Happy Good Friday. Why is Good Friday called ‘Good’? It is a joyful day, even if it is the most solemn day in the church calendar. If you do a Google search you will find a supply of answers to this question with no certainty landing on any of them. One explanation is that the title is unique to the English language and is derived from the old English designation, ‘God’s Friday. Today, we as believers have come to “celebrate” the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Every year Christmas and Easter are celebrated with great excitement and much money is spent on advertising, on gifts, on parties and even church ceremonies. We celebrate our Lord Jesus birth at Christmas and His resurrection at Easter, but have you ever wondered why there is no celebration for His death?
In the four Gospels, more is written about our Lord Jesus’ death than about His life. God obviously wanted to emphasise His Son’s death, while man wants to smother it. I think that it is so because of the shame that the only sinless and perfect man who ever lived and will ever live was cruelly murdered by those He had created and whom He came to save. What happened at Calvary shows how wicked and sinful man really is. 1 Timothy 1 verse 15 reminds us that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”.
I am going to read a few verses to remind us about what our Lord Jesus endured on our behalf so that we can celebrate Good Friday
Galatians 3 verse 13 reminds us that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’”
Isaiah 53 verse 5 says “He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” – Our Lord Jesus was pierced. We sinned. He was crushed. Think about that
1 Peter 2 verse 24 says “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree.”
Colossians 2 verse 14 says, God cancelled “the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.”
I get this picture in my mind of when the nails were put into our Lord’s wrists, a big book was inserted between the nail and His hand called “the record of Maurice Espin’s debts,” and it was driven through the record into His wrist, into the wood of the cross, and that record was sorted out, paid, finished! Alleluia, What a Saviour!
These are wonderful truths for us believers and reminds us of what an Awesome Saviour and God we serve.
But I want you to stop and think that today we should also be grieving, because there are millions of people across the globe who have turned away from those truths and continue to revel in their sins, but we should not be surprised, as the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1 verse 23 that the Gospel was “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles”.
What does sin do to God, and how is this set right?
Sin dishonours God. It detracts from His glory. It belittles Him. It treats Him as inferior in value to what we prefer in our sinful desire. I think that is what sin is. This is why the most important paragraph on the atonement in the Bible contains the words from Romans 3 verse 23 which says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” So sin robs God of His glory.
This is the greatest reason for the death of our Lord Jesus — He came to repair the injury we had done to the glory of God.
In Philippians 2 verses 1-11 we are reminded that our Lord Jesus laid aside His glory, He emptied Himself. He endured utter humiliation, not in a random way, but precisely for the glory of the Father. Christ’s whole incarnation was a reversal of our attack on the glory of God. Since He is infinitely valuable, His loss of glory in His humiliation and death can cover all of our God-diminishing, God-dishonouring, God-defaming sins. Therefore, complete justice was done in justifying ungodly people like us.
The first Good Friday was the single most horrible day in the history of the world. No incident has ever been more tragic, so no future event will ever match it. No surprise attack, no political assassination, no financial collapse, no military invasion, no atomic detonation or nuclear warfare, no cataclysmic act of terrorism, no large-scale famine or disease — not even slave trading, ethnic cleansing, or decades-long religious warring can eclipse the darkness of that day.
No suffering has ever been so unfitting. No human has ever been so unjustly treated, therefore no other human has ever been so worthy of praise. No one else has ever lived without sin. No other human has ever been God Himself. No horror surpasses what transpired on a hill outside Jerusalem two thousand years ago.
And yet today we call it “Good” Friday
I am reading from John chapter 19 verses 28-37 and will focus on verse 30.
