Good Friday Sermon
Preached by my good friend Captain Steve Rogers, the Church Army Evangelist in the parish, at the town Good Friday service. Absolutely top notch.
This morning I want to draw your attention to an encounter that took place on that very first Good Friday morning because its implications provoke us to re-evaluate our own personal response to Christ. The encounter that took place is found in Luke’s gospel chapter 23:39-43.
There were THREE crosses, Christ in the middle and a criminal on either side. Have you ever thought about, or wondered why there were TWO crosses next to Jesus? Max Lucado says that those TWO crosses symbolise one of God’s greatest gifts; the gift of choice. Those two criminals shared much in common, they were tried and convicted by the same legal system, they were both condemned to the same death, both surrounded by the same hostile crowd, but more importantly, they were equally close to the same Jesus. We know for sure that one of them insulted Jesus, and it’s quite possible that they both did. However, one had a change of heart, and rebuked the other saying “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. Buit this man has done nothing wrong.” Something amazing, something wonderful happened that brought this dying criminal to a place of repentence. In times past he may have heard him preach, heard his claims, he may have even witnessed his miraculous healings, but to no effect. Yet now, in these last moments of his life he saw Jesus as the one who he claimed to be, the Saviour of mankind, the hope of all mankind and so he made the decision to put his trust in him “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” and he wasn’t disappointed “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus answered. While we can rejoice with the repentant criminal whose heart and attitude changed so that he could receive Jesus as his saviour, let’s never forget the one who never. His hardened heart to the truth was the cause of his failure and innability to respond to Jesus even in his final moments. This secured his destiny, eternal seperation from God. What a harrowing thought!
There are times when God sends thunder to stir us, there are times when we feel he lovingly pursues us and there are times when we hear nothing but silence as he honours us with the freedom to choose where we spend eternity. Yes, God did take a risk in giving us the gift of choice and we along with those TWO condemned criminals have all made some bad choices in our lives, but the good news is that through one solitary good choice, all bad choices can be redeemed when we choose CHRIST.
And the ‘good news’ for us is that Christ too had the freedom to choose, he didn’t have to go to the cross and die in the awful way that he did for you and me, but he chose to, because his love for fallen humanity compelled him to make the greatest choice of all, to be our Saviour by taking our sin upon himself and dying that we might live.
We know virtually nothing about that repentant man and all the bad choices that he made, but we do know that he made the best and wisest choice of all that cancelled out every single bad choice that he had ever made, he chose Jesus. And Jesus accepted his choice and promised him that he would spend eternity in paradise.
Jesus didn’t say no! You are not good enough; your life’s been full of bad decisions. The fact is none of us are good enough. Isaiah says that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Is 64:6)
No-one can make themselves good enough, only Jesus can do that. When we throw ourselves upon his mercy and grace he will make us good enough, and fit us for heaven.
The choice is ours.
Jesus says “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” Jesus is knocking at the door, do you hear him? He’s only a prayer away. Choose Jesus he is our hope and future.