At our community meal a few weeks ago I was chatting with one of our guest who was enjoying his cup of coffee after his meal. We have lots of chats about politics, religion and sport – the 3 topics that you say you shouldn’t talk about.
As he was sipping his coffee I made the comment to him – did you know that 100% of coffee drinkers end up dying.
He was shocked and wondered whether he should give up drinking coffee – until he realised the logic behind it.
One of the other guests responded – yes, and 100% of pastors die also.
It’s a topic no one likes to talk about that we must all face the reality of death sometime in the future.
Death is a common experience of life. All who lived in the past died. Every one of us now living will die sooner or later.
It is estimated that 150,000 people die each day but it’s something we don’t want to talk about.
On Good Friday we often forget that there were three crosses on Calvary, a criminal on each side of Jesus.
These two men died just as much as Jesus died. Why then do we Christians make so much of the cross of Jesus?
How is Jesus’ death different from all other deaths? We tend to make a special issue out of Jesus’ cross.
We wear it as jewellery. The cross is a mark of our faith. We even sing, “when I survey the wondrous cross” even though it was by the brutal cross that Jesus died. Was Jesus’ death different because he suffered?
That could not be the answer, because the two men crucified with Jesus suffered equally with him. The hurt of the nails in hands and feet was as bad for them as for Jesus. The three equally shared the agony of the noonday heat.
Since Jesus’ legs were not broken, perhaps the other two suffered even more physical pain than Jesus did.
Jesus’ death is different because it was the fulfilment of God’s plan for us. Jesus always referred to his death as being part of God’s will. Thy will be done are the words he prayed before his death. The cross was God’s plan from the beginning of the world. God had it in mind from the time that Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. From that time, God began a plan of bringing us back to him. God decided to clean up the world by the Flood and continued a new humanity in Noah and his family. But this didn’t work and God looked to a new people, the Hebrews. He called Abraham and led him to a new country where he was to be a great nation and, through him, the world would be blessed. God brought his people out of Egyptian slavery under Moses. He led them into a Promised Land and gave them a king. God put his hopes in David and made his kingdom great. None of this was working with bringing people back to God as they kept going after other gods. So God looked to one person, his chosen one, his own son, Jesus of Nazareth. Through this one man, sin was placed entirely on him and through Jesus we now find access and acceptance with God. Because the cross was planned, the death of Jesus was different to other deaths.
The cross was no accident.
Jesus was always master of the situation and reminded the people that he laid his life down on his own accord and that no one took away his life. This was God’s work of bringing us back to him, and Jesus was obedient to that will of his Father.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus experienced the will of God and nothing could keep him from obeying.
Just before he died, he gave a shout of victory, “It is finished!” The work of restoring us began from the time of Adam, and at last completed, finished, at Jesus’ death. This great work of returning us back to God was completed on the cross with Jesus’ death. It was done for each one of us, for you and for me. Jesus’ death is different to other deaths because it had a purpose. The cross was a place of sacrifice. His death was an offering for our sin.
No other death had this meaning or purpose. When Adam and Eve sinned it demanded a penalty.
God warned that if they ate from the forbidden fruit they would certainly die.
The amazing thing is that this penalty of death was taken by God on his own son Jesus Christ on the cross.
He is our substitute. As the Bible says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The price was paid for our sins through the life of Jesus. The purpose of the cross was to save us from eternal death. Jesus’ cross is different. No one and nothing else can save a person from sin and give assurance of life in heaven. Because of the cross, the way is open for our return to God. Now we can know for sure that God will accept us, forgive us, and love us. God offers us mercy and full forgiveness. What a tragedy that God goes to this great expense – opens his arms to us and so many refuse to come!
Even as Christians we can sometimes forget to appreciate what our eternal life cost God. Jesus’ death was different because of who the person was on the cross – the son of God. This really made the difference in the three crosses on Good Friday. Two were only human beings who were dying as payment for their crimes. In the middle there was a human being also, but more than just human. Here was the Son of God paying the price of OUR sin.
There is no other way to explain the perfect life and death of Jesus which we have come to call Good Friday.
Jesus is God on the cross suffering and dying for us. There should be a deep sense of gratitude that calls us to follow and be his forever. Without a doubt, the greatest reason for Jesus’ death being different from all other deaths in history was the fact that his death lasted but three days. All others have died and stayed dead. Jesus rose from the dead never again to die.
On this Good Friday we watch him die as one of three on crosses. And St Paul reassures us that if we die with him we shall also live with him when he rises on Easter. So, this is not only a remembrance of the world’s most unique death, but it is an occasion for great celebration even though it was the most horrific of deaths.
How glorious will Easter then be – we shall have new life, new beings in Christ!