Dashing the hopes of His followers, Jesus suffered and died on a cross. The disciples expected Jesus to overthrow their foes and establish His kingdom—but what good was a dead King? As we consider the death of Jesus on this Good Friday, we'll gain a deeper understanding of the enemy He destroyed that day and a clearer picture of kingdom He established.
These Good Friday messages focus on the overarching truth of the old covenant—"without shedding of blood there is no remission" of sins (Hebrews 9:22)—as well as how Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross ushered in a new covenant between mankind and God.
Hebrew terms: כהן גדול; Kohen HaGadol; High Priest
Greek terms: Βασιλεία; basileia-kingdom
Figures referenced: King Charles VI; Thallus; Julius Africanus; Tertullian
Cross references: Genesis 1:3; 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Psalm 2:1-7; Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 2:44; Daniel 4:3; Matthew 2:2-3; Mark 15:2; Luke 22:53; Luke 23:34; John 1:49; John 12:12-13; John 18:36; John 19:19; John 19:26; Acts 1:3; Acts 2:23; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Revelation 1:17-18; Revelation 11:15; Revelation 19:11-16
"The King is dead, long live the king". Those words come to us from the European monarchies years ago. The first place in recorded history that we have of those words being said in that fashion come from France in 1422 after the death of King Charles VI. He was the king that died and so the viceroy shouted, "The King is dead." But then to assure an immediate, instantaneous and peaceful transition to his son, King Charles VII, immediately he said, "Long live the King." And so typically when kings would die and new ones would be raised up, the phrases were said immediately, "The king is dead. Long live the king." "One is gone, another has come."
Jesus Christ was the king that was long awaited, anticipated and predicted in the Scripture. He was the king that came to Israel but he was also the king that was rejected by Israel. In Luke Chapter 23, we have some of the events recorded of the cross that happened that day that we call Good Friday. It says in Verse 1, "Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him unto Pilate." And they began to accuse him saying, We have found this fellow perverting the nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar and saying that he himself is Christ, a King." And then Pilate asked him saying, "Are you the king of the Jews?" and he answered and said to them, "It is as you say." And then in Verse 35 of that same chapter and the people stood looking on but even the rulers with them sneered saying, "He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Christ, the chosen of God." The soldiers also mocked him, coming and offering him sour wine and saying, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." And an inscription was also written in the letters of Greek, Latin and Hebrew. This is the king of the Jews.
And then down on Verse 44, it was about the sixth hour and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour, and the sun was darkened and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice he said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," and he breathed his last. The central personality of the entire Old Testament prophecy was the king: King Messiah, God's king who would reign in an everlasting kingdom. Those promises are interspersed throughout the old covenant. David, who was the king of ancient of Israel, in second Samuel Chapter 7 was given a promise by God saying that his house and his kingdom would endure before him forever, forever. David would have someone sit upon the throne and continue that lineage.
And then there is Psalm 2, beautiful Psalm of prophecy. It says, "Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?" The kings have set themselves together and the rulers have taken counsel against the Lord and against his Christ saying, "Let us break their bonds and cast their cords from us." But he who sits in the heaven shall laugh, he will hold them in derision and then God speaks, "Yet I have set my king on my holy hill of Zion. I have declared, you are my son." Moving in to the prophecy of the Book of Isaiah, that famous prophecy we read every year at Christmas time, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and the government will be upon his shoulders and his name will be wonderful counselor, Mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of peace of the increase of his government and his peace there will be no end over the house of David and over his kingdom to order it and establish it from this time forth even forevermore, the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this."
Daniel, the prophet also saw the coming kingdom when there was a dream given to King Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel interpreted it talking about the end of days and the kings that will be upon the earth. Daniel said in the days of those kings, "God himself will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed but that will endure forever. It will stand forever." Two chapters later in Daniel Chapter 4, again, the prophecy came that there would be an everlasting kingdom whose dominion will be everlasting and the kingdom will go from generation to generation.
