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On this Good Friday, Blake Holmes walks us through the significance of the cross. Even though we know the good ending to come on Easter, it's important that we understand all that Christ accomplished on the Friday before.
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My name is Blake Homes. I want to welcome you to Watermark and our Good Friday service. If you're anything like me, it is difficult to slow down, stop, and consider the significance of this day. To illustrate this point, I recently told a friend of mine I was reading a book called Dead Wake. It's about the sinking of the Lusitania. If you know much about US history, you know the Lusitania sinks.
My friend looks at me and says, "Blake, you know the boat sinks. Why are you reading 400 pages?" I laughed and said, "Yeah, I know how the story ends, but I'm trying to read the story, putting myself in the shoes of all those passengers and government officials. I want to see what the world experienced leading up to and in the aftermath of when that boat sank and how it plunged us, as a country, into World War II."
I think, in the same way, when we get to Good Friday, we need to know how the story ends, as those who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ. We know Easter is around the corner. We know Sunday is coming. We know it doesn't end on a cross, but it ends with resurrection. It ends with new life, with hope, but you really can't understand the significance or the meaning of the resurrection if you don't know what happened on Friday.
I'm going to ask you, for the next hour or so, to join me, to stop, and to not run to Sunday yet, to how you know the story is going to end. For a few minutes, put yourself on that Friday, in the shoes of the disciples, the followers of Christ. Think about what they must have experienced. Think about the significance of the cross, who Jesus is, and why he was there. Let me pray for us.
O Father in heaven, no matter if we spend an hour, a day, or the rest of our lives stopping to consider the significance of the cross, I don't think our minds would really ever be able to comprehend the significance of what you accomplished. We wouldn't be able to really understand what you did on our behalf.
For this next hour, Lord, we want to come before you and consider your great love. We want to consider what placed your Son on the cross, the impact of our sin, and, truly, your amazing grace. Help us to be still today. Help us to be quiet. Help us to listen. Amongst all the distractions of our day, our to-do lists, our weekend plans, and all the things around us competing for our attention, help us, for this hour, to be still, to meditate on the truth of the cross and your love for us. In Christ's name, amen
Let's read Colossians 2:13-14 together as we start our time. Read this aloud with me, please.
"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross."
On the night when Jesus was betrayed, he repeated the same prayer three different times. He was in the garden with those who had been following him, and he said the same words three times. They're found in Matthew 26, beginning in verse 36. I want to read this to you. It says,
"Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, 'Sit here, while I go over there and pray.' And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.'
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.' And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, 'So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.'
Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, 'My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.' And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again."
When I've heard this passage taught in the past, usually what is emphasized is the fact that the disciples could not stay awake and pray, or the weakness of our faith. I think, though, the thing we miss in this passage when we just focus on them is the fact that Jesus prayed the same thing three times. What was he praying?
Here, only when you understand what Jesus was praying for will you really understand the significance of the cross. You can't understand Easter without the cross, you can't understand the cross without this prayer, and you can't understand the meaning and significance of this prayer if you don't know what he meant when he prayed for the cup to be taken from him. To what was Jesus referring when he spoke of the cup? Let's watch this video together.
Once a year, a Jewish festival known as Passover is held commemorating God's deliverance of the Israelites out of slavery. Four cups are filled with wine, symbolizing God's four promises: sanctification, deliverance, redemption, and protection, but there is a fifth cup and a fifth promise. It is the cup of God's wrath, poured out over evil, filled with the wine of God's judgment for a world that has enslaved itself to sin.
The cup of wrath was ours to drink, but God, in his infinite love, was not willing to hand us over to the coming wrath. So, in an unimaginable act of compassion, God chose to drink the cup of wrath in our place, to suffer our punishment, and to die our death. As Jesus hung on the cross, alone and naked, he began to drink the shame, desolation, and destruction that were rightfully ours. Finally, Jesus cried out, "It is finished!" The cup of wrath had been emptied.
The staggering truth about the cup of wrath is that it was never ours to drink. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, God had already chosen to drink the cup of wrath in our place. He created us knowing we would reject him, knowing we would choose sin, and knowing that only he could pay our ransom. God's love for us cost him absolutely everything, but his message from the cross was this: "You were worth it."
[End of video]
To what was Jesus referring? He was referring to the cup of God's wrath. As I was praying and thinking about the significance and meaning of the cross and why we're gathered here today, I kept coming back to Jesus' prayer. I kept coming back to this idea of this cup. You have to understand, Jesus is not merely saying, "Lord, let this cup pass from me," as if he were afraid of the nails, the agony, and the suffering of the crucifixion.
