Zebras at a Waterhole in Okaukejo, Etosha Pan, Namibia . PHOTO : J . Rieck

Friday, April 18, 2014

THANK GOD - IT'S GOOD FRIDAY !

Mark 15

Last night  prepared  us  for today !( SEE PREVIOUS POST :  Thank God - its Maundy Thursday!)  
In Mark 14   we saw  Jesus  revealed  as the Passover Lamb – “the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world “  (John 1 :29,36). 
Jesus  rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday  to   be that lamb!  Previously He had spoken  about this  in  Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31 and Mark 10:33-34. We see it in the institution of  the  Lord’s supper  (14:22-25)  -  “This is my body … this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many…” 

Well, until now it has all been  theory. Today however, on Good Friday  this is no longer  theory. This   is the day  on which  we remember  that there came a time  when Jesus   actually  gave  His life   as  the Passover  lamb  –  so that the wrath of God would pass over  all those who would embrace Him and His work  on the cross.   I trust  that the Holy Spirit   who has  inspired  the Scriptures [1], will  be pleased to   show us  the  awesomeness  of this event  as we  meditate  on  these familiar words  once again.

The key thought is this : Jesus is handed over  to be killed. Consider the following  sequence of events as they unfold in Mark 15 :
1.     The chief priests , the elders  and scribes and the whole council deliver Jesus to Pilate accusing  Him of many things(15:1-5)
2.     Pilate  delivers Jesus over to the crowd who kept on shouting  “ crucify Him!”  (15: 6-15)
3.    Jesus is handed over to the soldiers who  hurt Him , mocked Him , stripped Him  and eventually crucified Him  (15:16-20)
4.     The soldiers  handed  Jesus over to the cross to die   (15: 21- 32)
5.     On the cross  Jesus  is handed over  to forsakenness   and  to death (15: 33- 41)
6.     From the cross  Jesus is handed over  Joseph of Arimathea  (15: 42-45)
7.      Joseph of Arimathea hands Jesus  over  to the grave   (15: 46 )

All,  except the last  two points  are apparently motivated by sinful, ugly emotions – but all these points  emphasise the forsakenness of Christ. He was handed over to  die. He was handed over to the grave . The Passover Lamb  had been slain !

Now what ? At face value  this  all sounds  very  depressing , doesn’t it ? And who should we blame  for his death?  For every  death  humanity  looks for  a  guilty party . The relatives of  Malaysian  flight MH 370  are blaming the  Malaysian government  for the   disappearance of their loved ones. The  families  of this week’s  South   Korean  ferry disaster  in which up to 300 people (mainly children) are missing,  they are  blaming the captain   and the shipping line.  When a  loved one dies on the operating table  people  blame the doctor and nurses .  In a  fatal car crash  people blame the  other driver.

Who should we blame  for Jesus’ death ?  

We saw  very clearly  that  Jesus  had now been  delivered by the hands of men  - for them to do what they will do with him. The whole chapter  is about  men and what they do  to Jesus. In this chapter  Jesus  the Lord , the sovereign King of the Universe , is quiet.   He does not say a word. He lets men do what they want to do to Him  , although , in Matthew’s account  of the arrest of Jesus  He makes mention  of this fact :  “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and He at  once send  me  more than   12 legions  of  angels? But  how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that it must be so? [2]
It must be so,   and so  Isaiah prophesies  : Like a lamb He is led to the slaughter [3].

There are no nice and helpful people around Him. The disciples have all abandoned Him by this time. The faithful women  who ministered to Jesus  stood at a distance and looked[4].  The  crowd  shouts  at Him. The soldiers mock Him and spit on Him.  They steal His clothes and divide them. They crucify Him on the cross –naked  and exposed . The by-passers  mock  Him and insult Him : “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!”  So also the chief priests and  the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “ He saved others; he cannot save Himself.” Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now  from the cross that we may see and believe.  Those who were crucified with  Him  also    reviled Him .  (15:29-32)  

The only nice man  here  is Joseph  of Arimathea,  “who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God   that took courage  and went to Pilate  and asked for the body of Jesus … and laid him in a tomb that  had been cut out of the rock.”  (15:43-46). We might  have some sympathy for  Simon of Cyrene who was made  to carry  the cross of Jesus cross.  We  are thankful that one of the thieves crucified with Jesus  believed in  Jesus  in his dying moments. [5] We  have some sympathy for the Roman centurion,  who after Jesus  died  said : “ Truly this man was the Son of God !” (15:39)  Other than this,  everything is  very  harsh . And we ask : who is ultimately guilty  for delivering Jesus  up to His death? There is such a long list  of people  to blame . Can we find the real culprit and so perhaps get him to bear the blame for sending the Son of God to the cross?

