Normally at these Good Friday services, we have some kind of dramatic reading where we'd have microphones around the place and various different readers to read us through the Good Friday story. But we haven't we're not doing that this year to avoid mass contamination and, you know, the spraying of particles as different people speak. So but we have tried to capture something of the essence of that dramatic reading. And so what we're gonna do is we're gonna we're gonna read John 19, John 19 is gonna come up on the screen. If you've got a bible with you, you can turn to John 19 and read along yourself, and you'll see there are various readers.
Who are going to bring this story, bring this story to life, and we'll listen along to them. So this is John 19 and versus 1, 2, 37. Then pilot took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again saying, hail, king of the Jews.
And they slapped him in the face. Once more pilot came out and said to the Jews gathered there. Look, I'm bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him. When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robes, pilot said to them. Here is the man.
As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted. Crucify. Crucify, but Tyler answered. You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.
The Jewish leaders insisted. We have a law. And according to that law, he must die because he claimed to be the son of God. When pilot heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. Where do you come from?
He asked Jesus. But Jesus gave him no answer. Do you refuse to speak to me? Pilate said. Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?
Jesus answered. You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore, the 1 who handed me over to you is guilty of the greatest sin. From then on, Pilot tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting. If you let this man go, you're no friend of Caesar.
Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar. When pilot heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge's seat at a place known as the stone pavement which in Arameic is Gabbatha. It was the day of preparation of the Passover. It was about noon. Here is your king.
Pilate said to the Jews, but they shouted. Take him away. Take him away. Crucify him. Shall I crucify your king?
Pilot asked, we have no king but Caesar. The chief priests answered. Finally, pilot handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus, carrying his own cross. He went out to the place of the skull, which in Aramaic is called GOGoth There they crucified him and with him, 2 others, 1 on each side, and Jesus in the middle.
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. Many of the Jews read this sign for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in aramaic, Latin, and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to pilate. Do not write the king of the Jews, but that this man claimed to be King of the Jews.
Pilot answered. What I have written? I have written. When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes dividing them into 4 shares, 1 for each of them with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in 1 piece from top to bottom.
Let's not tear it. They said to 1 another, let's decide by lot who will get it. This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said They divided my clothes among them and casts lot for my garments. So this is what the soldiers did. Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Clophus, and Mary Magdalen.
When Jesus saw his mother there in the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her. Women, here is your son. And the disciple. Here is your mother. From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished and so that scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said. I'm thirsty. A jar of wine vinegar was there. So they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the Hisop plant and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, it is finished.
With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Now it was the day of preparation and the next day was to be a special sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the sabbath, they asked pilot to have the legs broken and the bodies taken The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, 1 of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.
The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happen so that the scripture will be fulfilled. Not 1 of his bones will be broken. And as another scripture says, they will look on the 1 they have pierced.
Let's pray. Father, so many amazing things in that passage, and we pray as we just spend a few minutes at a few of them, that you would speak to us and show us the wonder of the cross in Jesus' name. Oh, man. Oh, man. Now, 1 of the most wonderful things about God and you see it in this passage is his complete control over everything.
So God is not a helpless onlooker. And for those who own an iPad or a smartphone, you know, he's not just watching the events of history on a screen unable to do anything about it, just following the story along, know every moment, even the very worst imaginable moments are in the loving hands of God. In Genesis chapter 50, there's a story you might know about a man called Joseph who was treated terribly by his brothers, but rescued by God. At the end of that story, he says, to his brothers, you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done the saving of many lives. It doesn't say you intended to harm me, but God managed to work it for good somehow.
It says you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good. He meant it and he designed even that evil for an ultimate good. That is the God of the Bible. In Acts 4, when the first followers of Jesus were looking back on good Friday, here's what they said about it. Herrod and Ponthespilot met together with the gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire or to plan against your holy servant, Jesus whom you anointed They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
So here's the question for you. Who planned to crucify Jesus? Whose plan was it? It was herod's plan. And it was pontius Pilate's plan, and it was the people's plan.
But who planned to crucify Jesus? God did. God did. It was God's plan, and Jesus died on a cross for us, Why? Because they were even doing what God's will and power had determined beforehand.
