Good Friday Message

Pastor Sherry’s message for April 15, 2022.

Scriptures: Isa 52:13-53:12; Ps 22; Heb 10:16-25; John 18:1-19:42

Our Scripture passages today are all very solemn, fitting this day we remember the death of our Lord, Jesus Christ, on the Cross. The Passion narrative according to John takes us through Jesus’s “kangaroo trials” to His crucifixion.

First, He is arrested. He had made Himself disappear suddenly, in the past, when He did not intend to be captured. In Nazareth, after He had read the passage from Isaiah (61:1-2) that contains the job description of the Messiah and said Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing, His hometown friends tried to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:29-30). However, He walked through the midst of them and vanished. This time, though, He chose to remain and to face what was coming.

Did you notice that those who came to arrest Him fell back when He identified Himself as Jesus of Nazareth (v.6)? He seemed firmly in control as He calmly surrendered. They had sent a group of some 500 men to capture Him, armed with clubs and weapons, but He wouldn’t allow a fight to ensue. He tells them to let His disciples go. Luke tells us He even healed Malchus’ ear after Peter had cut it off (Luke 22:50-51). This should have made some impression on those who came to arrest Him. Surely they might have wondered if He were not someone special.

From the garden, they take him to the palace of Annas, the former high priest. Out of favor with the Romans, Annas was still the religious power broker of Jerusalem. Biblical scholars say he was both brilliant and satanic. Many credit him with this plan to eliminate Jesus; they had just awaited the “right time” and a Judas to appear. So they arrest Him under the cover of night, when all those who loved and believed in Jesus would be at home.

Jesus challenges Anna’s court honestly, confronting the guy who hit Him (v.23) If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike Me? Jesus, again calmly but firmly, reminds them they are out of line: by Jewish law,

1.) No court trial could begin at night/be held at night;

2.) No one could strike a person on trial without a verdict;

3.) Furthermore, Jewish Law prohibited sentencing a man on the day he was brought to trial.

But this trial at Annas’s was a mockery of justice.

Annas then sends Him to Caiaphas, the Roman’s choice for “high priest,” as well as Annas’s son-in-law (a 1st century example of nepotism). John reminds us that earlier (John 11:50), Caiaphas had said to the Sanhedrin You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish. Caiaphas did not realize at the time that he was speaking prophetically. Nevertheless, Jesus knows He is laying down His life for the sins of Israel and for us. Caiaphas and Annas both find Jesus guilty of blasphemy, because He admitted He is the Son of God. He–the Way, the Truth, and the Life– is accused of lying even though He told the truth. How ironic! They would have liked to have stoned Jesus, but the Romans forbade any nation to invoke capital punishment but them.

So Jesus is next sent to the Roman, Pontius Pilate. Pilate tries every which way to free Jesus. He knows the Jewish religious hierarchy is just jealous of Him. Even though Pilate believes Jesus is innocent, he still has Him scourged (39 lashes with a whip), hoping this will satisfy them. He offers to set Jesus free due to the Passover Holiday. He can find nothing wrong with Jesus, but hands Him over to be crucified when the Jews threaten to tell Caesar that Pilate has released a man claiming to be king of the Jews.

And so, trading the sinless Son of God for a murderous insurrectionist, the Jewish leadership have their way and Jesus is crucified. Ironically, the sign on His cross identifies Him as King of the Jews: It is written…

1.) In Hebrew—the language of religion;

2.) ,In Greek—the language of culture and education;

3.) And in Latin—the language of law and order in the Roman world.

The Jews want it adjusted, but Pilate will not bend.

Notice that John does not tell us much about the crucifixion. None of the Gospel writers do. They highlight Jesus’ dignity. They did not want us to focus on Christ’s agony. In fact, the Bible commentator J. Vernon McGee says the Father deliberately made darkness come over the land from noon until 3:00pm so watchers could not see Jesus’ intense suffering as He took on all the sin of the world, past, present, and future; and as the Father turned His back on Him. We are told that soldiers gamble over who will get His clothes. John then relates three of the 7 statements Jesus makes as He is dying:

1.) He asks John to care for His mother, Mary;

2.) He says He is thirsty;

3.) And, lastly, He asserts, It is finished [meaning the work of salvation He was sent to do]. Finally, we learn He was taken down and buried just before the Sabbath began at sundown.

