Good Friday 2017

2017 Messages

John Elmore, Wes ButlerApr 14, 2017

John Elmore: Welcome to Good Friday here at Watermark. When I get up in the mornings it's still dark outside, and I can hear the birds singing although it's dark. They know something. They're singing because they know with certainty that the dawn is coming, that the light will soon break forth, so those birds are singing in the darkness. So it is with us today.

Today we remember the darkness of the cross, our Lord crucified, the darkness of our sin that held him there, the physical darkness that covered the land in that day as the sun failed to give its light, and we remember the spiritual darkness that still is upon the land today. Yet in that darkness we sing, and we sing because of the cross, because we have forgiveness of sins in Jesus. We sing in the darkness because of our Savior who gave himself freely upon the cross for us.

We sing because we are now at peace with God because of Jesus, and we sing in this darkness of Good Friday because we know that Sunday is coming and that one day Christ will return and will be our light forever. The song you're going to hear is "Once for All," initially, and once for all is this refrain that's throughout the book of Hebrews.

Jesus was given once for all as the mediator, once for all as a break for us, his body for us, to be reconciled to God, once for all the sacrifice for sins forever, that we would be at peace with him. So we're able to sing to our Savior, who gave himself upon the cross once for all. Because of his great love, he took upon himself our great sin, and so we sing. Pray with me now.

Lord Jesus, we thank you and praise you that on Friday you went to the cross. No one took your life. You laid it down because of your love for us so that we could be reconciled to the Father through you and sealed with the Spirit. So, Lord, as we remember the darkness of our sin, we can declare that this Friday is good because of your forgiveness that was bought with such a price, your body and blood shed for us. So we sing to you now, Lord.

The cross is the pivotal event in all of history, and we know that all of heaven is in awe of the cross. All of hell shudders and is in fear of it. All of creation reacts and revolts at the time of Jesus upon the cross. It is man alone who sees the cross as commonplace, flippantly, casually even scoffs at it and disregards it, yet that cross is the pivot point in all of history. So today on Good Friday we remember the cross, Jesus upon it for the sins of the world, the Lamb of God who takes away our sins.

Throughout the Gospels, as you read about the cross and about Jesus going to it, there are many events, many instances, many things that happen to Jesus and around him, and yet interestingly, three times in three of the gospels we are told specifically of an event that takes place far away from the cross, not within sight of it, yet something so significant that three of the gospel writers, by the Spirit, would say, "Pen this. Write this down."

For the people who saw it it was significant and for us today there's great significance. It's the torn veil. The veil that was in the temple upon Mount Zion tore at the instance of Jesus' death from top to bottom, out of reach of Golgotha. It's difficult sometimes with everything that surrounds the cross to get into the particulars and the depths and the detail of some of those events, but today, specifically, we're going to consider the tearing of the veil and the significance and what that means for each one of us in Christ today.

Before we talk about the veil, we have to first talk about why it tore and what led up to its tearing. So I want to recount to you all that Jesus, in reverent and glad submission to the Father, endured for us that that veil would tear on our behalf. In the early hours of the morning of Friday, Jesus was given over to the Jewish authorities, led to Caiaphas' house, and there put on trial, blindfolded before his accusers, and struck, spit upon, and mocked.

They said to him, "Prophesy to us, you Christ. Who is it that struck you?" In that moment, Jesus, the Creator, omniscient, could have said exactly who it was who struck him, even the details of the fingerprints upon the hand that struck him. He was the sustainer of the life that struck him and yet remained silent before his accusers. Then he was given over to the Roman authorities, to Pontius Pilate, the prefect over Judea at that time. He was led there into his authority, and the Jews followed in suit.

Pontius Pilate, having been warned in a dream to his wife, "Have nothing to do with this man," says, "I find no evil in him," and the Jews cry out, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Giving way to their pressure for fear of a rebellion, he turns him over to the Roman battalion to be crucified. As the whole Roman battalion gathers around our Lord, they fashion together a crown of thorns and place it upon his brow.

They take a reed and put it in his hand like the scepter of a king, clothe him in a purple garment, after they had stripped him, kneel, and pay homage to him in mockery. "Hail, King of the Jews." Then they grab that reed and beat him upon the head, driving that crown of thorns into his brow with blood coming down, striking him with their hands, slapping him again, spitting upon him. "Hail, King of the Jews."

Scourged on our behalf, whipped with this whip that would have contained fragments of bone and metal, so that his body, stripped, would have been split apart, his flesh torn. Not a bone broken, as the prophecy in Psalm 22 would say, but his body torn on our behalf. Then the crossbeam was laid upon him, and he carried it to Golgotha (Aramaic for "Place of the Skull"), Calvary (from the Latin word calvaria meaning skull).

