Introduction: Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque. We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world; we do this with one another, through worship, by the Word, to the world.
Skip Heitzig: In a few moments we're going to pass out the elements and we're going to take communion together. Blood saves lives. Of all people that should know that truth, it's this group that is sitting here today. Blood saved our lives. [applause] The apostle John wrote: "The blood of Jesus Christ God's Son cleanses us from all sin." But he goes on to say that, "If God so loved us, that we should also love one another." And so since blood saves lives, the reason we have a blood truck here for those who wish to give blood is because the giving of our blood could also save someone else's life long enough for them to hear how God and his blood saves lives.
So it's our tangible testimony to this community that we love them because God loves them, and as Jesus shed his blood, we're willing to give our blood and donate some of that. That's the reason the campaign "Blood Saves Lives" and this truck that is out here. It'll be out here till three o'clock. The theme of this Good Friday as you see by the flyer you have is out of Psalm 22, called "Forsaken," because Psalm 22 begins with a saying, the fourth saying that Jesus uttered on the cross. The Psalm begins, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me?"
We know that Jesus was put on the cross around nine o'clock in the morning and for three hours he hung there and gave three statements. All of those statements were focused on other people. First of all, to the crowd, to the rulers, to the soldiers who put him on the cross. Jesus prayed to his Father, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing." And then he turned to somebody who was crucified next to him, a criminal, and said, "Today you will be with me in Paradise." The third statement Jesus made was to honor his own mother who was there watching this horrific event, and John his friend, his follower.
And Jesus said to her, "Mother, behold your son! Son, behold your mother!" Then from twelve noon to around three o'clock darkness covered the whole land and there was nothing but silence. Jesus said nothing. And, finally, he broke that silence. He broke it with this statement: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" "Why have you abandoned me?" We know that this psalm is a messianic psalm; that is, though written by David, it doesn't describe anything we know of David's life. It may have, it could have been an intense situation David was going through, but we have no record, because he describes in detail death, suffering at the very end of one's life, and giving one's life.
And the details that are written in it have been noted by many scholars as perfectly describing crucifixion, even more so than the four gospels. So we know that it is a messianic Psalm. All four gospel writers point to Psalm 22 as something that Jesus was fulfilling. But what a statement---"My God, my God, why have you [abandoned me] forsaken me?" Some of you know what it's like to be forsaken, abandoned. Some of you have had a spouse abandon you, or a parent, perhaps, abandon you, or a child or a friend turn their back on you. You know what the pain is like.
I read an article sometime back about a 22-year-old dad, a father in Kentucky who was trying---he was convicted of trying to sell his one-year-old daughter, sell his daughter to a babysitter for $800. Imagine when that child grows up and finds out my dad didn't even love me enough to keep me, but tried to sell me, and I was only worth $800 to him. He just wanted some fast cash to get out of town. But none of us know what it's like to be forsaken by God. Jesus said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" By the way, it's the only time recorded in the gospels where Jesus didn't call God his Father.
He usually spoke of him as his Father, "my Father," "my Father and I." It was a relational intimacy that is shared throughout the Gospels. This is the only time where in reference to God, God is not called "my Father," or "the Father." Jesus depersonalizes it. There is no intimacy. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It's an incredible statement. Already Jesus has experienced some alienation. He has already experienced what's it's like to be abandoned. He was abandoned by his disciples. He said to them, "You will forsake me. But I am not alone, for the Father is with me." He had Judas betray him. He had Peter deny him.
He's had several people kind of turn their back and walk away. And so the alienation of Jesus was progressive throughout his suffering, but still he had intimacy with the Father. But now he says, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" What is all this about? What this is about, I believe, is Jesus at the moment feels the full wrath of God upon sin. "God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him." That's what the Bible tells us. And he is feeling what that is like. No more partial separation---ultimate separation where he feels the wrath of sin that he is going to die for on him.
This is the summit of his suffering. This is the pinnacle of his pain. It's not just disciples fleeing, it's not just the crowd saying, "Crucify him!" It's not just Roman soldiers or Pontius Pilate delivering him to this death, but he breaks the silence. He suffered in silence for three hours with all of that pain, but he breaks the silence because he feels the full wrath of God upon him. By the way, think of that statement and you see what sin does. You see, sin separates. Sin separates families. Sin separates friendships. Sin divides churches. Sin always brings separation.
And here we see what it did between Jesus and the Father for this period of time when he said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Sin separates us. The commentator Arthur W. Pink said, "This statement ought to melt even the hardest heart!" I don't know what the spiritual temperament is of everyone who is gathered here at this Great Friday Service. Probably most all of us are believers, but perhaps some of you are not. I know for a fact that some people are invited to a service or even compelled to come to a church service, or even, can we say, "dragged" to church. They're here because their parents make them. It's never become personal to you.