Verses 28-30 says “A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to His mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
Picture this scene- It was three o’clock. The Lord Jesus called for water. He could hardly speak. A soldier fixed a sponge on a spear and held it up to His lips. It was terribly bitter but it was enough. He strained to raise His head and looked up to heaven and shouted, "It is finished,” and then He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
At the time, the moment was filled with too much emotion for those words to sink in and to ponder what they meant. But later as the early Christians read John’s Gospel and heard again those words, it dawned on them just how powerful these dying words of Jesus were. John wrote his Gospel in Greek, and those last words of the Lord Jesus are just one word in Greek – tetelestai (pronounced te-tel-es-sty).
The expression "It is finished" or tetelestai was well known to them. It was a part of everyday language.
When a servant had completed a difficult job that his master had given him to do, he would say to the master – tetelestai - "I have overcome all the difficulties; I have done the job to the best of my ability. It is finished".
When the Jewish people went to the temple with their sacrifice, the High Priest would examine what was brought. Most likely, he didn’t speak Greek but he would use the Hebrew equivalent of tetelestai – meaning, "Your offering is accepted; it is perfect".
When the merchant at the market place made a sale and the money was handed over, he would say, "tetelestai – the deal is finished, complete. The price has been paid in full. I am satisfied".
When Jesus spoke those final words he wasn’t just saying, "This is the end of Me" as if there was nothing else to do but to give in to His enemies and die. His last words weren’t a final surrender to the power of Satan as if to say, "You have won. I’m done for". These words don’t tell us that Jesus was dead now and that’s all there is to it, or that He is finished and so is everything that He stood for and promised during His earthly life.
All those who heard the word tetelestai – the servants, those who offered sacrifices at the temple, the buyers and sellers at the market place, the parents and children understood that Jesus is saying that His job of saving the world has been completed.
He has finished the task and nothing can be added to what has been done.
Jesus has paid the price in full – He has cancelled all debt.
His sacrifice has been a perfect one, acceptable to the heavenly Father who, looking down on His Son hanging lifelessly from the cross, said, "Well done, this is My dear Son with whom I am well pleased".
Tetelestai – it is finished. Everything is complete!
What is it that is finished when Jesus says, "It is finished"?
A terrible gap had come between God and all humanity caused by sin and evil. Our offences, our disobedience, the hurt we have caused God and others have destroyed our relationship with God.
In the movie Grand Canyon, a tow truck driver is threatened by five troublemakers as he attempts to rescue a terrified motorist. He says, "Man, the world ain’t supposed to work like this. Maybe you don’t know that, but this ain’t the way it’s supposed to be. I’m supposed to be able to do my job without askin’ if I can. And that dude is supposed to able to wait with his car without you rippin’ him off. Everything’s supposed to be different than what it is here."
And he’s right. Everything’s supposed to be different. God created a perfect beautiful world and He made people to live in harmony and peace with one another. We all know what an effect our poorly chosen words and lack of consideration have on our relationship with family members and friends. Greed and selfishness destroy friendship and separate people and nations. That tow truck driver hit the nail on the head when he said - "Man, the world ain’t supposed to work like this".
Sin has a devastating effect on our relationship with God. Sin separates us from God and if we want to have any hope of going to heaven to be with God, then someone had to deal with sin and restore our relationship with God. So God sent His Son into the world for this very purpose.
The Lord Jesus died on the cross to get rid of the power of sin that condemned us. His death bridged the deep gulf between God and us. "Salvation is finished", Jesus cried. The restoration of the friendship between God and humanity has been finished. The task for which God's Son came to earth has been completed.
He has won forgiveness for all people.
Nothing else needs to be done.
Salvation is complete. "It is finished".
That’s why we call today "Good Friday". It certainly wasn’t a good day for the Lord Jesus. He endured pain, soul-wrenching agony, hanging by the nails in His hands/wrists for hours, death on a rough wooden cross, for our sakes. Our Lord Jesus died on that cruel rugged cross which has become the symbol of Christianity. People say that on Good Friday our Lord Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins, but what happened in the lead up to the cross and while He hung there was horrific.
