Pleasing Grief and Mournful Joy: A Good Friday Meditation
Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA, April 10, 1998
Jesus is condemned to death. Jesus is condemned to death!
Is this just?
Surely on a human level, this is a travesty of justice. Jesus' trial is a sham, violating virtually every rule regarding fair trials under both Jewish and Roman law. There was no due process exercised in this trial; Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing.
But consider Jesus' condemnation from God's point of view. Was Jesus' death justified?
Listen to these words of Scripture:
The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24)
He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people. (Hebrews 9: 26-28)
These Scriptures tell us that from God's point of view, Jesus' death was justified. Indeed, Jesus' death was necessary -- for without His death, God would have to punish you and me for our sins.
The Bible teaches us that God -- our perfectly holy and righteous God -- cannot tolerate sin. From his very nature, he cannot tolerate sin. Furthermore, God is just, meaning that he will right every wrong, he will apply just punishment to every wrongdoer. We like to hear this when we have been wronged -- the problem is that each of us has wronged others, so each of us deserves punishment.
So Jesus had to die because of my sin.
Sin! We don't like this word. We don't mind talking about our foibles, or our weaknesses, or our failures -- but sin! No, we don't like to admit that we are sinners.
What is sin?
One definition: Sin is any want of conformity to, or transgression of the law of God.
This definition shows that God is the one who defines sin. God, our Creator, has the absolute authority to dictate to us the terms and conditions of our being able to enter His presence. Sin is nothing more or less than the refusal to recognize and submit to that authority in any area of our lives.
Now, in these days there is much confusion concerning this word, "sin." Many people try to dumb down this idea of sin, to take away its meaning. For example, one prominent TV preacher defines sin as "any act or thought that robs myself or another human being of his or her self-esteem."
Brothers and sisters, this is nonsense. Sin is not an attack on our self-esteem; sin is rebellion against the Law of God.
Remember how Jesus summarized the Law of God?
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . . Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37, 39)
Do you live up to those? Do you put God first, always? Do you love Him will all of your very being? Do you always love others sacrificially, considering their welfare as important as your own?
No. I don't, you don't. Indeed, in our very nature we are rebellious, we do not want to submit ourselves to higher authority -- and so we define away sin as lack of self-esteem.
But God tells us that every one of us is a sinner, every one of us deserves eternal punishment. Paul in Romans 3 makes this absolutely clear: without Christ's death, all of us are under the just condemnation of God. Listen to these words:
We have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE." (Romans 3:9-12)
Does Paul mention self-esteem here? No. Paul tells us that every single person, every person here this evening, is a sinner; every person here his evening deserves an eternity of separation from our holy and perfect God.
So are we without hope? Keep reading! Paul goes on to explain the basis of our hope in verses 20 to 26. Please read those verses as they appear in your Bible; let me offer you the following paraphrase:
No one can stand before God and say, "I am righteous," on the basis of the way they live, on the basis of their living up to any standard. Every one of us sins, every one of us falls far short of God's standard of perfection -- and thus we deserve God's condemnation. God would not be just if he failed to condemn us for our sins. But God, instead of condemning us as we deserve, has offered to all who believe in Jesus Christ a way to attain his standard of perfection. This way does not depend on our living up to a standard, but depends on God's goodness to us in having Christ Jesus make the payment for the penalty for sin through the shedding of his blood. God, thereby, shows that He is perfectly just, for every sin leads to a just punishment. When we believe that the blood of Jesus pays the penalty for OUR sin, God accepts Jesus' punishment as the full payment for all our sins. So God is not only supremely just, but also supremely loving by making righteous all of us who believe in Jesus. (Romans 3:20-26, paraphrased)
Do you understand? Can you see why Peter says we have "joy inexpressible?" We are sinners! We deserve God's condemnation! And we can do nothing on our own to change that. But God sent His son Jesus to suffer and die on the cross for us, so that He might right every wrong and still invite us to become the perfect bride who will rejoice with Him for all eternity.
That is why today is Good Friday. Not Black Friday. Not Sad Friday. Not a day to mourn over the dying Jesus, though his death should sober us. Not a day to feel sorry for Jesus being spat upon, though we need to acknowledge the fact that all this happened because of what we have done. But a day, as John Newton said, for "pleasing grief and mournful joy." Joy because this one sacrifice saves us completely, because in this great act of love Christ Jesus laid down his life for you, for me; joy because this act that we celebrate -- yes, celebrate -- today allows each and every person here to join God's beloved family for all eternity -- if you will only believe.
So where are you, dear friends? Trying to comfort yourself with some 1990's definition of sin? Trying to live up to a good standard?
The shed blood of Jesus Christ is your only hope. But what a hope! Dear ones, open your heart to this amazing love! Receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior -- and eternal life begins for you on this Good Friday.
This meditation was preached at Community Bible Church in Williamstown, MA on Good Friday, 4/10/98.
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