with our knees bowed, our hearts filled with song, and our lives surrounded with his love. And for this, our only response can be “Thank you Jesus!”
As we face every difficulty in our lives, our Saviour is calling us to face everything and rise, and to respond by living our salvation; by loving each other, caring for those around us, as we let it begin with us, in our worshipping community.
May the Holy Spirit set our hearts and lives ablaze for Christ Jesus to the Glory of God our Father, and may the grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev David Thompson.