So those are some of the Old Testament predictions of a coming king and an everlasting kingdom. When we turn to the pages of the New Testament, we find that fulfilled. At least we find the writers of the New Testament insisting that Jesus Christ is the long anticipated, awaited, prophesied King. 144 times in the New Testament, the word "basileia", which is the Greek word for kingdom is used referring to Jesus Christ's reign.
When King Herod who fancied himself as the king of the Jews because he ruled over all of Judea, one day he was surprised when visitors from the East known as the Magi came and they said, "We have come looking for the one who was born the King of the Jews. We have come to worship him." And the Bible says, "Herod and all Jerusalem was troubled at that notification." Herod thought, "What do you mean King of the Jews? There can't be any competition; I am the king of the Jews." Why was he wrong?
Some years later when Jesus was beginning his ministry and he met a fellow by the name of Nathaniel, at least I would say Nathaniel met Jesus, Jesus already knew Nathaniel for he saw Nathaniel coming and said, "Hey, look, there is an Israelite in whom there is no guile." And Nathaniel said, "How do you know me? Jesus said, man, before you were praying under the fig tree I knew all about you." And Nathaniel said, "You are the son of God, you are the King of Israel."
When Jesus came into Jerusalem on that donkey, before the day of Passover, the crowd in John Chapter 12 all shouted, "Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel." And then Pontius Pilate asked him, "So, are you a king then?" And Jesus said, "It is as you say," or "Yup, it is as you say." And then a sign was placed over the cross of Jesus that says, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."
Did you know that one of Jesus' favorite things to talk about was his kingdom? It was one of his favorite subjects. We have in Matthew 13 what's called, The Kingdom Parables where Jesus said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like this or that and he gave so many comparisons." Thirty three times in the Gospel of Matthew alone that phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" is used. The term Kingdom of God is used four times in Matthew by Jesus, 14 times in the Gospel of Mark, 32 times in the Gospel of Luke and twice in the Gospel of John. It was one of Jesus' favorite subjects and when he rose again from the dead and he was 40 days with his disciples, he spoke about things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
And yet here we read in our text that the king is dead. Yes, a sign above him says, "This is the king of the Jews but what good does it do to have a king who is now dead? What can he do? How can those promises be fulfilled?
Now, before he died, our Savior gave some gracious words from the cross, the first statement that he made was, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing." The second thing he said was to, a thief who was crucified next to him and insurrectionists. He said, "Today, you will be with me in paradise."
So gracious, so other-centered and so loving but again, just more promises then it says, "Having said this, he breathed his last."
The king is dead and nobody is shouting, "Long live the King," just simply, "The king is dead." We read something else that when the king died on that day, there was something unusual that happened. It was about the sixth hour and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour and the sun was darkened and the veil of the temple was torn in two. Jesus was on the cross for about six hours. He was placed on the cross at nine in the morning. He uttered three statements from the cross, two of which we read in our tax and the third being one that he said to his mother from the cross. "Woman behold your son, son behold your mother," giving John the Apostle, the care of his mother Mary for the rest of her earthly life.
Then something unusual happened. A mysterious darkness covered the entire land. It says that even the sun was darkened. Now I want you to know something. You read that in the Bible. What you may not know is that the fact of that darkness was attested too in other places historically in ancient records and ancient annals.
One historian by the name of Thallus, who wrote a history 20 years after the crucifixion, spoke about the darkness that covered the land and he called it an eclipse and from his description it seems like it was a universal kind of a darkness. He spoke about it. He tried to pass it off as an eclipse and someone else named Julius Africanus wrote to dispute that saying, "Oh no, it wasn't an eclipse. It was something much deeper and more significant and more supernatural than that."
Also the church historian Tertulias wrote to a pagan philosopher and historian talking about the darkness that covered the earth and he's saying that it was a sign. He is saying, "Which wonder is related and kept in your archives and your annals until this very day? Now, why was that darkness covering the land and why for three hours? We'll, were not told. It just tells us that when Jesus was on the cross from about 12 noon to three o'clock right before he died, that there was this mysterious darkness over the earth.