To get a sense of what the crucifixion was like for Jesus, we have to turn to Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is the 4th and final Suffering Servant Song, a Messianic Prophecy, often referred to as the Gospel in the Old Testament. Isaiah tells us Jesus will be raised high, lifted up (on the Cross) but also highly exalted (when it is all over). No one would think so as they observed Him carrying His Cross. He will in fact startle or surprise the whole world—even render them speechless—because it will be through the loss of all things that He gains all things.

Seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah accurately predicts the kind of death Jesus will endure. An ordinary man to begin with—not a Rock Star–He will be (v.3) despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering…; beaten beyond recognition; pieced, crushed, oppressed, afflicted; killed in the worst possible way–like a common criminal–hung between true felons; he will die childless—“cut off,” to the Hebrews, evidence of a tragic, futile existence. People will think He got what He deserved, but He didn’t…verses 4-5 Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows….the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. In verse 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.

The Father will richly reward Him (verse 11) After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life [resurrection], and be satisfied…Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong.

God intends to reward Him as though He were a king sharing in the spoils of a great victory, because He went willingly to death, and because He interceded for our sins.

Psalm 22 reveals to us Christ’s thoughts on the cross: He feels forsaken by His Father: The Father was with Him when He was arrested. The Father was with Him during His ludicrous trials. The Father was with Him when He was beaten. The Father was with Him when He was nailed to the Cross. But the Father turned His back on Him when He became sin for us, from noon until 3:00pm.

He admits to feeling like a worm. The word for worm in the Hebrew is the Coccus worm, which emitted a substance used to make red dye. This is symbolic of Jesus’ blood poured out for us. From the Cross He feels surrounded by His enemies: The soldiers are many bulls…the strong bulls of Bashon. His tormentors from the foot of the Cross—scribes, Pharisees, the hostile mob—resemble (v.13) roaring lions tearing their prey; and verse 16 dogs have surrounded Me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. Nevertheless, He trusts in the love of His Father.

Biblical Scholars tell us Jesus fulfilled 28 prophecies of the Messiah from the Cross. We can recognize them in our Psalm and Isaiah passages. The sinless Son of God laid down His life for us, paying the penalty for our sins; reconciling us to God the Father; and clothing us in His righteousness. These Sacred writings prove to us that Jesus—and only Jesus—was and is the Messiah, the Son of God. Let us ponder His sacrifice and offer Him our gratitude and love.

©2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

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Good Friday Meditation

Pastor Sherry’s Good Friday Meditation

Scriptures: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; John 18:1-40.

         This past weekend, I provided some psychological (as a licensed psychologist) and spiritual (as an ordained pastor) training at a nearby Christian, residential treatment center for those suffering from mental health issues or addictions.  In response to something I said, one young man wanted to know what makes me think Christianity is superior to any other of the great world religions.  The treatment center is avowedly Christian, so I was surprised that he appeared to believe that Jesus is just like any other religious figure, one among equals; I also realized he was less interested in discovering an answer and more committed to being provocative.  I thought a minute and replied, “It is the only world religion in which the God chose to die for His people.”  That answer seemed to have caused him to think.  I hope it also opened a way for him to draw closer to our Lord.

         On Good Friday, we commemorate the day our God died.  We say, “Christ died for us,” and that is true.  Over 2000 years ago, on a hill just outside the city of Jerusalem, Jesus Christ—God in the form of a man–died on a cross.  As Revelation 13:8 tells us, He was…the Lamb slain from the creation of the earth.  This was not a “Plan B,” devised by the Trinity when it became evident that people could not, on their own, sustain an intimate relationship with a holy God.  It had always been God’s plan that His Son would die as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of all of us.  At the Cross of Christ, we see our God at His most loving and at His best.  We also see human beings at our worst. 

