When I was 6 years old I was on holiday in Cornwall with my parents. Coming out of an outdoor swimming pool I tripped on a towel and split open the bridge of my nose. It needed ten stitches, including two with anaesthetic as the cottage hospital they rushed me to had run out. I still have the scar today.
Throughout my childhood I managed a number of impressive accidents. As well as the usual hot water scalds and mishandlings of knives that most kids get through, I also managed a nice groove in my skull from a flying cricket bat (and you can have a feel of it later if you so desire) and several occurrences of electrocuting myself off the mains. 240 volts through your hand is not a pleasant experience, let me tell you. Do not try that one at home.
The thing about all those events though is that they were accidents. None were planned. At no point did I decide it would be useful to impale myself of become a human volt-meter or burn bits of my body off in an attempt to improve myself. Neither was it the fault of my parents. For example, at no point did they think it would be particularly useful if I learnt what it was like to come within a few millimetres of losing my eye. No, it’s not the kind of thing that Mums and Dads do.
And that’s why the events that we remember today are so shocking, because nothing about the crucifixion was an accident. No, in remarkable contrast to the tales of woe that I have shared with you about my life, the things that happened to Jesus on that Friday were entirely planned.
They were planned by the high priests and Jewish officials who wanted to do away with Jesus because of his challenge to their authority and his claims that he was God. They were planned by Judas who made a deliberate choice to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. They were in some sense even planned by the Romans who executed Jesus in a systematic and controlled manner alongside two criminals.
But, and this is the most audacious idea of all, they were planned by God. Far from being a mistake, far from being something that God permitted to happen but didn’t actually engineer, the Bible tells us that the chief architect of the events of Good Friday was the Father. Listen to the words of Isaiah, written hundreds of years before Jesus died.
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
One simple verse, but a powerful message. First, we learnt that it was the Lord’s will to crush Jesus. Not just that he suffered, not just that he died, but that he was crushed. Crushed. Destroyed. Crumpled. Extinguished. Obliterated.
Second, we need to reflect on the fact that it was the WILL of the Father to do this. This was his plan, this was his purpose. From the beginning of time Jesus was going to die, and die horribly. This is no “cosmic child abuse” as some misguided commentators might suggest, but rather a plan that Jesus knew and entered into willingly when in the Garden he said:
If it is possible take this Cup away from me. Yet not my will but yours be done.
Yet not my will but yours be done.
Third, the passage from Isaiah tells us why Jesus died. He died to be a guilt offering. He presented himself as a sacrifice for our sins. He was offered up to take the punishment that should have been ours. As the same passage in Isaiah says, he took up our infirmities, he carried our sorrows, he was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.
And what is the result of all this? Quite simply, it is our forgiveness and our healing. The supernatural exchange of our sins for Jesus’ perfection is a reality in the lives of millions of believers across the world who have personally experienced the power of the crucifixion. Jesus’ death was not about nice ideas, or an example of suffering or an indication of what love is. It was so much more – it was a moment in time when all that we have ever done that was sinful and all that was ever done to us that was sinful was destroyed, and instead of a penalty we now receive a prize – eternal life.
So what we are doing here this morning? What we are doing is joining with Christians all over the world in celebrating that sacrifice. We join with everybody who says “yes” to the Father’s plan, to send his Son in our place, to suffer where we should suffer, to die the death we should die. We declare publicly that it was no mistake, no accident, no unfortunate sequence of events. It was deliberate and it was successful. And God’s response is this, from the end of Isaiah 53:
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Thank You Jesus. Amen.