We had just finished a Good Friday service. The Cathedral had been reasonably full as it always was for that particular service each year. From Noon to 3pm we had reflected on the meaning of the Seven Words of Jesus from the Cross and had sung some rich hymns interspersed between the readings. I was relaxing at home getting ready for the remaining rush of Easter services. The phone rang and I answered it to hear a woman’s angry voice. “You spoiled the service for me!” That was the first time anyone had ever said that to me. Fortunately it was also the last. I was surprised because I knew that particular woman had always loved the Good Friday service each year. I wondered what was different about the service just finished that had caused her to be so upset? I didn’t have to wonder for long. She poured forth her grievances. It seemed that I had added something during the service that I hadn’t ever added before. She explained in words like these. “Every year I come to the service thinking about my own sinfulness and how Jesus died on the cross to take away my sins. Then I like to go home and keep reflecting on how sinful I am until I come to church on Easter Day and then begin to rejoice because Jesus is risen. But you spoilt it for me today when you said at the end of the service that we need to remember that Jesus’ death on Good Friday was followed by His resurrection on Easter Day.”
I then remembered why I had said that during the service. There had been quite a large number of people new to the service. I had felt that if they were never to come to a Christian service again, they needed to hear the whole Gospel message that Jesus’ death for sinners was followed by His resurrection, as God raised Him from the dead on that first Easter morning. If He had not been raised there would have been no forgiveness of sin and no new life for those who would trust in Him as a Living Saviour. There was no really good news if Jesus had died on the cross, been buried and that was the end of the story. He would not have been the victor over sin, death and evil if He had not risen from the dead.
That day I made a decision. I would never preach a message that was only half-truth. Whenever afterwards that I was to take a Good Friday service I would always mention the good news of the rest of the story seen in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Otherwise it would be a misleading message. It would not be the real truth. It would not be real in two ways.
Firstly, it would not be the real truth about Jesus. His body did not continue to decompose in a tomb in Palestine following His burial. Only hours afterwards, on the third day, He rose from the dead. It means that when we are taking a Christian service in the twenty-first century we can’t allow Him (in our minds) to still be in tomb from our present Good Friday to our present Easter Day. But that’s what the woman who rang me wanted to happen. It’s as though she was saying “I wanted Jesus to be in the tomb until Easter morning. Then I could be happy!” One can’t ignore reality. The reality is that Jesus died on that first Good Friday and rose again on the first Easter morning and has been alive since that day and is alive for evermore.
Secondly it not the truth about ourselves as followers of Jesus. We can’t go back and live as though we were living in the time between Good Friday and Easter Day. From the first Easter Day and for every Easter day following, Jesus has been the living Saviour. He is the Living Saviour. It means too that because His death and resurrection have made forgiveness available that we can’t go back and concentrate on our sins while waiting for the next Easter Day to be able to rejoice in our forgiveness. Why? Because as believers we have forgiveness for all our sins. It is in Jesus through the blood He shed on the cross almost 2000 years ago. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:7, 8 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us.. . Forgiveness is ours NOW in Him and we are to rejoice every moment of our lives in God’s amazing gift of forgiveness to us in His Son.
What I would like to do in forthcoming articles is to look more deeply at who this Jesus Christ of Christmas really is so that we live in the world of reality and not in a world of make-believe or in a world of escapism from the claims upon our lives that come from this Jesus Christ of Christmas.
Blog No.100. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Wednesday 12th December 2012