Good Friday Was Not a Funeral, but the Victory of God

 

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Col. 2:13-15).

Many misunderstand, they see the Cross as a defeat. They see Christ’s weakness, suffering, and humiliation as failure to convince the crowds, persuade the Jewish leaders, and empower the disciples. Some grand misunderstanding created this tragedy, surely if all sides could have talked this terrible event would have never happened. In the minds of these bemoaners, Christ’s death was a great tragedy, but nothing more.  For some, God by the power of the resurrection snatched victory from jaws of the Cross’ defeat. He rescued Jesus from utter humiliation. The resurrection saved the day.

Nothing is further from the truth. The Cross is the victory of God and the resurrection is the announcement to the world that the Christ has triumphed over all our foes. The Cross was not a defeat, but the astonishing victory of God over the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil.

A number of metaphors are used in scripture to describe the finished work of Christ on the Cross:

Victory is taken from the military: Christ has conquered Satan and his oppression, our sin and its enslavement, and death and its control (1 Cor. 15:57).

Justification is taken from the law court: God’s declaration that by faith in Christ we are declared righteous before him (Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 2:15-16).

Adoption is taken from the family: we are granted legal status as sons of God and heirs of the Kingdom (Rom. 8:17, 23; Gal. 4:1-7).

Reconciliation is taken from the home: the Cross restores our broken relationship with the Father (Rom. 5:10-11; 2 Cor. 5:16-21).

Forgiveness of our offenses that frees from guilt and shame, redemption  and ransom paid to free us from bondage and captivity caused by our sin (1 Cor. 6:19),

Healing is taken from the hospital: we are restored with all of creation from the brokenness created by our sin (Isa. 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24-25).

Propitiation is taken from Temple worship: God satisfies his own wrath by offering himself to suffer the just punishment for our sins (Rom 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10 NASB).

Representative bringing us all the privileges of the new covenant (Rom. 5:17), participation in all the benefits of his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6), and substitution for he took upon himself our punishment, guilt, and shame (Rom. 4:25).

The Cross accomplished all these things and more.

The whole story in the New Testament is written, as I have said, from the point of view of the Resurrection, and the Christian faith is inexplicable otherwise. Another point to be made is that the story of the Resurrection is not told in the New Testament as the story of a victory which wipes out the defeat of the Cross.

On the contrary, there is great emphasis laid on the fact that the risen Lord is the crucified one. It is said that when, he showed himself to his disciples, he showed them his hands and his side. In other words he identified himself deliberately to them as the one who had been crucified. And according to the records that we have, in his teaching of them, he emphasised the fact that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer in this way.

Above all in Paul, whose life as a Christian began with a meeting with the risen Lord, it is nevertheless the Cross which is the centre of his message. The Cross, in other words, is not put before us a defeat overruled by God; on the contrary, the Cross is put before us as a victory which was acknowledged and ratified by God.

Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, Journey Into Joy (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972), 45.

“Everything . . . Springs From This Bloody Cross”

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Cor. 5:21

The Great Exchange is that wonderful one-sided trade of our sins, inadequacies, and numerous failings for Christ’s forgiveness, sufficiency, and triumphal victory. The greatest of all exchanges happened on Calvary’s Hill, Jesus Christ who was truly innocent and without sin, took upon himself all our petty selfishness, deep rebellion, and soul-rending brokenness and then substituted his perfect righteousness, unfailing forgiveness, and spirit-renewing healing. The exchanged life is not a one time event, but a life lived on a daily basis by faith. Each day, the Gospel reminds us that we are forgiven in Christ because of his most gracious grace (2 Cor. 5: 21; Gal. 2:20).

Everything that we know and appreciate and praise God for in all Christian experience both in this life and in the life to come springs from this bloody cross.

Do we have the gift of the Spirit? Secured by Christ on the cross.

Do we enjoy the fellowship of saints? Secured by Christ on the cross.

Does he give us comfort in life and death? Secured by Christ on the cross.

Does he watch over us faithfully, providentially, graciously, and covenantally? Secured by Christ on the cross.

Do we have hope of a heaven to come? Secured by Christ on the cross.

Do we anticipate resurrection bodies on the last day? Secured by Christ on the cross.

Is there a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness? Secured by Christ on the cross.

Do we now enjoy new identities, so that we are no longer to see ourselves as nothing but failures, moral pariahs, disappointments to our parents—but deeply loved, blood-bought, human beings, redeemed by Christ, declared just by God himself, owing to the fact that God himself presented his Son Jesus as the propitiation for our sins? All this is secured by Christ on the cross and granted to those who have faith in him.”

D. A. Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 70-71.

 

Past, Present, and Future Forgiveness

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.

