Please pray with me.
Holy and almighty God, we humbly come before your throne of grace with repentant hearts. Cleanse us with the blood of Jesus that He shed on the cross – an awesome event that we remember this day. In this very hour Jesus hung on the cross, carrying our sin. The world was never the same after that day so long ago.
It is my prayer that we will once again be fundamentally changed by the death of Jesus Christ. Send your Holy Spirit to us in such measure that this day of days will once again bring change into our world.
In the name of Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.
Good Friday, the day that Jesus Christ died on the cross, is a day that changed the world forever.
It is not the only day that changed the world, however.
There have been many days that have changed the world.
The day that the “New World” was discovered – whether it was Christopher Columbus, Leif Ericson, or someone else. No matter who “discovered” it first, that North and South America were “found” (not that they were ever lost) changed the world. Today North America – the United States, specifically, is a, if not the, world power in the world. And South America is quickly coming into its own – being the birth home of the present Bishop of Rome – the first time such a man was elected from the Americas.
Another day that changed the world was when it was discovered that the sun did not, in fact, revolve around the earth. Polish scientist and priest Copernicus is credited with this discovery which led to our modern day science and technology.
Which led to many world changing days, including July 16, 1945 – the day the first atomic bomb was detonated. This day changed the world forever – leading to the end of World War II and the space race that culminated with landing a man on the moon in 1969.
Which might possibly lead to another world-changing day – the day humans make first contact with life from another planet or star.
But none of these or any other world-changing day can hold a candle to the day that Jesus of Nazareth died on a Roman cross nearly 2000 years ago.
Before I talk about why Good Friday is a day like no other day that changed the world, I need to make sure you hear about exactly what happened on the first Good Friday.
Simply put, Good Friday is the day we remember that God who became man died by crucifixion. Jesus of Nazareth was not just some prophet or preacher in first century Palestine. He was born of a woman – Mary – but was conceived by the Holy Spirit. He is the Son of God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity. He is “God Incarnate” – True and Fully God while at the same time True and Fully Man.
I cannot prove this “empirically” or “scientifically.” I can only point to what I believe to be overwhelming evidence: The Bible; the history of first, second and third century followers of Jesus who staked their very lives on the fact that Jesus Christ was both God and Man who died on the cross; and the billions of followers who live lives of faith in Jesus Christ today and have been for nearly 2000 years.
Good Friday was the day that Jesus – the God-Man – died by crucifixion. On the face of it, it would appear to be a mistake added to a political vendetta by religious leaders of the day added to the cowardice or ineffectiveness of the Roman governor.
But it was not. This day that changed the world forever was something else entirely.
As Jesus hung on the cross – at the end of six hours of agony – we are told this, from John’s Gospel:
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:30
What, exactly, was “finished”? “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19). All that was needed to forgive our sins was finished by Jesus on Good Friday.
St. Paul put it this way, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
On Good Friday, on this day that changed the world, your sins were forgiven.
All of them.
Do you believe it?
Many people have a hard time believing this. They want to believe that their sins are forgiven, but they just can’t get past the seemingly lack of any evidence that their sins actually are forgiven. The seemingly lack of evidence that Jesus Christ actually died for their sins and rose from the dead.
It fact, it seems to make more sense to not believe it.
Certainly there is more evidence that Good Friday and all that Jesus did on that day, didn’t happen, right?
May I remind you that there was more evidence that the world was flat – until Leif Ericson, Christopher Columbus and many others did not sail off the end of the world.
There was also more evidence that the sun moved in the sky – from east to west – than there was that the earth actually orbited the sun – that is until Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo proved otherwise.
Yet, in the 2000 years since the first Good Friday, there has never been any credible evidence to suggest that Jesus Christ did not die for the sins of the world. If fact, the evidence still powerfully suggests that Jesus is, indeed, the Son of God who died and rose again to reconcile the world to God.
The most powerful evidence, to me, is the fact that this day that changed the world still changes people – billions of people today.
The death of Jesus changes us. Remember, Jesus’ death was not an accident or an act of vengeance or cowardice. It was an act of love. God’s love for you and for me.
You know the Bible passages that speak of this:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
This instrument of execution was forever changed on the day that changed the world into a symbol of the greatest love there has ever been or will ever be.
This day that changed the world is the day to remember:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17
But why? And what is the big deal with changing the world, anyway? I think you will all agree with me that something in this world needs to change.
The truth is that the world is changing every day. Most of the time, not for the better either. In fact, the only unchanging constant is that there is change!
This world was once perfect. But sin changed all that, as you well know. Death got a death-grip on us and will not let us go unless something changes.
But that change will not come from within ourselves. That change will not come from a world leader. That change will not come from a court-ruling.
No, the only thing that will change death’s grip on us is the death of death itself. When Jesus died on the cross, our very lives where changed. The death of Jesus has freed us from the bondage of sin, death, and the power of the devil.
The death of Jesus on the cross made the most powerful change this world has ever seen. His death bought your heart back from death. His death gives you new life.
Now, what are you going to do with that life? Look to the cross to see how far God went to give you a new heart, a new life!
On my white board are these words, “How far will God go to get your attention? All the way to a Roman cross and a borrowed tomb.”
Jesus Christ died for you. Jesus Christ gave up His life to give you your life.
Don’t waste His death! Leave this sanctuary in a few minutes and live the life Jesus died to give you!
Love others as God loves! Serve others as Jesus serves!
Reach out to the person who is hurting. Lift up the person who is downtrodden. Guide the person who is lost.
At the end of the very powerful movie “Saving Private Ryan” Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Miller, tells Private Ryan – after so many men died in order to return him home safely to his family, “Earn this.”
Robert Rodat – the writer of the screenplay – meant, I think, “Ryan, don’t waste these men’s efforts and lives in order to save you. Live a life worthy of being saved. Make it your life’s goal and purpose to make a difference in the lives of everyone you meet.” But, of course, that’s too wordy! “Earn this!” sounds so much better!
Of course you can’t earn this (pointing at the cross). You can’t earn salvation. Like Captain Miller and all the other men who died to save Private Ryan, Jesus died before you could do anything to earn it.
St. Paul says it best, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
This is the day – Good Friday – to remember to live a life with the goal and purpose of making a difference in the lives of everyone you meet!
Jesus said, in the Gospel reading from last night, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13: 34).
That’s what Good Friday is for. That’s what we remember of this day that changed the world.
May God’s love for you in Christ Jesus, who died for you on Good Friday, change you forever to love and live for Him. Amen.