Let me give you or submit to you three reasons perhaps why that darkness covered the earth when Jesus died. Number one, it could have been a darkness of secrecy. Listen to this. Every year on the Jewish day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement in the ancient temple, the high priest called Kohen Ha Gadol in Hebrew, went alone on the other side of the veil where the Ark of the Covenant and the mercy seat were kept, a place of total darkness.
The lamp stand was on the other side of the veil and in secrecy and in darkness he took his finger dipped in blood and sprinkled the blood upon that altar, upon that mercy seat for the forgiveness of the nation. It was a secret transaction between the high priest and God alone. And when the high priest went into that secret place, The Holy of Holies, it was as if the whole nation of Israel held its breath because would God accept their sacrifice was the great question.
If the high priest came out alive, he did accept the sacrifice, good news. And it was the only day during the year that the high priest was allowed to utter out loud the full name of God, Yahweh. Never was that name ever mentioned, only the consonants were written, other names were substituted but on that day in the darkness of secrecy when the high priest sprinkled the blood in that secret transaction he called upon the name of Yahweh, the Almighty God, the covenant name of God.
So think of it. For three years, Jesus publicly lived his life for three hours in that darkness was that secret transaction that only Jesus could make being the high priest shedding his own blood and offering it before the father.
Number two, this was a secretly, a darkness I believe not just of secrecy but of wickedness. Darkness in the Bible is often a symbol of sin, of wickedness. One of the first creative acts of God was he said, "Let there be light," and light was only something physical but throughout the Bible something seen as a symbol of something spiritual so that when a person lives in sin, that person is said to walk in what? Darkness. And when they come from darkness and they're safe, they walk in the light even as he is in the light.
When the Temple police came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus turned to them and said, "This is your hour and the power of darkness." The dark wicked forces of the world had come to extinguish the light of the world and so this was the darkness of secrecy, this was the darkness of wickedness and third I submit to you this was a darkness of judgment. I discovered that in the Jewish writings, the Babylonian Talmud says that God reserves darkness when he wants to punish people for some unusually wicked sin.
So, the ninth plague in the book of Exodus, the ninth plague that God poured out on Egypt was the plague of darkness that covered the land for three days. It was the darkness that could be felt. In the Book of Revelation coming in the future, the tribulation period, the fifth bowl that will be poured out upon the earth upon the kingdom of the antichrist will be God pouring out darkness, and how dark it was on that day.
As Peter will say on the Day of Pentecost, "You have taken the Prince of life and by your wicked hands you have crucified and put to death." But Jesus died. He was put to death as the Lamb taking upon himself the sin of the world, taking our place so that God could judge wickedness, sin in the person of Jesus that unusually wicked sin of rejecting the son of God and Jesus could take the punishment. So the king is dead and it's only appropriate that darkness should reign in the land for three hours. But Jesus said something else about his kingdom. He said to Pontius Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would rise up and fight but my kingdom is not of this world." What did he mean? He simply meant this, "Jesus didn't come to be a political, military and revolutionary. He didn't have an earthly, political and military kingdom. He was in a reactionary. His kingdom was a spiritual kingdom and his kingdom will be one day an eventual literal physical kingdom. What do I mean by that? It's simple.
Right now, today, Jesus Christ wants to rule as king in the lives and hearts of as many people as we'll let him reign there. His kingdom is being built up right now. If you have received Christ as your Lord and Savior and he is the monarch, the sovereign and the king of your life, you know the difference between living under your own dominion and living under the dominion of Jesus Christ.
But one day, eventually in the future, Revelation 11 declares this, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ and he will reign forever." So Jesus, the King is now Jesus, the crucified. The king is dead. His kingdom is not of this world. But here's the best part. The best part is when the world will say and certainly we will lead the charge in saying, "Long live the King."