He's led there to his place of death, laid down, and nails driven through his wrists and his feet, having been stripped naked. Yet we're told in Isaiah by the prophet, "As a lamb is silent before its shearers, so he uttered no threats," no accusations, as he was nailed to the cross. Then raised up with the crossbeam knocked into that pre-dug hole, and as it jolted into the ground it would have dislocated his shoulders.

There, the Lamb of God upon the cross, stripped naked, the Roman soldiers casting lots for his clothing, is in fulfillment of Psalm 22, where it says his hands and feet have been pierced. "They cast lots for my garments. My bones are out of joint. My heart melts within me as wax. My strength is gone. My tongue sticks to my jaw." As he is crucified.

Artists have done us a disservice by placing a loincloth in the depictions of Jesus upon the cross. It's not so. He was naked. That was part of the shame and humiliation of the cross that he disregarded for the joy set before him. You are the joy set before him. He endured it for you. Yet at the same time, he wasn't naked. He was fully clothed by our sin. It says in Colossians 2:13 that all of our sin, past, present, and future sin, was nailed to the cross. Our sin covered Jesus in that moment, as he was clothed by it to satisfy the wrath of God.

The indictment above his head that was infinitely true, the fulfillment of prophecy, "Jesus, the King of the Jews," written in Aramaic (the Jewish language of the time), Latin (for the Roman language of the kingdom), and Greek (for the universal language of the known world); written in three translations for everyone who would pass by him to see and behold the fulfillment of all of the prophecies. "Behold, Jesus, King of the Jews." They asked Pilate to change it, and he said, "What I have written, I have written" to fulfill the prophecy in Christ.

We know he was crucified between two thieves on either side who both hurled insults at him. They both reviled him on either side. We know from the gospel that later one, having observed him, having heard Jesus say, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," would repent and say, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom," and Jesus' reply upon the cross was, "Today you will be with me in paradise."

Then there were the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, who were circling around him, saying, "You saved others, yet you cannot save yourself. Come down from that cross, and we will believe in you." Yet he remained on the cross out of love for them so that they could be saved, so that they could believe in him. There among his accusers and the very ones who had commanded him to be crucified so that he could, in fact, offer them salvation, and yet as they looked upon his death, the sacrifice for their sins, they missed it. Will you today miss it?

Then all of creation revolts. The sun fails to give its light from noon until 3:00 p.m., and the land grows dark. We're told in the gospel the sun failed to give its light. This wasn't an eclipse. It wasn't blocked. It was not extinguished. Rather, it just failed to give its light, as creation sees the Creator upon the cross, testifying to the one who is there.

Then Jesus before the Father saying three things. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" In that, words of grace, as he was saying to them the beginning of Psalm 22, this prophecy, so that they could remember in this oral tradition, as they heard those words, knowing and beholding the very one who was crucified before them.

Then he says these powerful words: "It is finished." Tetelestai. He says that all that the Father has given him to do, the Father's will, he has now accomplished…victory over sin, death, and Satan on our behalf. It says in Hebrews, "Sacrifices and offerings you did not desire," but when Jesus came into the world he said, "A body you have prepared for me. I have come to do your will, even death upon the cross."

So he says, rightly, "It is finished," and then, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," and with that a loud cry and his last breath. In that moment of the last breath Jesus gives, as he commits his spirit to God, we see an earthquake throughout the land. Rocks are split and tombs break open as creation revolts and reacts to the death of the Creator upon the cross.

Then the gospel writers include this significant event that is separate from the cross, separate from Golgotha. Upon Mount Zion in the temple… Three of the gospels record and point us for all time to the temple, to the veil. They say that at that moment, the temple veil was torn from top to bottom. So today we are going to look at the significance of that event, why they recorded it, and what it means for us.

In Jerusalem in that time there was a temple upon Mount Zion where they would offer sacrifice. This is where God dwelt among his people. When he called his people out of Egypt and commanded Moses to build a tabernacle, he promised, "I will dwell among you." So he dwelt among his people first in the tabernacle behind the veil, and then, as they entered into the Promised Land, he said, "I will dwell among you within the temple."

So Solomon created the temple. It was destroyed. Zerubbabel rebuilds it, and then in the time of Herod he restores it, and there is this great temple where the sacrifices of God are made and a temple veil hangs, separating a holy God and his presence from a sinful people, and yet he dwells among them.

The veil that hung was not just any veil. It was not just a small curtain. Rather, we are told by Josephus, the veil that hung within that temple between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place was 60 feet tall, 30 feet wide, and a handbreadth (four inches) thick. This incredible, monstrous veil that would separate the very holiness of God from a sinful people so he could dwell among them.