·     Can we blame PILATE?  Pilate was perhaps one of the most powerful and influential men in Jesus' day in Judea. He was a Roman procurator, the administrator of Judea. He had the political power to stop the killing of Jesus. Moreover, as Scripture makes clear, Pilate was convinced of Jesus' innocence[6]. Three times he declared publicly that he could find no basis of accusation against Jesus. He wanted to avoid sentencing Jesus[7], but before his hands were dry, he handed Jesus over to be crucified. He really wanted to free Jesus, but he also wanted to please the crowd. Pilate's conscience was ultimately drowned out by the loud shouts of the crowd. Should we not accuse him?
·     Should  we  blame the  ROMAN SOLDIERS? They mocked Him[8], and they ultimately crucified Him.  Can we accuse them? Possibly, but we need to realise that this was their job. They did what they were commanded to do.
·      What about the JEWISH PEOPLE  and their  PRIESTS? Here we have quite a strong case.  On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter makes it very clear, that he considered the Jewish people and their rulers guilty of this crime.[9] Should we not blame them?
·      What  about  JUDAS ISCARIOT? After all, he betrayed Jesus directly into the hands of the Jewish people and their priests. Isn't he the guilty one - ultimately?

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?

The Bible has two responses  to this  dilemma :

1.     Human Responsibility  : The fact that so many people  could be blamed should  cause us  to think very carefully, and if indeed  we would  consider the  verdict of the  whole Bible, then we shall discover very  quickly  that  the Bible teaches the corporate guilt of humanity.[10] When it comes to putting the blame at someone's feet, the Bible actually points to all of us, even though it is true that those who actually committed the deed are guilty of a greater sin. Pilate, the Jewish people and their priests, who shouted, "crucify him" clearly have a lot more to answer for.[11]

Horatio Bonar [12] wrote an excellent hymn that expresses  the corporate guilt of mankind:

Twas I that shed the sacred blood, I nailed Him to the tree
        I crucified the Son of God, I joined the mockery.

Of all that shouting multitude, I feel that I am one;
And in that din of voices rude, I recognise my own.

Around the cross the throng I see,  mocking the sufferer’s groan
Yet still my voice it seems to be, as if I mocked alone.

It is deeply entrenched in our sinful human nature to deny our personal guilt  and to  point fingers at someone else, but the Bible says that  the whole world is responsible for  Jesus’ death.  He died because we all  put Him there!

2.     Divine Sovereignty : Jesus  died because it was His Father’s  will. Jesus died to fulfil the Scriptures  (14:49) . Jesus  died  because  the  Father’s love took Him there  : For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall  not perish but have eternal life." (Jn. 3:16) – see also  Romans 8:32 . Octavius Winslow  summed it up in a  neat statement: “Who delivered up Jesus to die ?  Not Judas , for money; not Pilate, for fear ; not the Jews for  envy - but the Father – for love! [13]

So,  we need to look at the cross in two ways :
On a  human level  all of us are responsible for  Jesus’ death. Our sin took Him there .
On a divine level  God the Father gave Him up to die for us.
Acts  2 :23   is  a key verse in this respect. Peter preaches on the day of Pentecost :” … this Jesus, delivered up according to  the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men .”  Here you find both , human responsibility and divine   sovereignty

So , why did Jesus die ? 
1.     He did not die . He was killed !
2.     He was not killed. He died, giving Himself  up  for us  to do His Father’s will. 

That is why we speak of the day on which He died as Good Friday! Why good? Because something very good happened there. Christ died to deal with  my and your sin – in two ways : (i) Christ decisively  dealt with  our sin  by    freeing us from  its  power (expiation) - no more condemnation ( Rom 8:1) !  (ii)  Christ  dealt with the righteous anger of God towards us. (propitiation)
Thank God for Good Friday !



[1] 2 Tim 3:16  “ All  Scripture is breathed out by God …” ( Gr. theopneustos)
[2] Matthew 26:53
[3] Isaiah 53:7  “ He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
[4] Matthew 27:55,56
[5] Luke 23: 40-43
[6] Lk 23:4,14,22
[7] Lk 23:4,14,22
[8] Lk 23:11
[9] Acts 3:12 - 15
[10] Rom 3:9 - 23
[11] Mk 14:21
[12] Horatio Bonar, a Scottish  Hymn writer, lived from 1809 - 1889
[13] John Stott: The Cross of Christ , p.  61

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