************ Good Friday Sermon on Seven Words of the Cross ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on April 10, 2020

1. Luke 23:32-34 - The First Word
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

This first word says something about God and it says something about ourselves.

First, about ourselves. Have you ever wondered about the meaning of the second part of this first word from the cross, "they do not know what they are doing"? To whom was our Lord referring? Where can you draw the line? Did He simply ask forgiveness for the soldiers who must do their duty and go through with the bloody business of crucifying Him? Can you limit His forgiveness that narrowly?

Or, did He also ask forgiveness for the priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees, whose jealous plotting had sent Him to the cross? Did His cry include the crowd who yelled, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"? What about Pilate and Herod? Can we, in fact, set any limits? Does not this word reach out to everyone in Jerusalem and Judea and Rome? Does not this word reach out to include you and me, some 5,000 miles and 2,000 years away from the cross?

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." This is a word that includes all who have ever lived. It includes all for all need forgiveness. This is what we believe about ourselves.

But this first word from the cross is also a statement of belief about God: "Father, forgive them."

Just like it is in our nature -- our fallen nature -- to sin, so it is in God's nature to forgive. "Father, forgive them."

How can Jesus even say this? Does Jesus expect God to forget about our sin? No, of course not! God's justice demands that sin be punished. Does Jesus ask God to let His standards slip, to look the other way? No, of course not! God does not change, He cannot change. Does Jesus want God to simply shrug it off as no big deal? No, of course not! All sin is sin against God, His majesty, His holiness.

"Father, forgive them." Jesus is on the cross when He asks this. It is because of that cross, because He is hanging there in our place, that Jesus asks God to be merciful to us sinners.

2. Luke 23:35-43 - The Second Word
"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Hanging beside Jesus is a man whose entire life has been one of violence and murder. Hanging beside Jesus is a man who deserves only judgment. Hanging beside Jesus is a man who, very likely, had never so much as seen Him until they were led out together to die. Yet, this hardened criminal asks, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Again, we are told something about ourselves and something about the Lord.

First, about ourselves. In the penitent thief we see that it is never too late to turn to Jesus in faith and repentance. At the last possible moment the thief repents and believes.

Do not conclude from this that you can wait until the point of death to repent and believe.

"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." This also tells us something about God.

What do we learn about God? We learn about His victorious grace. Consider the thief. What did he do to deserve salvation? Absolutely nothing: he has no good works, no righteousness, no morality, no life of faith. Here is a man whose life is godless and wicked. Yet, he is saved. Why? Because of God's grace.

3. John 19:25-27 - The Third Word
"Dear woman, here is your son." "Here is your mother."

Looking at His mother Jesus was filled with compassion. Obviously, she was a widow. And, it became the duty of the oldest son to provide for his mother or, if he was unable to do so, to see that she was provided for.

Jesus is in pain and agony, He is suffering and dying, yet He concerns Himself with His mother's well-being. He doesn't complain about this duty. He doesn't criticize His mother for being a drag on His ministry. No, He is the perfect son.

You may ask why Mary was given into the hands of John rather than into the care of Jesus' brothers or sisters?

As compared to Jesus' brothers and sisters, there is something special about Mary and the Beloved Disciple. Both Mary and John believe in Jesus, they accept Him as Savior and Lord, whereas Jesus' brothers and sisters, says Scripture, "did not believe in him" (Jn 7:5).

Now notice what happens. Jesus is on the cross. Below Him are two of those who still believe in Him.
(Jn 19:26-27) When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," (27) and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Do you realize what was happening here? Beneath the cross of Jesus a new fellowship was created. The blood of Christ formed a new community. Through His redemptive work upon the cross Jesus forged a new fellowship of the redeemed. We know it as the Church!

Up to that time the community of God's people was based on physical descent. To be one of God's people meant to be a Jew, a physical descendant of Abraham. Almost everyone in the family of God was a blood relative.

But now there was a new community, a new family, a new fellowship of God's people. This one was not based on physical descent but on spiritual descent. It wasn't blood lines but a common belief in Christ that unites this new fellowship.

If we believe, we too are part of that new community, that new fellowship, of love and concern.

4. Matthew 27:39-46 - The Fourth Word
"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

Our Lord is speaking here of spiritual abandonment, of rejection, by the Father. The Father forsook and rejected Him -- physically and spiritually, in body and soul.

To be forsaken and rejected by God is to suffer the pangs and torments of hell.

Notice when and where it was that Christ cried this out. He cried out upon the cross and after the three hours of darkness in the middle of the day. Both are signs that God has abandoned and rejected Christ. Both are signs that God has even cursed Christ. Galatians 3:13 tells us, "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." And, the story of the plagues in Egypt reveal to us that darkness during the day is a sign of God's curse (Ex 10:22).

"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

These words of our Savior are nothing less than amazing. Time after time God is presented on the pages of Scripture as being so faithful. His promise to His people is,
(Heb 13:5b) Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.
Never once did God fail to live up to this. But here, at the cross, with His only begotten Son hanging there, God was absent.

This cry demands an answer. Why did God forsake Jesus? The reason was sin. It was because of sin -- your sin, my sin -- that Christ was forsaken and rejected by God.

5. John 19:28-29 - The Fifth Word
"I am thirsty."

The last time Christ had anything to drink was at the Last Supper. Since then He has lost a considerable part of His body fluids. In the Garden His sweat was like drops of blood. When the soldiers whipped His back and jammed the crown of thorns on His head, we know He lost more precious body fluids. On the cross His wounds continued to bleed. He hung beneath the heat of the noonday sun. So of course He was thirsty.

Of all the needs of the human body, thirst is by far the most agonizing. One can endure hunger for a fairly long time. It is amazing how much physical pain the body can take. But thirst is like a consuming fire.

Here is the Jesus of the Gospel: a poor, pathetic, dying man pleading for a little water to moisten his lips and tongue and throat.

"I am thirsty." We see here the full humanity of Christ. We see here the intensity of Christ's sufferings.

"I am thirsty." Jesus says this right after those three awful hours of darkness, right after those three awful hours when God had forsaken Him. Yes, Jesus is crying out for water. But, He is also crying out for God. You know Psalm 42:
(Ps 42:1-2) As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. (2) My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

"I am thirsty." Whether we admit or not, that is the cry of every man and woman and child. Deep down what we need, Who we need, is God. Our deepest and greatest need is for fellowship with God.

6. John 19:30 - The Sixth Word
"It is finished."

What was finished? His life, or course. But if that's all that Jesus meant, then this is a pathetic yet very human cry of weakness and defeat. "It is finished." It is all over now -- the suffering, the pain, the scorn. Death will carry me away. There will be no more burdens, no more pain, no more torment.

What was finished? His life, to be sure. But so much more as well. His work as Redeemer, as Mediator, was finished. No more sacrifice for sins was necessary. Never again would He be whipped and scorned, mocked and jeered. Never again did He have to experience the curse of the cross. Never again would God forsake Him.

7. Luke 23:44-46 - The Seventh Word
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

When we put our children to bed at night we teach them to pray, "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep ..." In the same way, every Hebrew child was taught to pray, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." Undoubtedly, Joseph and Mary taught Jesus that same prayer when He was a little boy. And now that same Son, grown to manhood, climaxing His ministry on the cross, says the words again. Jesus can find no better way to say farewell to life than with the words He learned as a child. "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

Jesus was in the hands of men, sinful men, brutal men. But now He is going into the hands of God. "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

The most precious thing you have is your spirit. And, that spirit is secure only when it is in the hands of God. Jesus knew that so He prayed, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
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