1 Peter 3:18

Doctrine affects our behavior. Right doctrine promotes, supports, and strengthens the life of holiness. Wrong doctrinal beliefs deceive, mislead, and burden the Christian life. What we believe about God shapes our choices and actions. We must think rightly and Biblically about God or we may mislead ourselves and others concerning sin, righteousness, and judgement.

Several years back, I worked with a ministry that taught that our past sins were covered by the Cross, but our present and future sins were not. This teaching was intended to promote personal holiness by making our behavior a condition for acceptance with God. However, their teaching caused me to lose my joy: the joy of knowing that my salvation was complete in Christ (Gal. 4:15 NIV).

However, I soon discovered that classic Christian doctrine taught otherwise. All my sin and all your sin is forgiven, put away, and overcome in the Cross. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). Every sin committed whether in our past, present, or future is forgiven as we look to Christ in faith. All our present struggles and unknown failures are covered by the blood of Christ. We rejoice for the finished work of Christ on the Cross has met our past, present, and future need for forgiveness (Heb. 10:20-21).

There at Calvary the sin of the world is gathered by the Father, who purposes to save sinners; yes, the sins of the past and the present and the future–because He wants to include you and me who are saved in this great transaction–the sins of the past, present, and future are swept by Almighty power, and as the prophet says, they are caused to meet on the head of His only-begotten Son. The Lord caused to meet upon Him the iniquity of us all. This salvation is rooted in the will of God. We can have boldness to enter into the Holiest through the blood of Jesus, and we can come into the presence of God in the full assurance of faith in the Christ of Calvary.

J. A. Motyer, “One Sacrifice for Sins Forever,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed. Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 358.

I Know That I Know

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

Eph. 1:13

When I wake up in the morning and all the demands of the day flood upon my soul; I look to the Cross. There I know that I am forgiven, there I am healed, there I am made free from my selfishness and pride, and there I know-I know that I know-I am accepted by God.

The first and fundamental ground of our assurance, because it is the sole ground of our salvation, is ‘the finished work of Christ’.  Whenever our conscience accuses us, and we feel burdened with guilt, we need to look away from ourselves to Christ crucified.  Then again we will have peace.  For our acceptance with God depends not on ourselves and what we could ever do, but entirely on Christ and what he has done for all on the cross.

John Stott, Authentic Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995), 211.

No Innocent Parties

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.

Rom. 3:10-12

Our sin is pervasive. Pervasive in the sense that sin has affected our hearts, wills, minds, emotions, and even our physical body. Our attitude and actions motivate us to selfishness and pride. Every aspect of our lives has been marred and scarred by sin. Our bondage is so great that we cannot do anything to deliver ourselves. The effect of our sin is complete: there is nothing we can do to please God.

However, we are still valued in God’s eyes:  we are never insignificant and worthless in his eyes. How do we know?  Even while we were God’s enemies, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:10). Even in the midst of our fallenness, the blessed Trinity reached out to you and me in love and mercy. Christ’s Cross defeats the pain, bondage, frustration, and tragedy of our sin.

Before the cross of Jesus there are no innocent parties. The cross is not for some and against others. It is the place where all are guilty and all are forgiven.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 151

The Cross as Victory Won

This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Acts 2:23-24

The Cross was not a defeat for Jesus, a terrible mistake when circumstances with the Romans and the Jews got out of control. Good Friday is not a memorial service for an erstwhile savior, who failed to complete his mission. Our reflections on the Cross are not just musings on a historical event that have no impact for us today. The Cross was not a tragedy, or an accident, or just a two-thousand year old story.

The Cross was Christ’s goal from the very beginning. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The Cross defeated Satan and all his works. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15). The Cross was God’s intention, the desire of Savior who intended to die in our place for our sin.” He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).

The Cross is triumph over all the enemies of our soul and the resurrection declares to the world that Jesus is Lord. “He [Jesus Christ] is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us” (Rev. 1:5). The Cross is our victory and the resurrection is God’s bullhorn to the world that our Lord Jesus Christ has triumphed.

We are not to regard the cross as defeat and the resurrection as victory. Rather, the cross was the victory won, and the resurrection the victory endorsed, proclaimed and demonstrated.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Leicester and Downers Grove: IVP, 1986), 235.

HT: Langham Partnership

It Should Have Happened to Me

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a ulamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Isa. 53:7

A just judgment that is what we deserve: our selfishness, pride, and anger have pained God and hurt others. Without a reason why, we run roughshod over others needs, we ignore God’s commands, we indulge our passions, and demand our way no matter the cost. Even when others are hurting more, need compassion, and help, we want our way, or no way.