They're honoring their wife or their husband or a friend. They're here but Jesus Christ is not a personal part of their life. This statement ought to melt even the hardest of hearts. And if your heart isn't moved by Jesus saying, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" then this is a good time for you to examine your heart. Jesus became forsaken so that you and I would never have to be forsaken. Jesus said, "I will never leave you. I will never forsake you." Yes, blood saves lives. It saves our lives. I hope it has saved your life. Jesus was forsaken so that you would never have to be forsaken.
There's a great old hymn, and the words are---it's called "How Firm a Foundation"---"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to his foes; that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I will never, no never, no never forsake." That's the promise. He was forsaken, because as he took the wrath for my sin and your sin, he could then say to you, "You'll never, ever, ever be forsaken," because "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses a man, a woman from all sin," as you saw that red covering those envelopes. [applause] And so we think of the love of God before we take the elements of communion.
And I want you to listen to a couple of verses spoken by Paul the apostle when he prays: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height---to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." What a prayer. He's saying, "I'm praying that you can comprehend something that is incomprehensible, that passes knowledge. I want you to know something that's impossible for you to know."
And you can't know it unless God reveals it to you. And the only way we get that revelation is in the cross. Listen once again to that language. "That you might know what is the width and length and depth and height." Width and length goes this way, it's horizontal; depth and height goes this way, it's vertical. Get the picture? It's a picture of the love of God in the cross of Jesus Christ. The vertical beam, the horizontal beam; the width, the breadth, the length, the height. So, let's consider this, as we look at the cross, we see the depth of man's sin.
We see the height of God's love, we see the width of our salvation, and we see the length that God will go through to get you there. That's what we see in the cross. Think about it. We see the depth of our sin. There's an old saying years ago that said, "You can always tell how deep a well is by how much rope you need to lower." You can always tell how bad our sin is by looking at what it took God to rescue us from it. That's what it took. That's how deep the well was. It shows us the depth of our sin. If you want to know the badness of our sin, you need to look at the bleeding of our Savior.
And when you see him bleeding, you say, "My sin was that bad?" You see, most people don't agree with that. "Oh, well, you know, I'm not perfect. Nobody is. Yes, I fail a little bit and I kind of fall and I blow it, but who doesn't?" But what most don't realize is how bad that sin is. It's so offensive to a perfect, holy God that he would say, "This requires a death sentence. But I'll tell you what, I'll get somebody else to pick up the tab and pay the debt. I'll lower the rope so low that that one act is enough to save a person who trusts in Jesus Christ."
Last week I was on a little motorcycle trip. I think I mentioned to you Wednesday night I did 2,000 miles on a motorcycle with my friend Franklin Graham. You were there. And we stopped at one place and when he got up, like, to do go inside the restaurant--- We were eating outside. He had---he always loves ice tea. So I took his ice tea and I poured salt into it. It's what friends do. What can I say? [laughter] You say, "Remind me never to be your friend." Well, so I poured salt into it because once you do that to a drink, you can't fix it, you gotta start all over.
You can't, like, take the salt out with little teaspoons. It pervades it all. And that's what Adam's sin did. When Adam sinned, he infected the whole human race. Paul in Romans said, "By one man sin entered the world, and death through sin; so that death spread, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." So this shows us the depth of our sin. You can't, you can't do anything good to account for the depth of your sin. You can't, like, fix that. You can't say, "I'm going to try really hard and be really good and be very religious, and I'll show God that I'm good enough to be saved." Won't work. Won't work.
As C. S. Lewis put it, "No arrangement of bad eggs can ever produce a good omelet." I hate to tell you this, but we're all bad eggs, and what Jesus cooked up is better than any raunchy omelet you and I could do by our own works. [applause] So it shows us the depth of man's sin. It also shows us the height of God's love. Jesus left the heights of heaven and came down to this earth. "Who, being in very nature God," Paul writes, "made himself nothing, and came to this earth and took on the form of a man and died the death of the cross." "Greater love has no man than this," Jesus said, "than a man would lay down his life for his friends."
If you are ever tempted to doubt God's love for you, just look at the cross that shows you the height of God's love. "He demonstrated his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." So it shows us the depth of man's sin, the height of God's love. One of my favorite songs was written way before I was ever born, but I love the words. It was written in 1917 by a guy named Frederick Lehman. Listen to these words: "Could we with ink the oceans fill, and were the skies of parchment made, were every man---were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade; to write the love of God would drain the oceans dry; nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky."