Behind the veil was the ark of the covenant, where the presence of God dwelt among his people on the mercy seat, where propitiation, satisfaction of God's wrath was made on one day each year, the Day of Atonement, when the high priest would enter in and make sacrifice for his sins and for the people. Within that ark of the covenant were three things: the stone tablets, the Ten Commandments that Moses received, which were a representation of the entire Old Testament law…

That law was given to depict the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man; the holy demands of a perfect, morally righteous God and the law it required. Also within the ark of the covenant there was a budded staff, the staff of Aaron, we're told in Hebrews. This staff showed that Aaron would be the priest. This staff was cut off and then gives forth life. The staff buds, showing death to life.

It was a foreshadowing of an eternal priesthood that would be fulfilled in Christ, the law that would be held perfectly by Christ, and then a third thing: a jar of manna, bread from heaven. Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life," that they could have eternal life as they took of Jesus, just as the bread, the manna, sustained the Israelites as they wandered.

So there behind the veil those items existed, representing the holiness of God, his presence, and also foreshadowing the coming of Christ who would fulfill all of those three things. Let's read now, as we talk through the significance of the veil being torn, from Hebrews 10:19-20 and 22. "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body…let us draw near to God…"

First, the torn veil means that we are forgiven. The torn veil at the temple in the moment Jesus died means there was forgiveness of sins through Christ. Now the veil as it stood in the temple was a good thing, because it represented that God dwelt among his people and that sacrifice for sins could be offered and that there would be forgiveness. It was good, but when Jesus came it was better. At Jesus' death, the veil is torn, and it shows that there is a better way, a more fulfilled and complete way through Christ.

You see, God is holy and separate, and in him there is no sin. When Moses encounters him upon the mountain, he says, "No man shall behold me, for if man looks upon me in my holiness, he will die." God is altogether holy and separate, and yet we, as fallen men and women, are sinful and desperate. We are born into sin, children of wrath. It says in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. His holiness and separateness, as we are sinful and desperate.

We're desperate because there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ our Lord. There is no other name by which men are saved. Your good works are nothing to outdo sin. It is a supernatural problem that demands a supernatural solution, and it is only found in Jesus. God is holy and separate. We are sinful and desperate, and thus God, out of his great love for us, sends Jesus as the perfect sacrifice and atonement for sins.

So we see Jesus, the sinless sacrifice. He was perfect, having fulfilled all of the law. He was fully God, because he had to satisfy the wrath of God, the anger against sin. He had to be fully God and demonstrates that by his fulfillment of the law and his rising from the dead, the miracles, and yet he had to be fully man in order to come as an appropriate sacrifice and substitute for each one of us. He became that which he came to save.

The eternally preexistent Son took on flesh on our behalf and took the death we deserved. "God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." There is no getting cleaned up. There is no working your way to God. It is simply by your faith in Jesus that you can be saved. For God so loved you that he gave his only begotten Son, that if you would believe in him you would never perish but have eternal life in this life and forever in the next.

The torn veil means that Christ's sacrifice was sufficient and that we, you, are forgiven. It's complete. This is the new covenant fulfilled in Jesus, for the blood of bulls and goats never takes away sins, and yet without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Sin merits death, so Jesus took your place for the death you deserved. The torn veil means we are forgiven.

The torn veil means we have access to God through the Son. You see, as God dwelt among his people, there was still only one man on one day who could enter behind the veil to the Holy of Holies, into the very presence of God, only with blood covering for the sacrifice of his sins and the sins of the people. One man, the high priest, on one day. But now in Christ, our Great High Priest, who entered in behind the curtain, the holiness of God, the heavenly reality of the earthly picture…

He enters in on our behalf not with the blood of bulls and goats but with his own blood, a perfect, sinless blood, and purchases for us access to God by his sinless sacrifice, his very life laid down. He goes in with his own blood to the Holy of Holies, the true reality, the heavenly reality, so that we can have access to God. It says in Hebrews 4:16, "Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we might receive mercy and find grace in our time of need."

Jesus went in on our behalf once for all. The priest would go in year after year only on that one day for access. Jesus goes to God, the Father, on our behalf so that we could have access to him all day, every day, for all time. Before, there wasn't access to God. Even a Jew could not enter into the Holy of Holies, and now we freely, because of Christ, have access to God always, for all time, through Christ. The torn veil means access to God through Jesus.

Finally, the torn veil means that God dwells in his people. God dwelt among his people. He dwelt among his people first in the tabernacle and then within the temple, but at the tearing of the veil he no longer dwelt with his people; he dwelt within his people. A powerful change of preposition that means so much, that he would no longer be with us but in us because of Jesus.

