Text: 1Cor.5:7 "For Christ, our Passover (lamb), has been sacrificed."
A lot happened on the first Good Friday
Now, nobody is really 100% sure of where the term "Good Friday" comes from – it isn't a phrase that is found in the Bible. One suggestion is that it is a corruption of "God Friday" and whether or not this is true it can help us to remember not to leave God out of the picture. Good Friday/God Friday only ever came about because God planned it so! What took place that day was first and foremost the accomplishment of the will of God. If we think that somehow things got out of control that day and the whole outcome was disastrous then we simply haven't begun to see things the right way.
So what did happen?
During the night before, Jesus had been arrested and taken before the high priests Annas and Caiaphas. It was at this time that Peter denied him. Here is a summary of what the Bible has to say about what happened when the day came – it was to prove a busy time:
Jesus was taken before Pilate early in the morning
Pilate then sent him to Herod
Herod then sent Jesus back to Pilate again
Herod and his men had treated Jesus badly now back with Pilate he was mocked again and beaten
The crowd of Jews that Pilate had called together clamoured for a criminal called Barabbas to be released but not Jesus
As part of the mockery Jesus had a crown of thorns pushed down onto his head
It was probably now some time between 6-
Having been scourged Jesus was made to carry the crushing burden of his own cross – but he didn't have the strength left to carry it all the way to the place of execution and a stranger was press-
On the way Jesus told the weeping women what would happen in the future
Around 9am he was crucified between two thieves
As he was being nailed to the cross he cried out in prayer for the forgiveness of those who crucified him
Entrusted his Mother Mary to the safe keeping care of his beloved disciple John
Assured the good thief of his salvation
Finally he cried out in a loud voice and committed his spirit into his Father's hands and died – it was now about 3pm
In addition to all this the Bible also tells us that:
There was darkness over the land from 12 noon – 3pm
There was an earthquake
The veil of the temple was torn in two
Many saints who had already died were raised
A soldier pierced Christ's side and blood and water flowed out
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body
He was buried in Joseph's own tomb
A guard was set over the tomb
All Jesus' friends and family grieved at his death
So much information is given to us about the events of just this one day – what are we to make of it all?
There are probably many millions in our world today who are aware of these details concerning that first Good Friday. And how important it is to know these facts of history! Jesus may well have walked on this earth a long time ago but the passage of the years in no way diminishes the historical reality of the events we celebrate today and this coming Sunday, Easter Sunday.
But if it is important to know the facts there is something which is yet more important and that is to understand the significance of these facts. Are you certain that you understand why Good Friday took place?
The Bible is concerned not simply to record what happened that day but it makes clear exactly how those events can influence a sinner's relationship with Almighty God and that is still true and relevant for us today.
During the week I was searching on the web for some information about the events of that first Good Friday and on one website I came across I read the following:
"On Good Friday Christians remember the day that Jesus was killed on the cross… Good Friday is a sad day."
While this statement might pass muster in many circles I think that, apart from the first few words, it is profoundly misleading – let me tell you why.
A Purposeful Mission
Yes, Christians do remember the events that occurred at the end of Jesus' earthly mission – that is what we are trying to do right now and we do so because the events of Good Friday are extremely important. Nevertheless we must take care that the way we in which we understand those events is in harmony with what the Bible has to say about them. If we don't allow the Bible to interpret the events it records and passes on to us then we are acting very foolishly indeed.
Perhaps to a casual observer what took place on that first Good Friday might indeed look like a tragedy. If we were looking at things with the eye of the producer of a soap-
But we must not allow ourselves to be mere casual observers – the stakes are simply too high for that – when we investigate more closely we find that a totally different assessment is required! When we understand that God had a plan all along and that he did not allow for one instant that plan to be overturned then we come to see that that same cry "It is finished" was no cry of despair but of triumphant victory!
In order to begin to see that this is so let's consider for a few moments the words of our text:
1Cor.5:7 "For Christ, our Passover (lamb), has been sacrificed."
We'll split it into three sections.
Paul writes to the Corinthians and refers to the death of our Lord Jesus and as he does so he refers to him as "Christ".