That's what the cross shows us: the depth of man's sin, it shows us the height of God's love, it shows us also the width of our salvation. The arms stretched out on the cross was Jesus giving the big embrace to the world---"Whoever will, let him come." It was open to everyone. Now, listen carefully. It's open to everyone, but there's only one way. It's open to all, but the way is narrow. It can't be like your way and my way and we all have our own way and our own ideas how to get to God. You might have your own ideas how to get to God---they're all wrong. There's only one way that God will accept and that's his way.
Oh, yes, his embrace, his reach is wide, but there's only one way. "Whosoever will, let him come," but you have to will to come his way. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to Father except by me." Peter said, "Neither is there salvation in any other name, except for that of Jesus Christ." So you can't use the name "Catholic" or the name "Protestant." You can't say, "I was raised in the Catholic Church all my life." Well, wonderful. "Well, I was raised in an evangelical church all my life." Good, nice. "Well, my parents, I'll use their name." No. You can't use any other name except the name of Jesus Christ.
It's open, it's wide, but there's only one way, because there's only one person who did that and that's Jesus. So here's what it boils down to: it's no longer a sin question, it's a Son question. Yeah, we're all sinners, but Jesus paid for our sin. The Son paid for the sin, so it's no longer a sin question, it's have you received the Son of God and let him take your place? If you haven't, this is the perfect day to do it. And then, finally, the cross shows us the length, the length to which God will go through to get a hold of you. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son."
My grandson, when he says the word "so" likes the say it twice. "So, so good. So, so much." "For God so so loved the world that he gave his only be gotten Son." That's how much he loved us. That's the length God would go to to get a hold of you. There's an old fable, one of Aesop's Fables, that shows a crow in a tree, and the crow has a piece of meat in his mouth, in his beak. He's ready to eat it. And down below the tree is a fox looking up and he is determined to get a hold of that piece of meat that is in the crow's beak. And so he uses flattery and he says, "You know, Mr. Crow, you are the most beautiful bird of all of the birds."
"I think you should be the king of all the birds. In fact, if you could sing, you probably would be the king. If you only had a voice." Immediately the crow dropped the piece of meat and started crying out, "Caw! Caw!" to show that he had a beautiful voice; at which time the fox grabbed the meat and was walking away and turned back and he said, "Now, if you could only add brains to your other qualifications, you'd make a fine king." In other words, "I outwitted you. I, the fox, outwitted you, the dumb crow." The dumbest thing you could do is brag about your own goodness in the presence of almighty God.
The smartest thing you could ever do is to receive his perfect righteousness that he will clothe you with, that you might be saved. By the way, in Psalm 22, I close with this, as it begins, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me?" When he gets down to verse 6 the psalmist says this: "But I am a worm, and not a man." Now why I quote that to you is because the worm in that text refers to a specific type of worm called the crimson crocus. It had a red dye to it, and in ancient times they would take the crimson crocus and they would extract the dye from out of its body and use it to dye the robes that kings would wear in their royal courts.
Kings would be clothed with the dye from the worm, the crimson crocus. How suggestive is that, that we are clothed in royal robes by the blood of Jesus Christ? We are made royalty, sons of God, daughters of God, of the King because of his sacrifice for us. You and I, we're royalty, but not because we're, like, really cool, because our badness did that to Jesus and he took it and in turn clothes you, so all those envelopes that you put on the cross this last Saturday night and Sunday night---look at the red on it. Look at it. It's covered. It's over. It's done. It's finished.
Will you bow your hearts and heads with me? Our Father in heaven, we consider the cross. We think of the words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And we think of the depth of man's sin along with the height of God's love, along with the width of our salvation, along with the length that you would go to; to get a hold of us. It's a marvel. For some of us it's real; for some others it's just religion. They go to Good Friday Service, or they'll go to Easter Service, or maybe even a Sunday here and there, but the relationship with the living God has not been made real to them.
Some more may have never received Jesus and the benefits on the cross, the merits of the cross to be applied to their own lives. We pray, Father, that that would be changed, you would do the changing, you would do to compelling. If you're here at this service, before we take communion, before we even pass it out, if you don't know Jesus as your Savior---if you're not sure, or maybe you wandered away from him, you haven't been following him, your life hasn't been lived in obedience to him---and you need to come to Christ for the first real time, the legitimate time---
Not just using the name of a church you were raised in or the name of your parents that brought you up, but you're going to push all of that aside and say, "I'm going to only cling to the name of Jesus, and I'm going to make it personal. And I want to know that I'm saved. I want to know that I'll go to heaven," then wherever you are seated, I'd like you to raise your hand up in the air. Raise it up high for just a moment. Let me acknowledge your hand and have you pray with me. Raise it up and keep it up for just a moment. God bless you, right over here to my right. And right up here in the front.
