The First Good Friday
This message is about some of the
happenings on that first Good Friday.
First, something about the Person on the
Cross, then second the events on that first Good Friday leading up
to the Cross, and thirdly the Purpose of Christ’s death on the
Cross. Firstly then:
The Person who was at the centre of the
first Good Friday was Jesus Christ. The apostle John, in his Gospel,
said many things about Jesus; for example that He was
there “in the beginning…….
that He was with God, and that He was God
(John 1:1). That means that Jesus was God in human form. He had not
been created, He’d never had a beginning, He had always existed, and
hence He was there before creation. When we look then at the Person
of Jesus Christ we are really looking at God, God in human form.
In connection with creation John records
that everything came into existence through Jesus Christ and that
not one thing that exists was made without Him (John 1:3). Hence,
for example, all
the livestock, all the birds, all the fish, etc – He created
every element, some of which are only just being discovered.
What of His character? Time doesn’t
allow mention of details of His majesty, His love, His
humility, His thoughtfulness, His care for the lonely, the sick, and
the social outcasts of His time on earth. But what made Him unique
from all other people was that He was sinless; He was absolutely
holy. Neither His friends nor His enemies could find fault in Him.
Peter, one of His closest followers, said He was
without blemish and without spot (1
Pet. 1:19). John another close disciple described Him as
righteous (1 John 3:7). Even those
who put Him to death came to the same conclusion (Luke 23:47). You
see, unlike you and me, His delight was to do what His heavenly
Father willed, to be obedient, even though that obedience ultimately
led Him to the sufferings on the cross on that first Good Friday.
He was a unique teacher. From Him
we got the Beatitudes like “Blessed are the
pure in heart for they shall see God” (Mat. 5:8. He taught as
one having authority and not as the Scribes. Some times He taught by
parables, e.g. the story of two men who each built a house – one on
a foundation of sand and the other on rock, illustrating that the
foundation of our lives is not just dependent on hearing His
sayings, but in doing them. He told other well-known stories such as
that of the Shepherd who had a hundred sheep and one got lost, and
how he searched everywhere till he found it, or the story of the
Prodigal son who came to his senses and said he would go back to his
father confessing he had sinned against heaven and his father. Not
surprisingly, those who were sent to arrest Him on one occasion
couldn’t do so because they had never heard such a great Teacher
before. The Lord Jesus claimed that the teaching He gave was not
just His, but He spoke the words that His Father had given Him (John
He was a miracle worker. He made
the lame to walk, the dumb to speak, the blind to see, and the dead
to be raised. He demonstrated His control over nature – water became
wine, 5000 were fed on 5 loaves and 2 fish, storms were abated, He
walked on water, etc. But perhaps we struggle to accept such
happenings, and just don’t believe in miracles. But if Jesus really
was God, which we believe Him to be, then surely it is not beyond
His power and authority to suspend the laws of creation. When a
paralysed man was healed, Jesus said to him “Your
sins are forgiven” (Mat. 9:2), and people said that was
blasphemy, for who could forgive sins but God. They were right!
These miracles were not done for show but as signs and pointers to
Sometimes “the cross” is displayed as a
shiny ornament, but in reality it was a tree. Some of the evidence
this comes from what Peter later preached to the Jews describing
their action on that first Good Friday in terms of “Jesus
whom you killed and hanged on a tree”,
Acts 5:30. Paul wrote
to the Galatians (3:16), “Cursed is
everyone having been hanged on a tree”. The place then where
Christ bore the penalty for our sin was a tree.
Before He was crucified He had been
scourged. This was a mode of torture used to extort a secret from
those who were accused. A whip was made of leather straps with metal
balls or spikes at the ends. The hands of the victim would be tied
to a post above his head, and then he was lashed until his back
became a mass of torn flesh.
Then after that He was humiliated before
at least 100 soldiers. He was stripped of His clothes by the
soldiers and a purple robe put on Him (Mat 27:28), and then a crown
of thorns placed on His head and a reed put in His hand. The
soldiers bowed before Him and mocked His claim to be the King of the
Jews; it was all a big joke to them. Then they spat on Him and smote
Him on the head with the reed.
Jesus had been all
night in agony; He had spent the early morning at the hall of
Caiaphas, then been hurried from Caiaphas to Pilate, from Pilate to
Herod, and from Herod back again to Pilate. He had, therefore, from
a human viewpoint little strength left, and yet neither refreshment
nor rest was permitted Him. The Jewish Authorities were eager for
His blood, and therefore led Him out to die, loaded with the cross.
As they went through the narrow lanes of Jerusalem, people shouted
abuse at Him, and then the Gospel record simply says, “they
crucified Him” (Mat. 27:35).
Crucifixion is regarded by many as the
most horrible form of death. The pain from spikes being driven
through the hands and feet; the weight of the body pulling down on
them. The sun beating down, the unquenchable thirst, the blood
oozing down from His scourged back and the crown of thorns pushed
into His head. The aggravation of flies, gnats, and insects. On the
cross they had set up over Him the accusation in 3 different
languages, “This is the King of the Jews”.
In practice the charges against Him proclaimed His deity and honour.
There He died, or to use His words, “I lay
down My life”, John 10:17.
If He really was God in human form, why
was He being put to death on a cross? Was there any purpose in it?
Well there was, and what the Bible teaches is that He took all the
sins, of all men, of all time, upon Himself, and bore God’s judgment
on them. In other words, this most perfect Man, who knew no sin was
made sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21), and bore the judgement that a holy God
gave on sin. He put Himself in our place, He was our substitute and
God punished Him instead of us. What motivated Him to lay down His
life for people who by and large don’t really care? It was simply
There’s a story told by a tourist who had
visited a church in Norway and said that he was surprised to see the
carved figure of a lamb near the top of the church's tower. He
learned that when the church was being built, a workman fell from a
high scaffold. His co-workers rushed down, expecting to find him
dead. But to their surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly
How did he survive? A flock of sheep was
passing beneath the tower at the time, and he landed on top of a
lamb. The lamb broke his fall and was crushed to death, but the man
was saved. To remember that miraculous escape, someone carved a lamb
on the tower at the exact height from which the workman fell.
John the Baptist described Jesus as "the
Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John
1:29). Peter said that the full weight of our sins fell upon Jesus
(1 Pet. 2:24). We all have fallen in sin, but on the cross Jesus
took the punishment for our sin upon Himself. He was crushed but now
offers eternal life to all who personally put their faith in Him
In the sixteenth century, Oliver Cromwell
ordered that an English soldier be shot for a cowardly crime. The
execution was to take place at the evening bell. But at the
appointed time no sound came from the belfry. Investigation revealed
that the girl who was engaged to be married to the condemned man had
climbed into the bell tower and clung to the clapper of the giant
bell to prevent it from striking. They found her there with her
hands bleeding and torn to shreds. The girl had sacrificed her life
so that the one that she loved might be set free from punishment.
Christ became our substitute motivated by love so that we would not
be condemned for our sins but have eternal life.
What was the purpose then of that first
Good Friday? It was surely this, to open the way for the sinner to
come back to God. And we have all sinned
(Rom. 3:23), and we all need to come back to God. We can do this by
repentance – a U-turn in our lives, just like the Prodigal son,
motivated by the goodness of God – and then to trust in Christ to
be our Saviour from the consequences of our sin. Those who believe
in Him exchange their sin for His righteousness, and appear before
God “just as if they’d never sinned” because Christ took away their
sin on the cross.