Punishment is what is required for our self-indulgent behavior, conceited attitude, and insensitive actions. Yet, Christ took our place, bore our judgment, and suffered our well-deserved punishment. Christ’s sufferings should have happened to us, but he paid the price for our selfishness and pride. The cross should have happened to us, but out of love, Christ bore our just judgment.

Every time a Jewish man watched the priest slaughter a sacrificial lamb for him and his family, he knew that an innocent, beautiful creature was taking their place–suffering the fate they should they should have suffered for their sins. There could be no escaping the awareness that the magnitude of their sin required such a death. Just before the sacrifice, the worshiper who presented who presented the lamb laid both of his hands on it. By his touch, he signified that he understood the exchange: What happened to the lamb should have happened to me. 

Jesus Christ is God’s Lamb for you and me. And as we come to the cross, let us come humbly, laying trembling hands upon the Lamb. He will hear us whisper through our tears: “What happened to you, Lord Jesus, should have happened to me.”

Let us remember, too, that one day–and for all eternity thereafter–this sinless, spotless Lamb who was slain will reign–receiving all praise, honor, glory, and power.

Michael Card, A Violent Grace (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2000), 129.

A Holy Week Reflection

And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

Luke 23:33

Holy Week is the most wonderful week of the year. The week that changed the world. The week that changed history. The week that changed all of us. The week that changed me.

Maundy Thursday: God incarnate, Jesus Christ, washes feet. God displays by his actions that there is nothing too menial that he will not do in order to serve us. He calls us to do the same: serve others.

Good Friday: This Friday is good above all others. Good Friday is not a funeral or a memorial. Good Friday is God’s victory over all our enemies: the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil.

Holy Saturday: Saturday from a human perspective is a day of desperation and discouragement, but this day is actually the day of Hell’s vanquishing. Saturday is the ultimate paradox.

Resurrection Sunday: Jesus’ victory on Friday is declared to the world on Sunday. Hope is poured forth upon us. Hope is the confident expectation that the good things that God has promised, he will bring to pass, and he has brought to pass life eternal in his presence.

Grant, O Lord, that in your wounds I may find my safety, in your stripes my cure, in your pain my peace, in your Cross my victory, in your Resurrection my triumph, and a crown of righteousness in the glories of your eternal kingdom.

Jeremy Taylor, The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers

The Real Tree of Life

And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many nspread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.

Mark 11:7-8 ESV

Palm Sunday reminds us that there is no life without dying to self, there is no victory without a cost, and there is no salvation without a savior. The Cross is death, but through our sinless Savior, life is released. Life that is forgiveness of all our sin, healing of our broken hearts and ravaged souls, freedom from our self-inflicted wounds, and restoration of our broken relationship with God the Father. The Cross is the tree of life for every believer.

There was a time, and it is still not entirely over, when Christianity was rejected precisely because of the Cross. The Cross talked about sacrifice, it was said, the Cross is a sign of denial of life.

We, on the other hand, want life without restrictions and without renunciation. We want to live, nothing more than to live. Don’t let’s be limited by precepts and bans: we want richness and fullness – this is what was said and is still being said. All this sounds convincing and seductive, it is the language of the serpent, who tells us: ‘Don’t let yourselves be afraid! Eat serenely from all the trees in the garden!’

Palm Sunday, however, tells us that the truly great ‘Yes’ is precisely the Cross, that the Cross is the true tree of life. We are not alive to become masters of life, but to give it. Love is a giving of self, and this is why it is the way of true life, symbolized by the Cross.

Pope Benedict XVI, “The Cross of Jesus is the Real Tree of Life” [paragraphing mine]

Look Firmly at the Cross

 

 

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.

Gal. 6:14 NLT

When I wake up in the morning and all the demands of the day flood upon my soul; I look firmly at the Cross of Christ. On Golgotha’s Hill, there I know I am forgiven, there I am healed, there I am freed from my selfishness and pride, and there I know-I know that I know-I am accepted by God. At the Cross, the world’s enticements and pleasures cannot compete with the love of God. After looking firmly at the Cross, all I desire to do is to please my Lord.

Look at the cross, think of the cross, meditate on the cross, and then go and set your affections on the world if you can. I believe that holiness is nowhere learned so well as on Calvary. I believe you cannot look much at the cross without feeling your will sanctified, and your tastes made more spiritual.

As the sun gazed upon makes everything else look dark and dim, so does the cross darken the false splendor of this world. As the taste of honey makes all other things seem to have no taste at all, so does the cross seen by faith take all the sweetness out of the pleasures of the world. Keep on, everyday, looking firmly at the cross of Christ.

J.C. Ryle, “The Cross of Christ”

HT: J. C. Ryle Quotes