         Our Scripture passages appointed for today are all appropriately solemn.  The Apostle John’s “Passion Narrative”  (please read it now) takes us through Jesus’ arrest; His trials before the former high priest, Annas, the current high priest, Caiaphas, and the Roman overlord, Pontius Pilate; then finally to His actual crucifixion.  What is stunning in John’s account is how calm Jesus appears to be.  We know He had been so stressed earlier that, as He prayed, He sweated blood.  Now that His time had come, however, as a huge detail of men arrives to capture Him, He seems to be firmly in control.  Twice He tells them who He is, almost prompting them to proceed.  Though the lynch mob was armed, Jesus would not allow them to become violent toward His disciples.  He even chastised Peter for cutting off Malchus’ ear and heals the damage.  One would think this might alert them that Jesus is who He says He is, but they are so bent on destroying Him that they ignore that evidence.  Instead, they tie Him up and haul Him off to see Annas.

         Now Annas had displeased the Romans, so, though legally out of power, he nevertheless still operated as the chief religious broker of Jerusalem.  Biblical scholars say he was both brilliant and evil.  Many credit him with the final plan to eliminate Jesus.  He has his troops wait until the cover of night, when all those who loved Jesus would be home sleeping.  Annas interrogates Him and an official of some sort strikes Jesus for what he interprets as insubordination.  Jesus challenges them honestly (verse 23)àIf I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong.  But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike Me?ImHim  The most just and honest person in the crowd calmly but firmly reminds them that they—and this kangaroo court–are out of line.  By Jewish law, no court trial could begin or be held at night.  Additionally, no one could legally strike a person on trial without a verdict.  Finally, Jewish Law prohibited sentencing a man on the day he was brought to trial.  Annas then sends Jesus to Caiaphas, the Roman’s choice for “high priest” and Annas’ son-in-law (an early example of nepotism).

         John reminds us in 11:50, that Caiaphas had previously said to the Sanhedrin—when they were plotting how to eradicate Jesus—You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.  The puppet high priest did not realize then that he had spoken prophetically.  Nevertheless, Jesus knew that by this point, He had totally recommitted to laying His life down for the sins of Israel and for us.  Caiaphas and Annas find Jesus guilty of blasphemy because He honestly admitted He is the Son of God.  They would have liked to have stoned Him, but the Romans forbade any other nation to invoke capital punishment but them.  So Jesus is next sent to Pilate.

         Pilate tries every which way to free Jesus:  He knows the Jewish religious establishment is just jealous of Him.  He has Jesus scourged (39 lashings with a whip), hoping this will satisfy their blood-lust.  He offers to set Him free, but hands Him over to be crucified when the Jews threaten to report to Caesar that Pilate has let a man go who claimed to be the king of the Jews.  And so, trading the sinless Son of God for a murderous insurrectionist, the Jewish leadership has their way and Jesus is crucified.  Ironically, the sign on His cross identifies Him as King of the Jews in three languages:  Hebrew, the language of religion; Greek, the language of culture and education; and Latin, the language of law and order.  The Jews want it reworded, but ironically Pilate will not bend. 

         Notice that John does not tell us much about the crucifixion.  The soldiers gamble over who will get His clothes, and John relates three statements Jesus makes as He is dying:  (1) He asks John to care for His Mother, Mary; (2) He says He is thirsty; and (3) He asserts, It is finished (meaning the work of salvation He was set to do is complete).  Lastly we learn that Jesus’ body was removed and buried just before the Sabbath began at sundown.

         All four Gospel writers were all rather circumspect about Jesus’ six hours on the Cross.  They each highlight His dignity, but they did not want us to focus on His agony.  J. Vernon McGee says the Father deliberately made darkness come over the land from noon until 3:00pm so that curious observers could not witness Jesus’ intense suffering.  He was of course suffering from extreme physical torment, but also because He had taken on all the sins of the world (spiritual torture)—past, present, and future—as well as experiencing, for the first time, being totally separated from His Father (emotional and cognitive anguish).

