SAVED BY BLOOD
On Maundy Thursday, Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples in the upper room. In this festival, the Jewish people remember how God rescued them from the slavery of Egypt.
During the original Passover, the angel of death descended upon Egypt and killed the first born male of every family. Rich, poor, old, young, aristocratic or lowly, the first born son in every family was lost that night. All except the first born of the Jewish people. How were they saved? They were saved by blood. A lamb without spot or blemish was slaughtered and roasted as part of the Passover meal. The blood from that lamb was smeared on the door frames of the houses of the Jewish people. When the angel of death saw that blood, he knew to pass over that house. Thus the Jewish people were saved.
Blood. Blood has always been the means by which God saved the people. During the original Passover, it was with the blood of the Passover lamb. As the years passed, God revealed to Moses that it was only through blood that the sins of the nation could be forgiven. God gave the Chosen People an elaborate system of sacrifice that was intended to remind the people that they needed to be right with God on his terms, not theirs. All sorts of animals were sacrificed to God.
But eventually God decided to do something else. He had had enough with the regular sacrifices of the people. So God decided to do one more that would be sufficient for all people from all time. Once that sacrifice was done, no others would ever again be required. What did he sacrifice? A lamb or a bull or a chicken? No because no livestock could ever be sufficient for the sins of all humanity for all time. God did something unique and different. God sacrificed his one and only Son.
Only he was blameless. Only he was without sin. He alone among all the people who ever walked the earth had never fallen to temptation. He alone was worthy. We call him Jesus.
But how did it all start? It all started back before the Passover meal. In Matthew 26:14-16 (NIV) we read, “Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”
We all know that Judas turned Jesus in. That’s not news to anyone who has the slightest idea about this story. That event in itself is sad enough. It’s disgusting to think that one human being would turn in another human being for a few silver coins. But that is exactly what happened.
But who was Judas? He was one of the Twelve men who followed Jesus throughout his earthly ministry. For three years, they had listened to his teachings, watched as the blind were given sight and the lame a new pair of working legs. They had seen him calm the storm, walk on water and feed 5,000 people with a few loaves and fishes. They had seen it all. They had seen his power, his mercy, his compassion and his love. For three years, they had travelled with him throughout the Judean countryside. And yet it was one of these very men who would betray him.
Betrayal. It’s an awful thing. Judas betrayed Jesus. One of his closest friends turned him in, betrayed him with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane where he had gone to pray. Betrayed by a friend.
We can get all high and mighty and look down on Judas for what he did. But, if truth be known, he was not the only one to betray Jesus. In different ways, all of Jesus’ disciples betrayed him.
Peter denied Jesus. Three times he said that he never knew him, that he was not his friend. All of the Twelve deserted him when he went to the cross. None of them were there to ease the pain of his death or to comfort him as life slowly ebbed from his body. Only John was there with the women to watch Jesus die. He is described in the Gospel as the disciple whom Jesus loved. He alone stayed by the foot of the cross. All of the others, every single one betrayed him. Judas may have been the most obvious. But he was no more guilty of betrayal then the rest of them. All of them, every last one, dipped his hand in Jesus’ bowl. Everyone betrayed him.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Here’s a question for you. If you had been there, what would you have done? That’s were the rubber hits the road, isn’t it. Many of us have this idea that if we had been there, we’d know better. We’d recognize Jesus for who he was. We’d understand what he was doing and we’d stick by him through thick and thin.
Really? Is that what we really think? The truth is that we’d run away just as fast and just as far as the rest of the disciples did. That, at least, is where some of us would be – running away. Do you know where the rest of us would be? Chances are we’d be lining the streets of Jerusalem waiting to watch him crawl past toward a hill called Calvary. And maybe we’d be hurling tomatoes, sticks, stones or even worse at him as like everyone else.
Let’s not kid ourselves. We’d betray him just as quickly as the rest of the Twelve did. Why would we do that? Each of us was born a sinner. Each of us has fallen to temptation. Each of us has put our own interests ahead of the interests of others. Each of us has turned our back on God’s plan and purpose for our lives. Each of us has betrayed him. Each and every one of us.
Do you what that means? It means that it is even more amazing that he would go to the cross for us. It makes it even more incredible that he would die for us. But he did. And if you were the only person ever to walk the face of the earth, he would have gone to the cross just for you. That’s how much he loves you.
You can never love him back that much. None of us can. None of us is worthy. None of us is good enough. That’s why he had to die for us. And that’s why we remember what he did.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
We come, O God, on this black and bleak morning. It is a morning that changed the world. It is a morning that forever transformed your relationship with us. Jesus, your righteous and innocent Son was nailed to a cross and stripped of his dignity and humanity in order that the lustful and greedy desires of evil men and angels would be fulfilled.
We stare at his broken body as he hangs limp in our minds and we are struck by the injustice of it all. We admit that it makes no sense to us. Our minds are too feeble and our hearts too hard to truly comprehend what you did for us in Jesus. Why anyone would die for the sins of the entire world is too much for us to fathom.
And yet, we forget that it was not only your Son who went to the cross, it was you who died there in agony. It was you who chose to experience life as we do as mortal beings. You did not shirk your responsibilities as we often do. What you began in Bethlehem you finished on Calvary. You gave yourself for us when we could do nothing to save ourselves.
How can we thank you enough? We can’t. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
April 2, 2021 / Good Friday
Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42
CALL TO WORSHIP
One: We come today with our guilt and shame;
All: Our sins are many.
One: We come today knowing just how much we fall short;.
All: Our sins are great.
One: We come today seeking new life;
All: Our sins bring death.
One: Jesus died on the cross of Calvary;
All: bearing our sins.
OPENING PRAYER & PRAYER OF CONFESSION
We come to you this morning, O God, conscience of the significance of this day. It is not a day of good news. It is not a day of rejoicing. It is, rather, a day of sorrow, a day of suffering, a day of needless and cruel death. The events of Good Friday are indescribable, filled with unmitigated horror. We don’t want to remember because when we do we are filled with the guilt of knowing that Jesus died for each of us individually. He died for our sins. He died for my sins. I cannot comprehend what that means and so I come this day in awe at how much you wanted us to be right with you again.
Jesus died for our sins. He died for my sins. And yet, I am still burdened down by the weight of my sinfulness. Perhaps, O God, if I confess them again, Jesus will take them to the cross for me one more time. And so I come to you in silence with the confessions of my heart…
ASSURANCE OF BLAME
There is no assurance or forgiveness of Good Friday. There is only innocent death.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
We have nothing to offer that is of any value. We are worthless.
There is no commissioning.