This morning, we gather together to remember the day that salvation was made available for all mankind.
Although we call this day Good Friday, it was a very dark day in the life of Jesus.
Peter, James, and John couldn’t even stay awake to pray for Him. His treasurer, Judas, had just sold Him out for thirty pieces of silver. His friend, Peter, who swore to follow Him even to the death, just denied even knowing Him three times. Twelve of His closest friends and all those who were always by His side are now nowhere to be found. Jesus, at a time when He needed others the most, is abandoned and alone. This morning, we are reminded of this historical account which all four gospels were sure to record.
Matthew 26:57-68 (NKJV)
57 those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end.
59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’”
62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66 What do you think?”
They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”
67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?”
They then brought Jesus before Pontius Pilate, the governor, to be executed.
Matthew 27:11-14 (NKJV)
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” 12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.
13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” 14 But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.
Pilate then gave the crowds the opportunity to have Jesus released in place of a notorious prisoner name Barabbas. The people chose to release Barabbas and cried out to have Jesus crucified.
Matthew 27:27-31 (NKJV)
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. 28 And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. 29 When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified.
Luke 23:32-46 (NKJV)
32 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
And they divided His garments and cast lots. 35 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”
36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”
38 And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew:
THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’” Having said this, He breathed His last.
Indeed, the final day in the life of Jesus, which we recall this morning, was a very dark one. The cost of our forgiveness was a high price that only God, Himself, could afford to pay through the death of His only son.
The topic of this morning’s message is a reminder for us to fast from vengeance and to feast on forgiveness.
Jesus taught us to pray for the forgiveness for our sins even as we forgive those who have sinned against us (Luke 11). He taught us that if we do not forgive others, that our sins will not be forgiven (John 20). He taught us to forgive not seven times, but seven times seventy times (Matthew 18). He taught us to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us. He taught us to bless those who curse us and to pray for those who persecute us. He taught us to turn the other cheek, to give the one who steals our coat our shirt also. He taught us that if someone forces us to walk a mile, to walk with them for two miles (Luke 6, Matthew 5).
These are some very difficult teachings for us to put into practice! When someone does us wrong, we want to make sure they pay for it. However, Jesus did not only teach us to do these things, Jesus then showed us how to live them out.
Forgiveness is a choice. Jesus, who lived a perfect and sinless life, remained silent as those who falsely accused Him continued to poured out their accusations and condemnation. Jesus trusted His Heavenly Father with His very life and knew that it was before Him alone that we stand righteous or unrighteous for His judgment is perfect and flawless. Jesus reminded Peter, upon His arrest that dark night, that He could have immediately called down twelve legions of angels to His rescue, but that God’s word needed to be fulfilled.
Jesus, who was righteous and perfect in every way, chose not to defend Himself. Jesus, when being wrongfully put to death, even while hanging in agony on the cross, interceded in prayer for the forgiveness of those who were crucifying Him! Jesus was a living example of what it means to fast from vengeance and to feast on forgiveness.
Twice in the New Testament, Deuteronomy 32:35 is quoted reminding us that “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” When we are mistreated, it is always tempting to take vengeance into our own hands. We want others to pay for their wrongdoing; for others to hurt as badly as they have hurt us, to suffer as we have suffered at their hands.
When we choose vengeance, however, we are choosing to steal from God. We are literally stealing vengeance right out of His hands. We’re telling Him that we don’t trust Him to defend us and do not trust that He truly cares for us. After all, if that person asks God to forgive them for hurting us, He may forgive them in the same way that He has forgiven us every time that we cried out to Him. Choosing to rob from God is obviously never a wise decision to make. We would be wise to choose to cooperate with God and not to fight against Him. Rather, we are urged:
Romans 12:17-21 (NIV)
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Do not be overcome, but rather overcome by choosing to do good to all!
Unforgiveness is a nasty plague in our culture today. Even secular clinical studies have proven that often times psychological and even physical problems today can stem from the simple root issue of unforgiveness. All of us here can testify to the damaging impact of unforgiveness. Unforgiveness in our relationships holds the power to destroy a home, family, business, marriage, church, friendship, even to destroy our very selves. Knowing what Jesus taught about forgiveness and how He lived it out, one would think that the church is immune to this plague. However, unforgiveness is alive and well inside the church just as much as it is outside.
Suppose an individual takes a red hot, cast iron pan off of a stove top and hands it to you. That pan held with your bare hands hurts and begins to injure you instantly. You become angry at that person asking why they would do such a thing to hurt you.
Unfortunately, when we choose vengeance over forgiveness, it can be likened to us continuing to cling to that hot pan hoping that the other person will somehow feel that intense pain, too. Obviously, unforgiveness does far more damage in our own lives than it ever does in the life of the one who hurt us. Holding onto that pan isn’t hurting the other person, it is hurting us.
Forgiveness is not acting as if though nothing was done wrong. Forgiveness does not sweep wrongdoing under the rug and ignore it. Forgiveness honestly admits that what was done was wrong, but chooses to trust God with the consequences. Forgiveness is us letting go of that wrongdoing, just like that hot pan, so that God can finally begin to heal and restore us.
The cold hard fact that none of us want to think about is this. We are all deserving of the wrath of God, each and every one of us. However, when we place our faith in Jesus, we are forgiven. The wrath of God that I deserved, Jesus took on Himself on that dark, lonely day. The cross stands as the greatest teaching and example of fasting from vengeance and feasting on forgiveness that will ever be known.
Because Jesus chose forgiveness over vengeance, the cross was very temporary. We are left wondering, however. What are the benefits of forgiveness? Why was it that James said that it was with great joy that Jesus endured the cross? How was it that Jesus was able to cry out from the cross that God would forgive those evil men for nailing Him there instead of calling down legions of angels to rescue Him? How was it that Jesus was able to remain silent during the trial that falsely put Him to His death?
Come to any church in our area this Sunday morning and find out for yourself!