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Good Friday 2018

By his stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

  • Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, died at the age of 80. He died in peaceful serenity surrounded by a great host of devotees who had embraced his philosophy. 
  • Confucius died at the age of 72. Though he had suffered many setbacks earlier in his life, at the end he returned to his own home city of Lu having triumphed over all his opponents and having successfully organized a large group of followers devoted to continuing his work. 
  • Mohammed died at the age of 62. He had enjoyed his last years as political ruler of a united Arabia.  He died at his harem in Mecca in the arms of his favorite wife.

     So often, I hear people say that the origin of all world religions is basically the same.  They point us to people with dynamic personalities who discover some great moral or spiritual truth and dedicate their lives to teaching it, finally succeeding in gaining followers and changing their culture.  As far as Buddhism, Confucianism, or Islam are concerned, there's a lot of truth in that opinion. All these were founded by men who died in ripe old age, after a lifetime of teaching, amidst vast popular acclaim, and with the successful future of their movement virtually guaranteed.

     In the whole spectrum of world religion, it really is only Christianity that is different ‑‑ because Jesus died at the age of only 33, after a teaching ministry of, at the very most, three years.  He had been ostracized by his own people.  He'd been betrayed and denied by his own supporters.  He'd been mocked and ridiculed by his opponents.  He'd been forsaken by everyone; even, he felt on this evening we remember, by his Heavenly Father.  And finally, he'd suffered one of the most atrocious, ignominious, agonizing forms of public execution that the cruel imagination of humanity has ever devised. 

     Jesus died prematurely, tragically, violently, lonely ‑‑ on a cross.

He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised...

We considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted --
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his stripes we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray…
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all
(Isaiah 53:3-6).

     And, one of the most startling facts is that Jesus knew that he would have to die this way – he chose to do it. So, why? Why did Jesus die? That’s the question I want to leave you with on this Good Friday, 2018. There is no question that could be asked about our faith that is more important than that.  It’s a question that can be asked in two ways: 1) Why? – what motivated him to do it?  2) Why? – what was the purpose of his death.

Why did Jesus die – what motivated him?

Jesus loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

                                                            1 John 3:16

    Whatever else you take home with you tonight, take this: Jesus knows everything about you and he loves you. He loves you so much that he gave his life for you.

Why did Jesus die – what was the purpose?

He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his stripes we are healed
(Isaiah 53:4-5).

       The only way that it would make sense to choose to die because of love would be if there would be some benefit for the one loved‑‑if the one loved were in danger and the only way that she could be kept safe was through the death of the one who loves.  Isiah said we are like sheep. And the only way it would make any sense for a loving shepherd to die for his sheep is if there is a danger around‑‑like a wolf.  If he dies to save them, then there is love involved.  The loving death only makes sense if is a love that desires the salvation of the sheep from enemies.  The enemy we face is the one that Jesus faces on Good Friday, i.e., death comes to us all.  And, the Bible says, “None of us are ready for it on our own.  All of us have sinned.  And the wages of sin is death‑‑separation from a holy God.  And we know it‑‑though we usually try to ignore it.  That wolf comes for each of us and when he comes, robs us of all we live for ‑‑ our wealth, our homes, our friends.  We often try to ignore this fact in our younger years but it becomes harder and harder to do so.

   The wolf is coming!  It's appointed to us all to die and after that, the judgment.  That's why we need a shepherd ‑‑ a good shepherd.  We need someone who is willing to take death from our midst and bear it himself. That’s what we remember this evening. Why did Jesus die?  He died because he loves you and knows you need forgiveness.  Why did Jesus die?  He died in your place to save you.

     With that in your mind and heart, I go to extinguish the final candle even as the music to Phil Wickham’s True Love will be played.


Come close, listen to the story
About a love more faithful than the morning.
The Father gave His only Son to save us.