That is the God of the Bible. And after the reading we've just had, hopefully, you can see that that truth is everywhere. I mean, Jesus might look out of control and he might look vulnerable, but not for a single second, was he actually out of control? Everything was under his charge, everything in his hands, making the worst day of all, to be the greatest day of all for those who trust in him. 3 places that we see that in the story.
First 1, pilot and his notice. Pilate and his notice. Verse 19, Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. Many of the Jews read this sign for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city and the sign was written in Arameic, Latin and Greek.
The chief priests of the Jews protested to pilate do not write the king of the Jews, but only that this man claims to be the king of the Jews. Pilor answered what I have written, I have written. Now, this was fairly common when someone was crucified that a sign would be put on the cross. Now, why do you suppose they would do that? Why would they put a sign there?
Well, it was to tell the world that if you do the same thing as this person, If you commit that crime, if you do that thing, if you say that thing, then you'll end up like him. We punish this crime and we want you to know what it is. So if you're in a household with multiple kids and you've got some kind of naughty step system in place, you know, sometimes when you put a child on the naughty step, it's not just for their sake. It's a message to the rest of the household, isn't it? If you too commit that crime, that's where you'll end up.
There's something public about it. That's what the sign was designed to do. But why was it in 3 languages? That's an interesting thing, isn't it? Notice.
It was written in aramaic, Latin, and Greek. Well, if you've ever been on holiday overseas, which feels like a very distant memory, doesn't it? You know, if you've ever been to another country for your holidays, which I I can't see any of us doing for many decades to come. But let's suppose you're on holiday overseas. You might see a sign like this.
And the sign is written in not 1, not 2, not 3, sometimes more languages And the point there is to say, look, there are lots of different people here. They speak lots of different languages, but we all want them to know what the sign means. It's an important sign and we want people to be able to read it. Well, that was the point of this sign. It was written in aramaic and in Greek and in Latin, and those were the superpower languages of the day.
Those were the languages that were in use. And the point is, everyone who passed by that cross, no model what language they spoke, would know the charge against this man. Everyone needed to know what this person had done. Now, in some senses, it's hard to see what is going on with this sign. But actually, the more you look at it, you see, yes, even in that sign, God is sovereign and God is in control.
You see, if you think about it, the cross is a place of embarrassment. You know, there is nothing royal about a cross. It is designed for criminals. The Jews didn't believe this sign, they wanted it taken down. Pilate doesn't really believe this sign.
None of them believe it. It's there to mock him. What sort of king would you find here? King of the Jews? What sort of king would you find here?
And, yeah, written on this sign is more truth than any of them ever knew. God is preaching to the world from this sign. He is preaching to the nations and the languages, And he is saying, no, this is the king. This is my king, and he is doing only what my king would do He's giving his life for yours. God is taking this mocking sign, and he's turning it into a sermon.
The sign becomes a preach to the nations. This is my king. He works a mocking sign for good. Secondly, the soldiers and their games. When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes dividing them into 4 shares.
1 for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in 1 piece from top to bottom. Let's not tear it, they said to 1 another, Let's decide by lot who will get it, which was a way of kind of gambling for the item. Now, I want you to imagine that on your way home, however you came here by car or bus or if you walked, imagine on your way home, you see a car crash, A car has crashed and it's veered into the side of the road somewhere, and it's in a terrible state. And you decide to go over and have a look and make sure people are okay, And as you look inside the car, you see people fighting for their lives.
But instead of ringing 9 9 9 or helping, you reach inside with your hand, and you see what wallets or purses or smartphones you might be able to Nick. You find a couple, you take them and then you walk away. There is something not only evil about that, but something very unnatural about that, isn't there? There's an unnatural evil there. And yet, what do we have here?
Soldiers, above them is a man who is dying. A man who is choking because he cannot get enough air into his lungs, a man who is bleeding out and they are rolling dice and gambling for his clothes, trying to work out who's going to get it. And it's not just any man On that cross is the word made flesh. That's their creator, the 1 who made them dying above them, and they are gambling for his clothes. There is something unnatural about the evil there.
