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Good Friday 2017

John 18 – 19:  Good Friday reminds us what we are saved from

“Why does the cross matter?”  Culturally, the cross is everywhere – not just at church, but it’s on our rock and rap stars; tattooed on our athletes; and our global celebrities wear it as a fashion accessory.

In that sense, the cross is hidden in plain sight because while the cross may seem to exist everywhere, they fail to realize what the cross really means.  Think of the outrage if an NBA player was tattooed with an electric chair.  Think of the outrage if a rap star was wearing a hangman’s noose around their neck.  Or if a Kardashian had a golden lethal injection syringes as earrings.

The cross was never meant to be “cool” and turned into an image of beauty.  Instead the cross was meant to remind Christians of how Jesus took our place in one of the most brutal, sadistic, horrific forms of execution ever.  The cross was so disgusting the ‘proper’ people rarely talked about it as a form of punishment, preferring a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach that somehow pretended this Roman form of execution did not even exist.

When we perceive Jesus on the cross it IS meant for us to do a double-take that the innocent took the place of the guilty, that we should be up there on the cross, not Him.

The cross is meant to shock, disturb, and disgust us.  The cross on Good Friday is meant to thoroughly intrude into our sensibilities and awaken us to the realm of all that God went through for us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Part of the reasoning is that we live in an age of convenience and consumerism.  Therefore most of society simply can’t be bothered with what the cross was really all about and would rather ignore its existence and how Jesus spoke of the cross in His Kingdom mindset.

“Lay down my life and pick up the cross and follow Jesus into death?  Doesn’t Jesus know I have places to be and people to see and things to do?”

This is why most of society would rather treat the cross as an insignificant piece of jewelry than admit why the cross really existed:  a tool of God to save us FROM ourselves.

A TOOL OF GOD TO SAVE US FROM

Please bear with me as I share 3 basic images that cross saves us FROM in this life.  Let me share another Good Friday type passage with you from Romans 3 (vs. 21-26):  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  (English Standard Version)

In this passage, we have three terms used by Paul describing the work of Jesus on the cross that Jesus saves us “FROM” – as in Jesus saved us from what could have happened to us in:

  1. The slave market – redemption – vs. 24
  2. The law court – justification – vs. 24
  3. The temples – propitiation – vs. 25

On the cross Jesus worked all three of these equally.  While one of these means might be our personal favorite, all three synthesize together describing the saving work of Jesus. All three stand against the consumerism and easy convenience of our age.

Jesus redeemed us – vs. 24  In other words, as born dead in our sin, we were also metaphorically born enslaved to that sin.  We might say we didn’t choose that bondage to sin and it’s not fair, but it’s much the same as a newborn baby addicted to the same drugs as its birth-mother.  The baby never chose that life!

By the work of the cross, Jesus redeemed us or purchased us from the powers of sin, death, and Satan’s kingdom.  There are many things at work here but Jesus in a metaphoric sense went to the slave market as we were being auctioned off to the highest idolatrous, demonic bidder and bought and redeemed us for Himself.

Jesus justified us – vs. 24  Another act of the cross is similar to standing next to Jesus as our defense attorney in God’s court.  The charges?  A life time of idolatrous sin of worshiping false idols and serving them instead of the Lord our God.  We hear the charges read against us and realize we totally deserve the death sentence the Judge reads out against us:  cursed to be hung upon a tree until dead.

Through His work on the cross however, Jesus reminds the Judge He took our place (sin) and in exchange gives us His perfect righteousness as one who never broke the Torah of God.  In the courts, the Judge declares us worthy of death, but Jesus as our defender declares us to be ‘just and righteous’ as if we never broke code at all.

Jesus was sacrificed for us (“propitiated”) – vs. 25   The other Biblical imagery prevalent in this Romans passage and readily understood in the lives of the ancients was the realm of sacrifice.  In other words, that the gods must be appeased or pleased.  Something or someone needed to be sacrificed on the temple altar.  Admittedly, it’s not imagery that we use much in our postmodern world.  However just because we think we understand the universe and the cosmos, does not mean we actually do.  God does exist and He must be satisfied and His honor must be set right.  Therefore, God does ask in the sense of who will satisfy His honor.

Enter Jesus’ work on the cross, that He was put forth by God Himself.  In other words in Jesus’ work on the cross, in all of this broken mess, God realized He was the only One who could ever step forward and be the perfect propitiating sacrifice.  And so “God” put Jesus “forward” as the One who would be sacrificed for us on that cross because we were never perfect enough to satisfy God’s honor and wrath.

Now you tell me, when the hip-hoppers and rock stars and the celebrities without talent and skill are flaunting their crosses, are they thinking of any of these things that Jesus saved us from?  But the fact Biblically remains, Jesus suffered one of the most tortuous deaths ever in order to save us from these three factors.  So when you ponder and wonder why does the cross matter, think on these things.

Think on the slave market, the law court, and the temples.  Think about how Jesus stepped in and took control of your future when you could not control it for yourself and were doomed to an eternity of punishment.

And the next time you’re hanging that cross over your big screen TV or on your rearview mirror or buying a 24karat gold cross encrusted with diamonds – don’t do so flippantly or easily, but recognize what Jesus really did upon that ‘form of execution’ to make it more than a symbol of empty worth.  Amen.