As horrific as that was, Jesus was not afraid of the nails, the spear in his side, and the thorns placed on his head as much as he was anticipating the fact that God's wrath was going to be poured out on him. He didn't experience crucifixion like you or I would by simply dying on a cross.
Instead, it's here when Jesus hung on the cross that the triune God, God the Father, in a way which we can never, ever rightly comprehend or understand, turned his back on his Son and poured out his wrath. Why would God do that? What would drive God to take all of his fury, all of his wrath, and execute judgment on his very own Son? Love.
Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." While we were still mocking and rebelling against God, while we were turning and running away from God, Christ died on the cross, because he loves us. The reason Jesus came was to take our place, to experience our judgment, to pay our penalty.
The Bible is clear that every one of us has rebelled against God. We have sinned, which simply means we have transgressed his law. We have rebelled against his will. We've turned our backs on God. We have chosen to disregard him, go our own way, not acknowledge who he is, and live according to our will, our desires, and our pleasures. We've mocked him and run from him.
There's a consequence for sin. We were designed for relationship with God. We were made in his image so we could know him, reflect his beauty, and have communion with God, but because of our sin and rebellion, we were separated from God. The wages, or consequences, of sin is death.
It's not just a physical death. It's not just that we grow old and die in our physical bodies. There's something even more there. It's a spiritual death. Our sin has broken our fellowship, our relationship, with a good, holy, righteous, loving God. The cross reminds us God has not given up on us despite our sin and rebellion. Instead, he pursues us. That is the whole story of the Bible. It's God's rescue plan for you and me.
Despite our rebellion, despite the fact that we have turned our backs on him and run, he has had a rescue plan. It's not something he just thought of moments before Jesus was born. The Bible tells us he understood the significance of the rescue plan before he even created us. God loved us so, he sent his Son to become man. He entered into our world of sin, pain, and death to become a man, to tell us he loves us.
It's at the cross that Christ paid the penalty for our sin so we wouldn't have to. It's at the cross where the wrath of God is poured out. It's at the cross where Christ serves as our substitute. Instead of us enduring the wrath of God, Jesus Christ, God's Son, experienced that penalty, paid that debt, and lived out that judgment.
Second Corinthians 5:21 says, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Do you see the idea of substitution there? Jesus Christ, very God, was without sin. The same idea is expressed in Mark 10:45. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." First Peter 3 says, "For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust…"
Again, the whole idea of substitution is Christ paid a penalty, a debt, which we could not pay, in order that he might bring us back to God. It's at the cross that both the justice of God and the love of God are demonstrated. It's at the cross that God, in his justice, because he is holy, righteous, good, perfect, and without sin, executed justice for your sin, my sin, and the sins of the world, past, present, and future.
The justice of God was poured out and demonstrated, because he couldn't just overlook sin. He couldn't ignore it any more than a human judge in a court of law cannot simply turn a blind eye. Otherwise, he sacrifices the very character of who he is, and he's no longer just. In his holiness and his justness, he dealt with sin.
It's at the cross where we also see the love of God. We see the love of God because it's not you or me who's hanging on that cross, but Jesus Christ. There was no other solution. This is what has to be so perfectly clear. There was no other option, for Jesus Christ is the God-man. He's fully God, so as to be without sin, and fully man, so as to serve as our substitute.
As the God-man, he bridges the gap between a perfect, holy, righteous God and a sinful, rebellious people. This is why Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through me." It's for this reason Luke says in the book of Acts, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
There is no other option for a righteous, holy, perfect God to be reconciled to a sinful people but through the cross. If you want to understand and know the significance of the cross, you have to understand the significance of the cup, because it's at the cross that Jesus drank from the cup you and I were intended to drink from. It's at the cross that the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus Christ, our substitute, that he would die, so we might live.
I want you to hear, now, from two of my friends whose lives have been changed because of the fact that Christ was willing to drink from the cup.
Phillip Ward: My name is Phillip Ward. My life before Christ was a lie. I grew up in a Christian home and went to church on Sundays, but I thought Jesus was a complete fairy tale. Because I thought Jesus was a fairy tale, I lived my life like there were no consequences. I started DJ'ing when I was in middle school and had dreams of becoming the next big music mogul.
I was introduced into the music industry after a college friend I was managing signed a record deal. His song went big on Billboard charts. Sex, alcohol, and drugs were all at my fingertips whenever I wanted it, and I did not deny myself. I lived it. I was there. The clubs, the lights, the fast money, the fame… I drank from that cup deeply, but I still thirsted for more. For years I chased for more, because deep down I knew it would never be enough. Never enough money, fame, sex, and drugs. It was never enough.
In 2013, I got introduced to this place, to The Porch. I was the guy who would come just to take a picture for social media. I'd share it so people would think I was a good guy when I wasn't, but I kept coming back, because never in my life had I heard someone speak about how broken they were before Christ and drive home the point that there is no life outside of Christ.