He was there behind the veil, God's presence above the ark of the covenant, his presence among the people, dwelling there with them, but now, as Jesus' body is broken and torn, the veil torn… Those priests within the temple at that time would have seen and beheld where previously the glory of God would have been, and now it was absent. God was absent from behind the veil because Christ incarnate, God in flesh, had dwelt among the people.

Then with his ascension was the sending of the Spirit, and now our bodies would become the temple of God's Spirit. First Corinthians 6 says, "Do you not know your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? You have been bought with a price." What is that price? The very body and blood of Jesus. "Therefore, honor God with your body."

It says in Ephesians 2:22, "In Christ you also are being built together to become a holy place, the temple of God." God no longer dwelling with his people but within us. You are the temple of God because the veil has been torn, that presence of God removed from the temple and placed within you, a living temple, the very body of Christ. The torn veil means you have forgiveness. The torn veil means you have access to God. The torn veil means God dwells within you if you are in Christ.

Sin is that which we are terribly and terminally afflicted, poisoned, and diseased with. All of us have sin. You were born with it, and there is no earthly cure for it. It poisons and kills in this life and leads to hell forever in the next. Sin is incurable by man, and there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

There is no salvation found in any other religion. They are false and dead. It is in Christ alone that there is forgiveness of sins. Will you receive him today? You will find your salvation in Jesus or not at all. You will trust in his death or you yourself will die. You will run to his covering for God's wrath against sin or experience it eternally, and your soul will be at peace or not. It all hinges upon what you do with Jesus.

The veil within the temple was good because it meant God was among his people, that they could have access to him, that there was forgiveness of sins, and yet as that veil was torn at the death of Jesus upon the cross at 3:00 p.m. on that Good Friday when Jesus said, "It is finished"…that torn veil, forgiveness, access, and God dwelling in us.

Through Jesus you are forgiven if you receive him. Not just historical facts. Not just because of Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate and the historical fact that there was a man, Jesus, who was crucified, but if you personally receive his forgiveness… You must. This is not an intellectual matter; this is a spiritual matter. Only you can give your soul to Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Will you receive him today?

If you have, remember him, thank him, and live in light of the cross, holy unto God. Before Jesus died he said, "It is finished." Those simple and yet profound eternal words: "It is finished." Words pregnant with meaning, impacting us. "It is finished," meaning regeneration, redemption, restoration to God, reconciliation with our Creator, that we would be washed of our sins, forgiven of them, evaded of the wrath to come, and given his righteousness. Jesus said, "It is finished" upon the cross for you.

Wes Butler: Hebrews 10:19, again, says, "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body…let us draw near to God…" The call of this Good Friday, the call that the torn curtain rings out from behind it, the call of this better word that has been spoken to us is just that, "Let us draw near to God."

He has broken the power of our sin. The curse we have lived in since the fall of Adam and Eve has been reversed. The blood we so desperately needed, the blood that is necessary if any of us are going to be saved, has been shed for you and for me. So God cries out to us on this Good Friday and says, "Come and draw near to me."

He says that to you…to you collectively, to this group of friends, but to you individually. Knowing the very depths of your heart, the sin you walked into this room with, he still says, "Come and draw near. I've done everything. I've paid every price. I've accomplished everything. It is finished, so come and draw near to me."

The night before all of this took place, Jesus shared a meal with his friends. It wasn't just any old meal. It was the Passover meal. It was a meal of celebration, of celebrating the deliverance of God's people not just from the slavery of Egypt but from death itself, as they took a lamb and slaughtered that lamb and took the blood and spread it on the doorposts of their homes, so that when the angel of death would come by it would see the blood on the doors and say, "Not this one. It is finished in this one. We can pass on."

Jesus gathered with his friends to celebrate that, to recognize that the lamb had died in their place and that God's mercy had saved them. The Passover was a good thing, but as Jesus led his friends through that meal that night, he told them, "I have a better thing for you. I have a better word for you." So Luke, as he's writing in the Gospels, tells us that Jesus took the bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

So Jesus took bread, maybe something like this, and just as the curtain would be torn merely hours later, Jesus took the bread and demonstrated for them what was going to happen to his body. It would be torn in two. The tearing of his flesh, the tearing of his body would be the means by which the curtain would be torn. So Jesus gave them the bread and said, "This has been done for you so that you could draw close, so that you could draw near to me."