Now Paul is not doing this simply to wring the changes – one moment calling him Jesus and the next Christ as though it were simply a matter of variety. Christ is not properly speaking a name but it is a title. As a title it has meaning and significance.
The word "Christ" means "anointed one" and refers to the one that God has both chosen and sent to accomplish a particular mission. The word is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word "Messiah". So as Paul wrote to the Corinthians he had in mind what the OT taught about the long-
As early as the third chapter of Genesis the coming of One who would crush the serpent's head was announced. This promise of a deliverer was followed up by increasingly clear and detailed descriptions of this One who would come and be "led like a lamb to the slaughter" as "the LORD laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Is.53:6+7).
But even such a revelation of the divine plan and purpose is incomplete because it could be misunderstood as though God merely reacted to events in the Garden when Adam and Eve first rebelled against him. In reality the plan to send his unique Son as the Messiah predates even the creation of the world. The fact of the Messiah's death was firmly established in the divine mind prior to his founding the world at all. When we realise this we can never again suggest that the events of that first Good Friday were somehow a disastrous and sad failure – they were fully planned ahead of time by God himself and carried through in an utterly faithful obedience by his Son our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Why then should we be sad when God keeps his promises and does what he promised to do in sending his Son to secure a necessary salvation for his people?
The second phrase in Paul's short sentence describes Christ as being our Passover – in my Bible the word lamb is added for clarity's sake.
It is clear that when Paul describes Christ as our Passover he is giving us a way by which we may understand at least some aspects of what Jesus was doing for us when he died upon the cross of Calvary.
Think back for a few moments to the time when the Israelites were held captive in Egypt. God determined to free them and forced the hand of a reluctant Pharaoh in order to do so.
In the last of the 10 Plagues a destroying angel from the LORD killed every first born in the land of Egypt. The only places where such destruction did not take place was in the houses that had the blood of a lamb daubed on the lintel and on the posts – death had already occurred in these houses (the death of the lamb) and so the LORD's destroyer "passed over".
Now it was not due to the ingenuity of the Israelites who came up with this idea as a means of earning their own salvation. The LORD himself told them what they were to do and promised that if his instructions were followed then protected by the blood there would be no loss of life within their households.
The lamb that was to die had to meet stringent conditions: it had to be in perfect pristine condition, it had to be a year old having lived with other animals in the flock. It wasn't left up to the Israelites to offer whatever they might think was appropriate – God made it very clear to them what they were to do.
It was in this way and this way only that the passover lamb became a substitute for the life of the first-
Paul was telling the Corinthians that that was one way of understanding the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. His death was not accidental but purposeful being designed to be the death of a substitute so that those coming under the protection of his shed blood would be safe.
In total harmony with the idea of the Passover Paul continued to specify that the death of Christ was not a murder or even rightly understood an execution – it was a sacrifice. Jesus' death had been planned long in advance as a sacrificial death whereby he would voluntarily take the sinner's place on the scaffold and, bearing the guilt and shame of his people, he would lay down his life.
When we read the details of Jesus' actual death upon the cross we discover just how completely it was he who was in charge of what was taking place. He had earlier stated:
For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
We read that he chose the very moment when he would die – his life though battered and bloodily bruised did not just ebb gradually away, had that been the case his final words would have been a reduced to a whisper but no:
Lk.23:46 "Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last."
Jesus had successfully fulfilled his purpose for coming into the world. The Father's plan had been completely carried out. A perfect spotless lamb had been sacrificed as Jesus – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – laid down his life.
There is just one other thing I want to draw to your attention as I conclude this morning. Did you notice in our text the use of the personal pronoun, "our"?
"Christ, our Passover…"
While Christ's death is of sufficient value and worth to save 10.000 worlds and more his death will be effective only for those who receive him by faith. In the original Passover the blood of the lamb had to be painted on the door of the house then those inside were safe. Protection was not afforded to those who chose to leave the shelter of the blood marked house.
Have you personally received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour? If not then what stops you trusting him today, or calling out to him today to save you? What stops you sheltering under his blood shed at Calvary?
When we understand these things in the light of the Bible we will be solemn and sober – our sin and our salvation are matters of great import – but we can't be sad. Calvary was and remains to this day a great and a wonderful victory. So let us praise God and rejoice.