I thought, "This guy, JP, has been where I've been, and he really believes this. He really believes this Jesus thing." One Tuesday night broke me. From the stage he screamed out, "You're not a Christian! You're not a Christian! You're not a Christian!" I sank into my seat, and for the first time I realized, "I'm not a Christian."
I began a mission to get to the truth. Did Jesus really exist? Did he die for my sins? Did he rise? Do you know what I found? Yes, he did. I gave up everything. I completely left the world I was living in, because what else can you do but follow a God who can defeat death. My life with Christ has been a radical transformation. Tomorrow will mark two years since I trusted in Christ. Praise God.
I finally found the one thing that is enough, and that's Jesus. Because of the cross, I've been set free from a false façade of being a Christian, from sex, drugs, alcohol, and chasing fame. My mission now is to make him famous for who he is and what he's done. Thank you.
Alaina Anderson: My name is Alaina Anderson, and my life before Christ was a pursuit of happiness that always left me wanting more. Growing up, all throughout high school and college, culture defined what I thought and believed. Music, TV, and movies all told me happiness can be found in having the perfect beach body, dating the guy everyone else wanted, having lots of money, and living the spring break lifestyle all year round, which was easy since I grew up in Florida.
I chased those things, and in college, I found myself drinking nearly every night, working at a club in downtown Orlando, and finding my identity in what other people thought about me, especially the guys I would date. At times, I felt happy. I even convinced myself I was living the dream, but as morning broke and the high of this world faded, as it always did, I wondered why none of it was ever enough.
During college, I went to Las Vegas on a girls' trip and met a guy the world would consider Prince Charming. He was attractive and successful, and the way we met felt like a scene that could be right out of a romantic comedy. I thought to myself, "This is it. He's the missing link." Two days after graduating college, I packed my bags and moved to Seattle, where he lived, in hopes of fulfilling my pursuit of happiness.
After moving to Seattle, I soon realized I had everything I thought would make me happy, but it still didn't feel like it was enough. I still felt so empty. Life became dull and repetitive. With nothing this world had to offer being able to satisfy me, I started getting anxiety and panic attacks that were mentally and emotionally paralyzing. My heart would race, my palms would get sweaty, and I would feel really lightheaded as a fear of impending doom would rush over me.
I started attending church in hopes to find relief. I went to church as a kid, and I knew about Jesus and how he had died for my sins. I even called myself a Christian, but I was not following Christ. I was following the world. One day at church, I heard a story from the Bible about how even demons acknowledge Jesus is Lord. Demons believe in Jesus.
For weeks, that thought rushed through my mind. I would think about it often and eventually came to the conclusion that I was not a believer just because I said I was. Through many encounters with God's Word and his people, I ended up surrendering my life to Christ. I turned from my sin and my pursuit of happiness and trusted in him. I made following him and his Word my top priority, which changed everything about my life.
Before Christ, I followed what the world said would make me happy and was left empty-handed. Knowing Christ, I gave up everything I had to follow him and found more joy than ever before. Now, my identity cannot be shaken. I no longer have to question who I am. I am a daughter of God and an heir to his eternal kingdom. My past sin does not define me, and my future sin cannot separate me from his love. Because of the cross, I am set free from my pursuit of happiness, and I have joy in Christ. It is finished.
Blake Holmes: That very same night just before Jesus said that prayer three different times, he'd gathered with his disciples in the upper room to commemorate the Passover. It was a time in which God's people looked back at the story that's found in the book of Exodus, the second book in your Bible.
It was during this time when God's people were under bondage and living in slavery in the land called Egypt and they cried out to God for deliverance. They asked for help. God heard their cry, and he raised up a deliverer whose name was Moses. Moses appeared before Pharaoh, the leader of Egypt, the very man who was enslaving them.
Moses said, "I've heard from the one true God, and you must let my people go." Pharaoh hardened his heart, so God unleashed judgment on Pharaoh and the households of Egypt 10 separate times. Because of Pharaoh's stubbornness, sin, and rebellion, he refused to listen until the tenth time.
This time, God's people were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and place the blood on the doors, because that night, the death angel was going to pass over. Every home and every person who trusted in the provision of God, who, by faith, placed the blood of the lamb on their doors… When the death angel passed over, they were spared. They lived and escaped judgment.
It was at this time that Pharaoh relented, and finally God's people were set free. Years later, during the time of Christ, at Passover, Jesus gathers in the upper room with his disciples. He takes bread, and he takes a cup. He says to his disciples, "I'm about to bring new meaning to what you understand about Passover. It's no longer going to be a time when you think just about the Exodus generation when a physical lamb was slaughtered, and blood was placed on the door. I'm about to make an eternal sacrifice."