Then Luke tells us that he took the cup of wine, and after they had eaten, he poured it out, and just as he knew that his blood would be poured out on that cross, he took it and held it for them. He said, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant. It's a better covenant. It's the covenant of my blood." Jesus was effectively saying, "Hey, the old covenant was good, but this new covenant is so much better." It's for you. It's for everyone. It's for any who would believe, for any who would trust in him, so that you could draw near to God, so that you could have access to him, so that you could have a relationship with him.

So for centuries, the friends of Jesus, the followers of Jesus, have gathered in places like this, in small homes and in big stadiums, to remember and to take these elements together and to remember that God's body was torn so we could draw near to God, that Jesus' blood was shed so that you might draw near to God. Today, we get to do it again, to be reminded of the broken body and the shed blood for you and for me.

It's interesting that Matthew, when he writes this, remembers hearing Jesus say, "The blood that was shed for many," because it is individually for you and for me, but it is collectively for us, that we could gather in this place and that Jesus might save many, that many should come to repentance. God's Word gives us instructions on how we should come to this Table, and here in a minute we're going to give you an opportunity to come just on your own, to come and take the bread and the juice.

As the apostle Paul was instructing the church, he told us, "Make sure that everyone takes time to examine their own hearts," to examine themselves before God, to see if they have ever taken the opportunity to say, "I embrace this new and better way. I am putting all of my faith, all of my trust, all of my hope in the Savior whose body was broken for me, whose blood was shed for me, knowing that there's nothing I can do to earn his love. There's nothing I could do to draw near to him. He has done it, so I've placed my faith in him."

The Scriptures tell us that any who would come to this Table who have never done that, who have never acknowledged, "Hey, I can't save myself; I need a Savior, and I believe that Jesus is that Savior," that we eat and drink condemnation to ourselves. So let me encourage you, first of all, just to examine your own heart and go, "Am I a follower of Jesus? Am I a friend of Jesus?"

Parents, let me encourage you. This is a great opportunity for you if you have children in your home who have never taken that step, who have never placed their faith in Jesus. They have an understanding maybe of the stories and of the facts, but they've never trusted themselves. It's an okay time for you to say, "Not now. You're not going to take the bread and the juice," and you can explain to them why that is.

Let me just encourage you. This is a great opportunity to spark a great conversation in your home, but it is up to us to examine our hearts and to say, "Hey, am I the Savior's?" but beyond that, to examine our hearts and go, "Is there any sin that is unconfessed, anything that is keeping me at a distance from God that isn't necessary? Jesus has done everything, and yet I've allowed sin to pull me away. He hasn't moved; I have." You just need to confess.

Here in a minute, as we give you an opportunity to come to these tables that are throughout the room, let me just encourage you to take your time to pray and examine your heart and ask the Lord to show you, "Hey, is there any wicked way in me, and, Lord, will you lead me in the way everlasting?" To examine your heart, to confess, and then to come to these tables. We're going to put up on the screen 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 just to give you an opportunity to walk yourself through this time.

As we break in a minute, there will be some music playing. We're going to ask you to be very quiet and respectful, to make your way to the Table as you are ready. You may just need to sit right now. Some of you maybe go, "I don't know that I've ever come to a place of putting my trust in Jesus, and I'm not even sure I know how to do that."

There will be some of us down front who would love the opportunity to talk with you about that, to share with you how you can know the hope that we know and that you can draw near to God. Maybe that's the best thing you can do. Rather than coming to the Table, come here so we can talk with you. We would love that opportunity.

So grab the elements and go back to your seat. I would encourage you as families or maybe Community Groups or friends… If you came by yourself, maybe just ask someone, "Hey, can I join you?" Just to walk through taking the bread and the juice on your own time, and then as you finish and as you feel led to leave, you can leave. We just ask you to do that quietly in reverence of this moment and of others who are taking the time to do that. Let me pray for us, and then you can come to this Table.

Father, we thank you that you are a God who longs to draw us near, that you are a God who has accomplished everything we needed. You finished it, Father, to provide a better covenant, one that cannot be broken, that can't be plucked from us, God, but one that saves us and rescues us. So we thank you, Jesus, for your blood. We thank you for your body that was broken, and we thank you that you tore the veil.

Lord, as we take time now to come before you, to examine our own hearts and then to take these elements and to do it in remembrance of what you have done for us, Lord, will you help us to remember? Will you give us a soberness of our own spirit and heart and mind, God, to see ourselves rightly and to see you as glorious? Lord, as we take the bread, as we drink the juice, Lord, may it be a reminder of your goodness to us.

We thank you, God, for moments like this where we can just reflect on the cross, on your death. We can even grieve over what it cost you so that we could draw near to God. We do that now. In the precious and holy name of Jesus our Savior, who hung on that cross and who accomplished everything, we pray, amen.