This is the time of year where I find myself intensely jealous for Good Friday. If I could choose one day to have every church filled, it would be this day. Perhaps it is dangerous to rank the significant days in the ministry of Jesus, but surely it is safe to say that Good Friday is at the pinnacle.
Good Friday is the day when Jesus shouted from the cross, "Mission accomplished!". In John 19, verse 30, we read, "When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said 'It is finished!' And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit."
That phrase, "It is finished!", is actually just one word in the Greek. Commenting on this, Charles Spurgeon once wrote that it "would require all the other words that were ever spoken, or ever could be spoken, to explain this one word." The implications of this, friends, is that you are in for a very long sermon!
More seriously though, I think we would do well to consider what Jesus actually "finished" on the cross. I mean, we know the narrative--it is familiar to us. We have reminders of the cross in virtually every prayer, every sermon, and every hymn. We all understand that the narrative of the cross is central to Christianity.
What I fear, however, is that we often gloss over the implications of the cross. I fear that we speed pass the life-changing implications of Good Friday in order to sing, "Jesus Christ is risen today! Hallelujah!".
I am not calling us here to a detailed reflection of the beating and scourging of Jesus. I am not asking that we dwell indefinitely on the brutal nature of our Lord's death. I'm asking us to consider what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and what that means for how we live our lives.
Given the fact that, "It is finished", was the last thing Jesus said before His death, we might be tempted to conclude that He was referring to His suffering. But I reckon that if the only thing Jesus finished on the cross was earthly suffering, then His life ended tragically and is no different from any other death.
But this death was different. The death of Jesus meant the completion of His mission. When Jesus said, "It is finished", He was declaring that He had made full payment for our sin. I like the way one of our hymns puts it, "Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain--He washed it white as snow."
Friends, do we properly appreciate how desperate our situation once was? Do we understand the implications of having a crimson stain?
As sinners, we have no right to eternal life. If we want what's coming to us, if we want what is fair, we get eternal condemnation.
Heaven is not the place where every person goes when they die. Heaven is the place where you go if you have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. And without the blood of the Lamb, without the cross of Christ, we have no hope of obtaining God's favour. As another hymn puts it, "Wash me, Saviour, or I die!"
Humanity was hopelessly in debt until that time when Jesus cried out, "It is finished!"
It is interesting to note that the word for, "It is finished", was used by the Greeks for financial transactions. A sales clerk would use this word to indicate that something was "paid in full". It meant that no debts were outstanding and that no further payments were required.
"Paid in full" is what Jesus did on the cross. This is why the apostle Paul writes that "(we) were bought with a price"(2Cor.7:23). Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves. Jesus lived a perfect life in accordance with the Law of God, and His sacrificial death was the required payment for humanity's sin. As a result, we have no outstanding debts. We do not need to make any further payments.
When Jesus shouted, "It is finished", He was not uttering a sigh of relief. Jesus was proclaiming victory over sin. Yes, there were other things Jesus still had to do. He still had to die, He had to be buried, and rise again. He had to ascend to heaven. And we continue to wait for Him to return in judgment. But when Jesus said, "It is finished", He was saying that His primary mission--payment for sin--had been accomplished.
"What then, is left for us to do?" someone asks. Put your trust in Jesus Christ. For His work of atonement is applied to individual human beings by grace working through faith (Eph.2:8). As our hymn writer puts it, "Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling."
In the Christian life there is much to do, but there is nothing you can do to add to the work of Christ. We are not saved by Christ's work + whatever good deeds we can muster. No! We are saved by the work of Christ alone.
Theologian, A.W. Pink tells a story that may be helpful in this regard. A Christian farmer, deeply concerned about his non-Christian neighbour, who was a carpenter, was trying to explain the gospel, especially the sufficiency of the finished work of Christ. But the carpenter persisted in believing that he had to do something to get into heaven. One day the Christian farmer asked his carpenter friend to make a gate for him, and when it was finished he came for it and carried it away in his wagon. He hung it on a fence in his field and then arranged for the carpenter to stop by and see that it was hung properly. When the carpenter arrived he was surprised to see the farmer standing by with a sharp axe in his hand.
"What is that for?", the carpenter asked.
"I'm going to add a few strokes to your work", responded the farmer.
"But there's no need to do that", the carpenter protested. "The gate is perfect as it is. I did everything that was necessary."
The farmer took his axe and began to strike the gate anyway.
"Look what you've done!", cried the carpenter. "You've ruined my work!"
"Yes", said the farmer. "And that is exactly what you are trying to do. You are trying to ruin the work of Christ by your own miserable additions to it."
The reason we call the brutal death of Jesus, "Good Friday" is because it marks the day where Christ finished His perfect work of atonement. There is nothing we can do to add it to it.
Shall Christians do whatever they please then? May it never be! Christians must commit to living a godly life, not to obtain salvation, but because it is the appropriate response to salvation already obtained.
How shall we, after being redeemed from sin, still live in it? Knowing that our sin made the cross of Christ necessary, should provide ample motivation to turn from sin.
If you need motivation to serve the church, I can think of no better motivation than the cross of Christ. "Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all." Amen.