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Thursday, 24 March 2016

"It is finished!"

Easter 2016: Good Friday

It is finished: Tetelestai! Let me explain. In Israel when a deal had been completed or an act of kindness done it would be sealed with the parties saying Tetelestai. That is it is finished it is completed with nothing more to be done. The word is in the “indicative perfect passive” which indicates that something is completed with continuing endurance or in other words it was a once and for all event. It can never be repeated and as such there was only ever one Good Friday each other is simply a remembrance of the former. Therefore today we celebrate the once for all sacrifice made on the cross.
In order that we do that we will consider:
  1. Why was the cross necessary?
  2. What exactly happened on the cross?
  3. What does the cross mean to me?
We will be reading a number of bible passages with songs and words in between.
Why was the cross necessary?
In order to answer this we need to go back to the beginning of time and into the Garden of Eden.
Genesis 2: 4-9
This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Genesis 2: 15-17
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’
Adam was created by God with a purpose, he was to enjoy the benefits of all that God had given and all that God affords but continued relationship and security with Him was conditional. The condition was simple obedience. God in effect told Adam to obey by not eating the fruit of a particular tree in the garden. Given the vast array available you would think that this would be an easy task but it is a bit like the “wet paint” notice, how hard it is to not test the truth of the notice. Adam with the help of Eve did test the truth of God's word and so sin was born and death came into the world. I would love to elaborate much more but we have only an hour so I leave you to spend some time considering this later.
You may well be asking why is this important today; the answer is that sin is hereditary. It is passed on from one generation to the next. Parent to child throughout all ages. Paul addresses this issue in Romans 3 where he says that all people of whatever gender, age or nationality “have sinned and have fallen short of God's perfect standard.”
For Adam and Eve the effect was immediate, they were immediately out of fellowship with God. They hid from Him in the garden instead of joyously coming to Him in sweet fellowship. Their relationship with God was dead. But you might ask why it is that sin is passed on. The reason is that when sin entered the world the world was immediately affected and has been on a downward spiral ever since. When God finished His work of creation He said everything was good, ideal or perfect. Now that man has made an impact everything is affected to the detriment. For instance gardening is no longer the pleasure that it should have been because of weeds etc.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:21 “since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”
From the day when sin entered the world there was already a plan for salvation in place. In fact the bible teaches that sin was no surprise to God, He had already from before creation planned that Jesus come as the Saviour. The plan was always that an innocent victim die in the place of the guilty party, in the garden it came it the form of the death of an animal whose skin was used to clothe the new born sinners. From that time on the sacrifice of pure innocent male animals was the accepted way for sinful people to be able to come into the presence of Jesus. None of these sacrifices hit the mark fully they were merely a temporary measure that spoke of the Perfect and Only sacrifice that fully atones for the sins of mankind. They all spoke of Good Friday.

156 How deep the Father's love for us.
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss -
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life -
I know that it is finished.
I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart -
His wounds have paid my ransom.

What exactly happened on the cross?
Psalm 22 begins with “my God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Jesus in saying this on the cross was taking the Psalm to Himself:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. ‘He trusts in the Lord,’ they say, ‘let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’
Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.
But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honour him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfil my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him – may your hearts live for ever!
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him – those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!

In the Psalm King David spoke of a day to come when a descendant of His would achieve salvation for God's people. He prophesied that it would be a work of God alone through his own ancestor. Jesus died on the cross taking to Himself sin.
Isaiah spoke of what was to happen:
Isaiah 53
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet 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 wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgement he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

What happened on the cross? God's plan of salvation was carried out. Sin was dealt with, it was not wiped out but it was dealt with justly. It is only a corrupt judge that chooses to turn a blind eye to wrong and so God who is perfectly righteous and just cannot simply by-pass sin, sin had to be dealt with. The penalty had to be paid, blood had to be shed in order that it propitiate or appease God's anger at sin. It was God Himself that paid the price in that His Son Jesus became a man but without sin. On the cross He became sin in place of all that repent and trust in Him. What happened on the cross is that Jesus was judged by God to be the arch sinner, the worst that has ever lived and yet He was perfect. Jesus had the full force of God's wrath poured out on Him, the sufferings that were seen are nothing in comparison to what was really taking place. The author of life died as a treacherous sinner for you and me.

All of that on the cross; no wonder Tetelestai was shouted as His final breath.

What does that mean to me?
These two songs say it all:
143 Here is love vast as the ocean.
1. Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Loving kindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heaven’s eternal days.
2. On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And Heaven’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.
3. Let me all Thy love accepting,
Love Thee, ever all my days;
Let me seek Thy kingdom only
And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory,
Nothing in the world I see.
Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me,
Thou Thyself hast set me free.
4. In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
And Thy grace my need is meeting,
As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and power on me,
Without measure, full and boundless,
Drawing out my heart to Thee.

465 When I survey.
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
    Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
    Save in the death of Christ my God!
    All the vain things that charm me most,
    I sacrifice them to His blood.
    See from His head, His hands, His feet,
    Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
    Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
    Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
    Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were a present far too small;
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all.

We have sung the purpose, by His love we have experienced grace,which is perfectly seen in His sufferings on the cross. How wonderful that Good Friday was that heard from God the Son:


In Christ alone.
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! - who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand:
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

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