I'm going to close with a passage from the Book of Revelation. In Revelation Chapter 1 first of all, John sees a vision of Jesus and when I saw him I fell that his feet is dead but he laid his right hand on me and said to me, "Don't be afraid, I'm the first and I'm the last. I am him who lives and was dead but behold, I am alive forever more and I have the keys of Haiti's and the keys of death". And finally Revelation 19, this is the coming of Christ. This is the eventual literal physical kingdom that Jesus Christ will come fulfilling all of the prophecies and all of the anticipations of the Old Testament.
Revelation 21, beginning in Verse 11, " Now I saw heaven opened and behold a white horse," a white horse was always used by Roman Generals in times of victory. When they won the war, they rode a white horse. Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey. That's how kings came in times of peace but after a time of war when the king was victorious he rode a white horse. "I saw heaven opened and behold a white horse and he who sat on him was called faithful and true and in righteousness he judges and makes war."
"His eyes were a flame of fire and on his head were many crowns and he has a name written which no one knew except himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood and his name is called The Word of God and the armies of heaven clothed in fine linen, white and clean followed him on white horses, and out of his mouth was a sharp sword there with that he should strike the nations and he himself will rule them with a rod of iron. And he himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and the wrath of Almighty God and he has on his robe and on his thigh a name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords."
Some time back, I remember a funeral of a young man by the name of Jerry. It was an unusual funeral because Jerry was a believer and he had a lot of his friends who were there who were also believers in Christ, family that were believers in Christ and though they were very sorrowful for the loss of Jerry they were also glad that he had no more physical suffering from the disease he suffered a long one that he struggled with.
And I remember at the funeral there was this unusual sense of joy. As family members, those sorrowful were so happy that the promise of God included their son Jerry who is now in heaven being embraced by the arms of Christ. And I watched also with the funeral unbelievers. A lot of people who knew Jerry, they didn't know Jesus.
The looks of bewilderment on the faces of all the unsaved unbelievers, you could cut it with a knife. It was so much like day and night. You could tell who is saved and who was not just by looking at the crowd. The people were with so joyful and thankful that God saved Jerry and took him to heaven. Sad for his loss but joyful that he is in heaven but all the unbelievers looked around like, "I don't get it. How can they be joyful? This is like the worst thing ever," as they were contemplating their own death. And as I looked at that funeral, I thought of Good Friday, I thought, "You know what, that's what this must look like to a lot of unbelievers who wonder at all of us on Good Friday."
They are saying, "I don't get it. The king is dead." But we're saying, "You didn't get the whole story, did you?" The king is dead, long live the king because the king became the crucified, the crucified extended his kingdom to subjects like us, people who are forgiven and who have hope and can look right in the face of death and say, "Oh death, where is your sting? Oh grave, where is your victory?" And only people who know that king have that kind of hope.
In World War I, several people were brought into an Army hospital on the field on the front in Europe, American soldiers.
One young soldier, handsome as could be, young, strong, his arm was so maimed that the surgeon knew he had to amputate his arm. He felt so badly because this strong, beautiful specimen of manhood would never use his arm again. And so the surgeon decided to stay by the bedside of that young man until he woke up, and could tell him what happened, and share with them the bad news that he lost his arm.
And so the young man woke up from the anesthesia, the doctor was there. When the doctor knew that the young man was conscious and could understand him he said, "Son, I'm sorry to tell you that you lost your arm in the battle. Your life is spared but you lost your arm." The young man immediately turned toward the doctor and said, "You got it wrong Doc. I didn't lose my arm. I gave my arm for my country. A big difference."When Jesus died on the cross, it wasn't some helpless victim of a Roman lynching. He could say, "I didn't lose my life. I gave my life for my kingdom subjects who are forgiven once." The king is dead. Long live the king. The king is dead. Long live those of us who believe in the king because of what the king has done for us.