For this reason, Paul, in the book of 1 Corinthians, describes Jesus as our Passover Lamb. In the same way in which the Israelites, living in bondage, captivity, and sin, were redeemed, so too are each of us given an opportunity to trust in the eternal Passover Lamb. His name is Jesus. In order to receive this forgiveness and be set free, as Phillip and Alaina were trying to tell you about, you must understand there's nothing you can do to merit God's favor, to earn his salvation, or to win freedom on your own.
You can never be good enough or give enough. You must receive the gift that has been extended to you. It's a gift. God, in his love, offers us a gift. In the book of Ephesians, Paul says, "For it is by grace you are saved through faith. It's not of yourselves. It is a free gift of God, not by works, so no man can boast." That's what's so amazing about the cross. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says, "The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the very power of God for those who believe."
The world looks at the cross and goes, "What are you doing on Friday? Why are you gathering here? It's a man who died." For those who believe, the cross represents the very power of God. The cross represents the fact that Christ served as our substitute, that the Passover Lamb came to take away the sins of the world. If we choose to come by faith, not bringing anything on our own merit or of our own accord, but simply receiving the gift, we can experience freedom, hope, and life.
On that night, as they were commemorating the Passover, he took the bread and said, "This is my body, which is going to be broken for you." He took the cup, and he said, "This is the new covenant in my blood." The idea is no longer are we going to live according to the Mosaic law, the old covenant. Instead, God is going to do something in our hearts. He's going to give us a new heart and transform us by the power of his resurrection. That's what we celebrate on Sunday.
I want to give each of you an opportunity to consider how you would answer this question…Who is Jesus, and what was he doing on the cross? Do you truly understand the significance of the cross, of grace, of substitution, and of redemption? You heard both Phillip and Alaina say, "I was familiar with the story, but never had I ever personally trusted and received the gift. It was then that my life changed."
For every one of you who has received that gift, who understands the significance of the cross, and you do know Sunday is coming, we want to give you an opportunity, in your own time, at your own pace, and very quietly (so you don't disturb others), to come to one of the tables throughout the auditorium, grab the bread, grab the cup, and consider, once again, the significance of the cross. We want you to be reminded of Christ's broken body and shed blood for you.
If this is one of those times where maybe a friend or neighbor said to you, "Come with me. Come here. Come listen…" If you have questions, and you're wondering, "What is this they're even talking about?" Maybe you grew up in church, but you've never personally trusted Christ. Maybe you hear Phillip or Alaina's story and you're like, "I may be more like them. Their stories resonate with me. I'm sick and tired of trying to find life in all the things they listed. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."
If you have questions, we would love nothing more than to engage with you. No questions are off-limits. No one is going to look at you funny. We welcome your questions, and we want to engage with you and talk to you about the God who has changed our hearts, not because of anything we've done but because of what Christ has done for us.
If you come and take the bread and juice, please pray for your neighbors and friends who need to be here tomorrow and Sunday, who need to know the story of Easter. They need to know the cross is not just a decoration, a symbol, something we wear around our necks or decorate our homes with. Would you pray for them? Would you be so bold and unashamed, as Todd mentioned last Sunday, to invite them to come and hear of the good news?
I want to give you this time, now. As I said before, we're going to give you all the time you need to come, grab the bread and juice, sit wherever you need to, pray, and be quiet. When you're done, if you would, just exit quietly. I'm going to pray for us now, and then you will be dismissed.
O Father in heaven, this service, this time, is heavy every year because we force ourselves to really stop and not run to Easter and the hope of the resurrection. We stop and consider it is our sin that placed your Son on that cross. It's our rebellion. Our sin has tremendous consequences to ourselves, our friends, our families, and our neighbors. Even our best efforts fall short. The greatest consequence, Lord, is what it cost your Son.
We stop and acknowledge, Lord, we are broken people. Even on our best days, we're in need of grace. I thank you, Father, that on our worst days, we're never so far away that we can't be accepted back into your arms of love. Thank you, Father, that there's nothing we could do to make you love us more and there's nothing we could do to love us less. Thank you for the mystery of the cross and the reminder over this hour of its marvelous truth.
I pray for everyone here this morning who doesn't know you. I pray you would give them the courage to ask the questions, turn to you, and ask if you're real. I pray you would work in their hearts. For every neighbor of ours, for every friend, coworker, or family member who may not understand this truth, I ask you would give us the opportunities to engage them and invite them, so we could tell them the greatest story ever told.
Father, thank you for the reminder today. Thank you for what the bread and juice represent, and thank you for your Son, who was willing to drink of the cup so we wouldn't have to. It's in his name we pray, amen.