We call today "Good Friday" because the cross is proof of the powerful love that God has for each of us. No one, would do something like that unless they truly loved us. Here we see a love that was prepared to endure the ultimate in order to rescue us.
There was the young soldier who had been condemned to death by Oliver Cromwell. He was to be shot at the ringing of the curfew bell. His fiancée climbed the bell tower and tied herself to the tongue of the giant bell so that it would not ring. When the bell did not ring, soldiers went to investigate and found the girl battered and bleeding from being bashed against the sides of the bell. Cromwell was so impressed by her love for the young man that he was pardoned.
Because of love, people do extraordinary things for others. They give us a glimpse, a small glimpse, at the kind of love that God has for us. God the Father sent His dearly loved Son into dangerous territory. He allowed His Son to be treated cruelly. He stood by and watched His Innocent Son be nailed to a cross and to hang there in agony. He could have rescued Him and cursed those who were treating Him so brutally and maliciously. He allowed His Son to carry the sin of all humanity and so become repulsive even to His own Father. We cannot fully appreciate what it meant for the Father to abandon the Son and let Him die at the hands of evil people.
When Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" we sense something of the terror of bearing the weight of the sin of all humanity.
God did all this for us. He did all this because of His love for us.
Paul writes in Romans 5:8 and verse 10, "God has shown us how much He loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! … We were God's enemies, but He made us His friends through the death of His Son.". That’s how much God loves us – Jesus died for us even though we don’t deserve it. His death has made us God's friends.
Jesus' announcement, "It is finished" is clear and simple. The Lord Jesus has completed His task. The reason why He came as a human has been fulfilled. He came so that you and I can have forgiveness and salvation. He came to give us the victory. He came to ensure that we would enter His kingdom and live forever.
But it goes further than that. It becomes personal- for the apostle Paul says in Galatians 2 verse 20,” The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Paul had accepted this wonderful Saviour as his own and there are many people in the world and even in this church have done so- and I now ask you the question “Have you?”
The first Good Friday 2000 years ago was the single most horrible day in the history of the world.
No incident has ever been more tragic, and no future event will ever match it. No surprise attack, no political assassination, no financial collapse, no military invasion, no atomic detonation or nuclear warfare, no cataclysmic act of terrorism, no large-scale famine or disease — not even slave trading, ethnic cleansing, or decades-long religious warring can eclipse the darkness of that day.
No suffering has ever been so unfitting. No human has ever been so unjustly treated, because no other human has ever been so worthy of praise. No one else has ever lived without sin. No other human has ever been God himself. No horror surpasses what transpired on a hill outside Jerusalem almost two millennia ago.
And yet we call it “Good” Friday.
It is said that the last words of Cecil John Rhodes were, “So much to do, so little done."
Our Lord Jesus last triumphant shout from the cross was "It is finished."
So my brothers and sisters, it is finished- everything that our Lord Jesus came to do- He accomplished. He paid the ultimate price and satisfied the Father’s wrath which we deserved. What a Mighty and glorious Saviour we serve
Before we close and I pray, I want you to think about what Jesus has done for you through His death on the cross. Try to visualise in your mind the suffering Saviour. Think about the love that God has for you, and thank Him and ask God to continue to wrap you tightly in His love – thank Him for forgiving you, for watching over you and for directing your life. If you feel that our Lord Jesus and His love for you is not real, ask Him to be the Lord of Your life as You accept Him and His perfect sacrifice help.
Let us pray
Dear Lord, thank You for the Supreme sacrifice on my behalf. Lord Jesus You gave Your life to pay my debt for sin. I live because You died and rose again on Easter Sunday. Father God we want to thank You for Your perfect plan of salvation. Lord Jesus if there be anyone in this room today who is not sure of their relationship with You, I pray that You would convict them and challenge them to surrender their lives to You. Thank You for each one who is a believer in You. Continue to help us to live lives that please You. In Your precious name I pray. Amen
Please stand with me as we give praise to our Lord as we sing Amazing Grace.