A couple of you right up here; several of you in the front; over here on the side to my left. Anyone else? You raise that hand up. God bless you, sir. If you're out in the park, there's pastors there who---you raise your hand, they're going to acknowledge you. Toward the back on my right. Anybody else? Just raise it up right now. This is communion. This is the Lord's Supper. This is the place where you get forgiven for everything in your past, and you get a new start. Lord bless you; right over here. I got that hand, thank you. Anyone else? Anyone in the back? Just raise it up. Yes, God bless you. Anyone else? Yes, yes, ma'am.
And there's hands, no doubt, out in the park. You keep those hands raised and let those pastors see it. Now, even before we take communion, I'm going to ask you to do something. I'm going to ask you right now to get up from where you're standing or seated and come stand right up here where I'm going to lead you in a prayer publicly to receive Christ. If you raised your hands, no matter where you're seated, you don't have to be ashamed or afraid. We wanted you to feel welcome, but we want it to be a definite time that you remember this transaction between heaven and you. [applause] [music plays]
They're going to walk you from the park right over here in just a moment. If you raised your hand in the back, just come along the sides and come up to the front. If you're way in the back, way out there to my right, you come forward too as well. We're going to all take communion together. In fact, in you don't know the Lord personally, if Jesus isn't a real part of your life, please don't take these elements. The Bible warns against that. But if you want to be forgiven of your sins, cleansed from unrighteousness, have a whole new start, you come and receive Christ. Let's pray and then you take communion with us.
We're going to wait a few more minutes. Now just think about your life and about your choices. And some of you---I might be speaking to somebody who's a young person, you've been raised in a Christian home. Maybe you've been going to this church for years, and you come and you watch and you're here, but it's not been a reality to you. And there's something in your life that you want to see changed. You know your life isn't right and you wonder if life could ever be different, if you could get a new start, a do-over. Well, you can. Come right on up. You know, I was---I grew up going to church.
It wasn't until I was eighteen years old that I realized that something ain't right, I need to get right with God. He's done everything for me. He paid the price. I need to just trust him. Anyone else? Look, even a puppy is getting saved. [laughter] Anyone else? Don't open them yet. We're passing out the communion to you. I'm going to pray with you in a moment. And we're passing out the elements to everyone. These who have come forward I'm going to lead in a word of prayer to receive Christ in just a moment.
And they have the blessedness of taking the Lord's Supper in the most meaningful way the first time in their lives where it's really real to them. [applause] Is there anyone else? We'll wait for another couple of moments. You might be on the edge of the crowd hoping that I'll just be quiet and end this very soon, so you can go home. God loves you. God knows your name. God knows your past. God wants to cleanse you and make you his child. That's right, come right on up. Come right on up, over this way. Yes, come on over. Don't let this opportunity pass you by, make this Good Friday your Great Friday, the best Friday. Now, those of you who have come forward, I'm going to lead you in a prayer.
I'm going to ask you to say these words out loud after me. Say them from your heart, mean these as you say them to God. You ready? Let's pray and let's pray out loud. Say: Lord, I give you my life. I know that I am a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe that Jesus died on a cross, that he shed his blood for me, that he rose again from the grave. I turn from my sin. I leave it behind. I turn to you as my Savior. I want to follow you as my Lord. Help me every day, in Jesus' name, amen. [cheers and applause] Now I'm just going to make sure that these elements are all passed out and that everybody has them. We're almost finished with that and then we're going to take the Lord's Supper together. [music plays]
Does anybody not have the elements that would like them? Make yourself known, raise your hand up. Okay, way in the back over here---there you go. Yeah, indicate if you don't have the elements yet, we want to make sure that we get them to you. We're about to demonstrate, not only our salvation, but our unity. Brand-new Christian or older veteran Christian, we're all one in him. We're all at the same level before the foot of the cross. [music plays] If you would peel off the first little clear wrapper and get to the piece of bread. This represents the broken body of Jesus. At Passover he held up bread and he said, "This is my body, broken for you."
And so we take it and we remember that what he did, he did for us. What he did, he did for you, which makes you my sister, it makes you my brother. And we take this saying, "I believe it personally." Let's take together. And then as you have that cup, the fruit of the vine, it represents the shed blood of Jesus. That's what he said: "This is the cup of the new covenant, of my blood shed for many." And you're making it personal. You're saying, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me. I am made whole. I am made new. I am made white." And so we personalize it. Let's take together. Thank you Lord for your work on our behalf. We know it's finished. Help us to never try to add to it, but to rejoice in it, in Jesus' name, amen.
Closing: What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our heavenly Father, dedication to studying his Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more resources from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig visit calvaryabq.org.