         To get a sense of what the crucifixion was like, we have to turn to the Isaiah (52:13-53:12) and Psalm (22) lessons.  The Isaiah lesson appointed for today (please read it now) is the 4th Suffering Servant Song.  It is a Messianic prophesy, written about 700 years before the events actually transpired, but fulfilled perfectly by Jesus.  It is a prediction of how Messiah would be treated prior to and during His execution.  Isaiah tells us that Jesus will be raised high, lifted up (on the Cross), but also highly exalted (when it is all over).  No one who viewed Him carrying His Cross would think this could ever be so.  He will, in fact, startle the whole world—render them speechless—because it will be through the loss of all things that He gains all things.

         To begin with, He looked ordinary, not model or movie star handsome. Isaiah foretold that He would be (v.3)à…despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering…. He was beaten beyond recognition; pierced, crushed, oppressed, afflicted; executed in the worst possible way, like a common criminal, hanged between two true felons; and he died childless, cut off—a condition the Jews would have regarded as evidence of a tragic, futile existence.  People will think He got what He deserved, but He didn’t: (vv.4-5)àSurely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.  Verse 9 tells us He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.  The Father will richly reward Him (v.11)àAfter the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life [resurrection], and be satisfied…Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong.   In other words, God intends to reward Him as though He were a king sharing in the spoils of a great military victory.  His rewards derive from having gone willingly to death and from having interceded with His body for our sins.

         Psalm 22 (please read it now) reveals to us Christ’s thoughts from the Cross.  He feels forsaken by His Father—even though the Father had been present with Him as He was arrested, subjected to His ludicrous trials, beaten, and nailed to the Cross.  But the Father turned His back on Him when He became sin for us, from noon until 3:00pm.  He admits to feeling like a worm.  This was a specific type of worm, called a “Coccus,” which emitted a substance used to make red dye—symbolic of Jesus’ blood poured out for us.  From the Cross, He feels surrounded by His enemies:  The soldiers are the many bulls…the strong bulls of Bashon; His tormentors from the foot of the Cross (Scribes, Pharisees, the hostile Jewish mob) resemble (v.13)àroaring lions tearing their prey; and (v.16)àdogs have surrounded Me; a band of evil men has encircled Me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.  Nevertheless, He trusts in the love of His Father.

         Biblical scholars tell us Jesus fulfilled 28 prophesies of the Messiah from the Cross.  We can recognize them from our Psalm and Isaiah readings.  The sinless Son of God laid down His life for us, paying the penalty for our sins, clothing us in His righteousness, and reconciling us to God the Father.  These sacred writings prove to us that Jesus—and only Jesus–was and is the Messiah, the Son of God. 

         Psalm 30:5 says, Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.  The only way to the joy of Easter is through the agony of Good Friday.  In God’s economy, suffering often appears to precede satisfaction, trial comes before triumph, clouds before sunshine, rain before flowers.  Today, let’s remember that salvation is free for humankind, but it cost God and Jesus everything!  Let us remember our Lord today with gratitude and abiding love!  Thanks be to God who gives us the victory—over sin and our death penalty–through our Lord, Jesus Christ!  AMEN!    

©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

Good Friday Call to Prayer

Pastor Sherry’s Message for April 10, 2020

The LORD tells us in 2 Chronicles 7:14 If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Based on these words, and given our present Covid-19 Crisis, we can safely assume we must (I) Humble ourselves, (II) Seek the Lord in prayer, (III) Confess our sins; (IV) Ask God’s forgiveness for our sins; and (V) Pray to Him to protect us and heal us from this terrible, deadly virus.  Apparently the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), and the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA)—an estimated 550,000 faithful persons–have all agreed to pray and fast on Good Friday with these intentions.