But once again, we mustn't miss the greatest story at play. Look what we're told in the reading. This happened Even this, that the scripture or the promises of God might be fulfilled, that said, this is Psalm 22, they divided my clothes among them and cast lots for my garments, so this is what the soldiers did. Because it was written in the bible, that's what they did. Scripture fulfilled, promise fulfilled, Jesus in control.
Are these men guilty for what they did? They are, are they responsible for what they did? They are, but Jesus was in control, and even that was only doing what his plan had decided beforehand. How incredibly in control is the Jesus of John 19, that even as they gamble for his clothes, they are doing what his plan had determined. Soldiers and their games.
Thirdly, Jesus and his words. Have a look at this verse, verse 28. Later, knowing that everything had been finished, And so that the scripture would be fulfilled. You see again? So that the scripture would be fulfilled.
God is in control. Jesus said, I am thirsty. A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, it is finished. With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Now for the pharisees, the enemies of Jesus, this was mission accomplished. Ever since he came onto the scene, They had wanted him gone. They despised his authority. They couldn't bear his claims. This is mission accomplished.
Jesus' life is finished. And from 1 angle, it is a tragedy, isn't it? Yeah, we sang it in our second song. The dear Lord. The dear lord has been crucified.
And yet, who decided that the job was finished? Who decided that the job was finished? Jesus did. Earlier in this gospel, Jesus had said, I have authority to lay my life down and to take it up again. No 1 takes it from me.
Nobody takes my life from me. I lay it down when I want and I take it up when I want. When John the baptist saw him at the beginning of his life, he said, behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, And when Jesus said it is finished, he had done it. He'd taken away the sins of the world. Mission completed, job done, he is in control.
If any of the children here own a copy of the Jesus storybook bible, It's a fantastic kid's bible just with Jesus at the center of it. I love the little sentence that you find on the Good Friday story. It says this. It wasn't the nails that kept Jesus there. It was love.
It wasn't the nails that kept Jesus there it was love, as if nails could keep Jesus on the cross. As if mankind and his hammer and his nails and his cross could keep the son of God down. Why did he stay there because their nails were really strong? No. Because of love.
He stayed there because he loves you. He loves you. And he loves me. And that's what kept him to the cross, not their machines, their weapons, his love, for the world. Jesus was in control even at the moment of his death.
And so you can see in just this brief survey, there is not a single moment here where God was not in control. Pilate and his notice the soldiers and their games, Jesus and his words, what men meant for evil, he meant for good, And only because of him, does the darkest day in history become good Friday? Because he is loving and he was in control. It's interesting. This time last year, I took the Good Friday, the Good Friday service.
And we were looking at another passage of the Bible And I was looking I was looking at that sermon, that talk from last year, and something I said proved to be very wrong. Last year. Here's something like what I said. I didn't have it exactly written. The big question this year is how are we going to weather this virus?
How are we going to survive the coronavirus? How long is this gonna lock this lockdown gonna last? But next year, I'm sure there will be an altogether different question. That's what I said in the service last year. That's the question this year Next year, there'll be a whole another question.
And that proved to be wrong. I think for many of us this year, has proved to be harder and darker and more difficult than we thought it would be. And yet, here is something we looked at. In this service last year. Here's a quote from it.
The heart of the Bible is not an explanation of where evil came from. But a demonstration of how God enters into it and turns it for the very opposite, everlasting righteousness and joy. And friends, praise the Lord, that through all the darkness and the hardships, that is still true. That is still as true as it was last year as it is this year, as it will be next year, as it will be for all eternity. God takes that which is evil, and he turns it for everlasting good and for everlasting joy.
That's what good Friday is all about. And Jesus is the 1 who does it. Should we bow our heads in a prayer? Let's pray. Father, we thank you for your amazing, loving control over everything.
We thank you that you can take even the worst evil, the death of your son on a cross, and you can turn it into everlasting joy and good. We thank you Jesus that on this day when you looked vulnerable and you looked out of control that everything was happening according to your plan. We thank you that on that cross, it wasn't nails that kept you there It was your passionate love for us, dying to take our sins, all the wrong things we've done. Put on your shoulders, paid for, and finished. We thank you Jesus for this wonderful hope, for this good Friday.
Where we, if we trust in Jesus, can be saved. Thank you in his name. Our men.