If you would be willing to enter into a holy fast—a fast for holy purposes—simply remember that it is a spiritual discipline that has us deny ourselves of some or all food and drink.  Please do what you can.  If you cannot skip a meal, try fasting social media or TV or the news.  Biblical fasting took place when a loved one died (2 Samuel 1:11-12), to prepare for special times of renewing one’s relationship with God (Numbers 29:7), to express sincere repentance for one’s sins and the sins of others (Ezra 10:6), and when the people of God desired to cry out for God’s special help in extraordinary circumstances—like the Covid-19 virus–(2 Chronicles 20:3) Throughout history, God’s people have sought His help in times of trouble through prayer and fasting.

If you would like to join in with these Christ-followers from other denominations in this time of prayer, please feel free to use the following prayers and/or add your own as you feel led:

(I-II) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his [her] own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

Let us pray:  Almighty God, we beseech You graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and given into the hands of sinners and to suffer death upon the Cross; Who now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

(III-IV) Please take a few minutes to consider your sins.  Remember what the apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:8-10àIf we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives

You might make a list of your sins to convey to God at this time, using this modern wording of an ancient prayer: 

Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, maker and judge of us all:  We acknowledge and lament our many sins and offenses, which we have committed by thought, word, and deed against Your divine majesty, provoking most justly your righteous anger against us.  We are deeply sorry for these our transgressions; the burden of them is more than we can bear.  Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; for your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may evermore serve and please You in newness of life to the honor and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen!

Since we know our God forgives all confessed sin—and places them…as far as the east is from the west… (Psalm 103:12), we can accept this in faith.  In thanksgiving and gratitude, and as an act of submission to God’s will, let us also pray the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be Your Name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our sins as we forgiven those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil—especially from the COVID-19 virus. Amen.

(V) These following are only suggested topics for your prayers:  Again, pray as the Holy Spirit leads you:

(1) Pray that God, in His power and mercy, would end the Coronavirus Pandemic.

(2) Pray that all our government leaders will be protected from the virus and that they will have the patience, wisdom, civility, and compassion to deal with the many problems facing our country in this perilous time.

(3) Pray for the safety of all members of the medical community and pray that they will be able to care for the sick with wisdom, kindness, and stamina.

(4) Pray that the sick will be healed and restored and that the elderly, and others with preexisting vulnerabilities, will be protected.

(5) Pray that the medical community will have the medical supplies, drugs, testing kits, protective equipment, ventilators, hospital and ICU beds to take care of the sick.

(6) Pray for those who are grieving for lost friends and family.

(7) Pray for the poor and all those who have been hurt by the economic downturn: employees—especially those in the service industry–the self-employed, small business owners, big businesses, churches, and charities.

(8) Pray that all those who have lost jobs will be able to return to work soon.

(9) Pray to restore the economy.

(10) Pray that in these difficult times hurting people will not turn to drug abuse, alcohol abuse, other addictions, and/or domestic abuse.

(11) Pray for those confined by quarantine those who are sheltered in place, and those practicing social distancing that they might not despair in loneliness and isolation.

(12) Pray for our education system at every level that has broken down under the threat of this disease. Pray for the millions of children who are trying to keep up with their schooling at home. Pray for wisdom, understanding, and the self-discipline to actually pursue their studies.

(13) Pray for the health and protection of all those who work in jobs that still serve the public every day and have greater exposure to the virus.

(14) Pray for a vaccine to end this virus and that this plague might not return among us.

(15) Pray that n this time of great national distress our people will show patience, kindness, grace, and love to all, and not turn to panic, greed, hoarding, and mischief. Pray that those cast down will be raised up.

(16) Pray for single mothers, widows, orphans, aliens, and outcasts in their distress.

(17) Pray for the peace and safety of the Church universal around the world.

(18) Pray for people everywhere according to their needs and for all the special needs that you know about.

(19) Pray that our countrymen and women will realize the brevity and uncertainty of life and would turn to Christ in repentance and faith.

(20) Pray that the people of God will love what He commands and desire what He promises.

(21) Pray that God will be pleased with our prayers and answer themin His infinite grace and mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams