The Most Notable Day - 1 Peter 3:18 - Skip Heitzig
Thank you for joining us on such a beautiful day for our Good Friday service from Calvary in Albuquerque. We are in the amphitheater where typically we meet every year for Good Friday service, only you are not here. Usually, we have thousands of people that gather here, but you're sheltering at home.
I'm praying that as you're sheltering at home, that Christ would be in your heart, and you would be at home in Him, and you would find shelter in Him. We're going to be looking at a verse in the book of 1 Peter today for our communion service. I hope you have communion elements there at home so that at the end of this message, we can take them together.
But there have been and our culture notable Friday celebrations. For example, you've heard the term Black Friday. Now, most people think of Black Friday as just the day after Thanksgiving. That's when the shopping season officially starts for Christmas, and that is true.
The reason it's called Black Friday, however, goes before the shopping sprees, way back to when bad things in our nation's history happened on Fridays, and people started calling them Black Fridays. But they gave the term to the shopping day because it has become-- though it's a day of getting good deals, it's also a day of crowds, it's a day of traffic accidents. And because of the mobs in the malls and because of the traffic accidents on the streets, sometimes there are fatal accidents. It has been given the name Black Friday.
Then we have also casual Friday. Casual Friday is the one day of the week when you at work dress down. You don't have to dress up with a tie, or wherever you work, you can kind of relax a little bit. Some of you are already relaxed. You're so used to athletic wear by now, everything's going to be a step up after this. So there's casual Friday.
But probably the most notable day of the year with a Friday in it is this day, Good Friday. Originally, it wasn't called Good Friday. Originally, it was called Sacred Friday. Now, that makes sense to us. We understand the term Sacred Friday. We understand this is a holy day.
Why is it called Good Friday? I mean, what is good about the torture and execution of the holiest person who ever lived? Why on Earth would you celebrate somebody's death and then call it good?
For example, if you know and love somebody and they, unfortunately, get to a situation where they get sick or they die, the anniversary, every year of that person's death, you don't usually call that good. What do you experience? You experience sadness. That's what you feel.
But imagine if somebody in your family died, let's say, on a Tuesday, and then next year, you celebrated Good Tuesday as a celebration of that death. People would think you're crazy. So why is it called Good Friday?
Very simple answer. What was bad for Him was good for us, you see? What took His life is what gave us life. It was a bad Friday, it was a sad Friday, it was a cruel Friday for Jesus. But it is a good Friday for us, it is a great Friday for us, it is a wonderful Friday, a happy Friday for us.
Now, Good Friday began, of course, this whole scenario going up to the cross on Palm Sunday. Jesus entered Jerusalem about a week earlier on a Sunday and presented himself coming in from the east, presenting himself as the Messiah of the Jews. The last week of Jesus's life on Earth occupies a full 1/3 of the gospel record. In fact, it takes up half of the Gospel of John.
So the Book of Matthew has 28 chapters, the Book of Mark has 16 chapters, the Book of Luke has 24 chapters, the Book of John has 21 chapters. You have 89 chapters in those four gospels. 29 of the 89 are focused on between Palm Sunday and Good Friday, and then into the Resurrection. That is the bulk of the literary real estate that is devoted to the events of the last week.
So Jesus comes in on a Sunday. He's in Jerusalem, He's going to the temple. He goes back and spends the night at Bethany, and then comes Thursday. Thursday, of course, is the day of the Last Supper, where He gathers with his disciples. After supper is ended, He walks with them to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He is in agony.
While He is there, the Romans come in. He is finally arrested, because Judas betrayed him. And then He is taken into custody, where He goes through two sets of trials. Actually, six trials altogether. Three of them are religious, three of them are civic trials before the Roman government.
He is then beaten, tortured, pronounced guilty, and Friday morning, begins his march to the cross, where he goes to Golgotha. He is stripped naked, He is placed on a cross, He is nailed to that cross. And for six hours, from 9:00 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon, Jesus hangs on that cross until finally He said, "It is finished," and He bowed his head, and He commends his spirit to God.
Now, I'm going to read a verse with you from 1 Peter, Chapter 3. What's interesting about Peter is that Peter himself was not at the crucifixion. He was at the Resurrection, but he wasn't at the crucifixion. He knew about the crucifixion. But if you remember, Peter denied Jesus.
After his denial, he ran away from the scene, seeking shelter. He was grieved, brokenhearted because of his failure. But Peter was there on Resurrection day. He ran with John to the tomb, and he looked inside, and both John and Peter believed that Jesus had risen from dead.
Then there's that great story where Jesus comes to meet with Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. You know this story, because he says to Peter, "Peter, do you love me?" And he asked him that three times. In short, what Jesus does is reinstate Peter into ministry, into service, and I love that, because these are gracious words to a fallen leader.
He at one time said, "Petr, I'm going to make you a fisher of men." Now He says, I'm going to make you a shepherd of sheep. You're going to feed my sheep, you're going to tend my sheep.
I love this about Jesus. He doesn't say, Peter, you meant well, but you failed. You're really a jerk, so I really have no use for you in my company, in my gang. I'm firing you now, and I'm going to replace you with somebody else. What He does is graciously reinstates him to be a leader once again.
Now, in 1 Peter, Chapter 3, Verse 18, there's only one verse we're going to look at. In fact, we're only going to meditate on one half of this verse, and here's why I've selected this verse. It is Peter's summary of what took place on Good Friday. It's what makes Good Friday so notable a Friday, and there are several elements in it, but let's read it. If you have your Bible, look at it. 1 Peter, Chapter 3, verse 18.
"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the spirit." Or maybe better translated, made alive in spirit.
In one verse, Peter synthesizes the whole event of the crucifixion on Good Friday and tells us why it was such an important day. Let me tell you why. Let me give you a few reasons.
Number one, it was a day of suffering. It was a day of suffering for Jesus. It says in that verse, "For Christ also suffered."
Now, let me tell you why Peter is bringing this up. When Peter is writing this letter, he is writing to a group of believers who were at the time suffering themselves. They were suffering persecution. They were suffering oppression. They felt the burden of what it meant to live the Christian lifestyle in a secular world, and the persecution was starting to shake their faith a little bit, maybe like the coronavirus has shaken some of our faith.
I've gotten lots of calls like, what could this mean? What is going on? What is God saying? Is God going to get us through this?
Their faith was shaken. So because they were suffering, Peter picks out the quintessential example of suffering ever, and that is Jesus Christ. If anyone suffered unfairly for doing everything right and doing nothing wrong, it was Jesus, and the Bible is very explicit about Jesus's suffering.
I mentioned that he was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Before the Garden of Gethsemane, during that final week is when He said to His disciples, "Now my soul is troubled." He felt agitated during that week, but in the Garden of Gethsemane, even more so. It was at a heightened level.
The Bible even says Jesus sweat great drops of blood. Medical experts tell us that there's tiny capillaries in the sweat glands that can burst under extreme emotional aggravation and agitation. So Jesus, feeling the weight of our sin, feeling the weight of the cross that was coming up, those capillaries burst, and Jesus sweat great drops of blood. He was suffering. It was a day of suffering.
Then he went through those trials, those six trials I told you about, three religious, three civil. After the trials because of what Pontius Pilate ordered, Jesus was whipped. You probably by now know all the gory details of the flagellum that the Romans used the cat o' nine tails, to dig into the subcutaneous tissues of Jesus's back and eviscerate Him, rip them open, and he felt the brunt of that.
Then Jesus was given the upper part of his cross, not the entire cross, just the cross beam, about 75 pounds sometimes to carry to Golgotha. He couldn't even make it all the way. He was so distressed and so worn out that Simon of Cyrene had to carry it the rest of the way.
So Jesus carried it to that place, and then he was crucified. And if you know anything about crucifixion-- by the way, it wasn't invented by the Romans. It was invented by the Persians. The Romans perfected it and chose it, because it gave maximum torture and delayed death for the longest time possible before a person finally expired. They wanted to mete out complete Roman justice before a person died, so they used it to put to death robbers, rebels, murderers, insurrectionists.
Only slaves, according to Rome, could be crucified. Citizens of Rome were exempt. Slaves, all non-Roman citizens, were called non-persons by the Romans, so they could get crucified. There's writings about this.
Cicero, one of the early writers, said to flog a Roman citizen, to bind a Roman citizen is a crime. To flog or beat a Roman citizen is an abomination. But to crucify him? Cicero said, "There is no fitting word to describe so horrible a deed." He recommended that the word crucify or cross be exempt from Roman language, that we shouldn't even let that miserable means of putting a person to death enter into Roman thinking.
But Jesus went through it. So for Him, this was a day of suffering. So yes, yes, for Jesus, this was a bad Friday, because it was a day of suffering.
But second, it was not just a day of suffering. It was a day of singularity. It would only be done once. Once would forever be enough, for Peter says, "For Christ also suffered once for sins."
Now, why does Peter put this in here? Because Peter knew, being Jewish, that the Jewish system was built upon repetition of sacrifice. There were sacrifices done every day, two lambs a day, morning and evening sacrifices. There were sacrifices done every week. There were sacrifices, special ones, done every month. There were celebrations in Judaism performed every year. It was built into their calendar.
So when Israel wanted to atone for their sin according to the Old Testament, they slaughtered literally millions of animals throughout the centuries, millions of them. It was estimated that at the time of Christ, the annual Passover saw as many as a quarter million lambs being slaughtered in a single Passover setting, a quarter million to atone for all the sins of the nation. So Peter underscores the idea that, yes Jesus suffered, but he suffered once. Once was enough.
Now, I grew up in a system, in a church that celebrated what they called the continual sacrifice of the mass, that the mass as a Christian service was performed in the Catholic Church. And thus, because it took place around the world at different times, there was always a propitiatory sacrifice taking place in the world. It needed to be done, they said, continually.
Well, it doesn't. It only needed to be done once. And for God, once was enough. The writer of Hebrews said, "Once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people."
Then in chapter one of the Book of Hebrews, he talks about the priesthood and the high priesthood. And he says, "Jesus, after he purged our sins, He sat down." He sat down. Priests never sat down. They out for the sacrifice and walked out, and came back the next day, or the next week, or the next year. Their job was never done. Jesus performed it once, and it was done once for all.
So what Jesus did on the cross was enough. It never had to be repeated. That's why on the cross, Jesus said, "It is finished." It is finished, it's done, it's paid in full.
So it was a day of suffering. It was also a day of singularity. A single sacrifice would be sufficient for all times.
Third, it was a day of substitution. Same verse. Peter said, "For Christ also suffered once first sins, the just for the unjust." Now, look at that phrase. "The just for the unjust," or the just on behalf of the unjust, or the just instead of the unjust. In other words, God accepted Jesus's death to take the place of my death and your death. That's called substitutionary atonement.
Now, that little phrase, "the just for the unjust," says something about Jesus's character and nature, and it says something about our character and nature. He was just, we are unjust. He was perfect, we are imperfect. He was pure, we are impure. He was holy, we are unholy. He was sinless, we are sinful.
There's an old saying that says, you can always tell the depth of the well by how much rope gets lowered. If you want to know how deep the well was, how bad things really were on the Earth, look at the cross. That's how much rope God had to lower to save us, that he had to send his only perfect sinless son on behalf of, instead of all of us who are sinners and deserve death, and he took that upon Himself.
As John R.W. Stott once wrote, "Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us." That's what our sin did to Jesus. It took his life. It took his life. So only those who are truly aware of their sin will appreciate how awesome a Savior we have.
Back in 1706 or 1707, I believe it was, Sir Isaac Watts wrote a song about the crucifixion. It's called "Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed." And the words are, "Alas, and did my Savior bleed, and did my sovereign die? Would He devote His sacred head for such a worm as I?"
Now, sometimes that song has been redone, and the word worm has been taken out because after all, we should never think of ourselves as that bad, but he did. And Jesus became one of us to take, as a worm, it might say, all of the sin upon Himself.
Now, this is the reason, by the way, it is so abhorrent to God that someone could ever think that they could earn their own salvation. How could anybody who is that unjust and deserving of death ever think they could merit God's favor? How could someone impure become pure on their own?
The Bible says we're all infected with a virus. We may not all be infected with the coronavirus, but we all are infected with the sin virus. "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." And you can't, by being religious, or by being good, or trying really hard, or thinking good thoughts, or I'm going to be better next time, you could never do something enough to make God love you by your good works.
Like C.S. Lewis once said, "No arrangement of bad eggs could ever make a good omelet." None of our good works could ever mirror God's love and God's mercy.
So according to Peter in that short little verse, it was a day of suffering. It was a day of singularity, because it was only done once. It was a day of substitution, because the just one died on behalf of the unjust. But the best part, it was a day of salvation, for it says, "Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God."
Or a better way of looking at it, that He might give us access to God, that He might bring us into the very presence of God. So though we are unjust, by what Jesus did on our behalf. He brings us to God, and he makes us just. We are unjust, but by what He did, He makes us just.
So the Bible calls that justified. We are justified by faith. God treats us just as if I'd never sinned. Justified. So he brings us to God. This is the reason it is Good Friday. That bad suffering, that sacrifice, that submission brought us to God.
Paul wrote in Colossians Chapter 1, "You were once alienated in enemies, yet now He has reconciled." He has taken away what impeded you between you and God. He took away the obstacle. He brought you into the presence of God.
We know the Bible says when Jesus died that the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom, Matthew 27. God was demonstrating that we can be brought to God. He was showing that those who are a far off and sinners can be brought near. So now, it's open to all. Whosoever will, let him come. Anyone can come who wants to come.
So his bad Friday became our great Friday. His sadness became our gladness. His pain became our pleasure, the joy of salvation. So what seemed like the worst thing that could happen became actually, the very best thing that could happen. That Good Friday, that bad Friday for Jesus was a great Friday not only for you, but also for Him.
We've used this verse in the last few days and weeks a few times, but it says for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross. Jesus looked forward to being able to say, you're my son, you're my daughter. You're saved.
I'm taking you just as you are. I'm going to take you through this life. I'm going to be there through thick and thin. And then in the end, I'm going to bring you to heaven. That was joyful, enough for Jesus to go through the cross.
A philosopher who is at Boston College, Peter Kreeft, wrote about this in this manner. He said, "Suppose that you're the devil. You're the enemy of God, and you want to kill him, but you can't. However, he has this ridiculous weakness of creating and loving human beings whom you can get at. Aha! Now, you've got hostages.
"So you simply come down into the world, corrupt humankind, and drag some of them to hell. When God sends prophets to enlighten them, you kill the prophets. Then God does the most foolish thing of all he sends his own Son, and He plays by the rules of the world.
You say to yourself, I can't believe he's that stupid. Love has addled His brains. All I have to do is inspire some of my agents like Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas, the Roman soldiers, and get Him crucified, and that's what you do.
"So there He hangs on the cross, forsaken by man and seemingly forsaken by God. Bleeding to death and crying, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'
"What do you feel now as the devil? You feel triumph and vindication. But of course, you couldn't be more wrong. This is His supreme triumph and your supreme defeat. He struck his heel into your mouth, and you bit it, and that blood destroyed you."
That's the cross in a nutshell. So though it was a day of suffering, it's only going to happen once. It doesn't have to be repeated every day, every week, every year. Once for all. And that one act provided enough payment necessary to bring us to God.
So Jesus wants to bring you into the fold. It's Jesus's desire to bring you into His fold as His sheep. He wants to bring you to God. he wants to take away your sin, He wants to forgive you. The question is, will you let him?
Will you let him? Will you allow him to come inside and occupy the very person He created in His image? You are his by creation, but you are not yet his, perhaps, by redemption, because you haven't surrendered your will to Him. He wants to forgive you, give you a do-over, give you a clean slate. Will you let him do that?
I have a hunch that I'm speaking to some people who have quite a past that not everybody knows about. You have a deep yearning and desire in your heart to be forgiven. You'd love to know that God knows everything about you but loves you anyway and will take you just as you are, and then work a work in your life, and begin to use you and give you purpose. I have a hunch that there's a lot of people who are watching this either live streamed or on our local television stations here in the state of New Mexico. I want you to know, today can begin for you a brand new venture, a brand new life.
I heard about a story about a man and his son in Madrid, Spain who had a falling out. They yelled at each other, the argument got heated. Finally, that teenage boy ran away from home. The Father was so heartbroken by his son who ran away from home.
He searched for him, and searched for him for days, couldn't find him. Finally, as a last ditch desperate effort, the father took out an ad in the local newspaper in Madrid that read this, "Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon tomorrow. All is forgiven. I love you, your father." That ad ran in the newspaper.
Now, I hear that the next day, 800 Paco's showed up at the newspaper office seeking forgiveness from their fathers. I think there's a lot of you who need God's forgiveness right now. You might not be named Paco, but you might be. God loves you, and He knows you by name.
Before we take the elements of communion, I'm going to give you an opportunity to make a commitment to Christ, because Christ is already committed to you, and He wants to be your Savior and take you to the Father, bring you to God. Let that once for all sacrifice on the cross be applied to your life.
If you want that, all you have to do is ask, and you can do it right now. Right now, where you're at in your living room, in your hospital room, in your car, watching on your device, listening to this as you're taking a walk or running, wherever you are, would you just pause and talk to God, and ask him to come inside? Ask Jesus to be your Savior.
Say this to Him. Say it out loud, or just say it in your heart. Say, Lord, I know that I'm a sinner. Forgive me. I believe that you sent Jesus into this world to die on a cross for me for my sin, and I believe He not only died and suffered, but I believe He rose from the dead.
I turn from my sin. I repent. I turn from my past. I turn to Jesus as my Savior. I want to follow him as my Lord.
I want this Friday to be a good Friday for me. And then tomorrow, a good Saturday, and the next day, a good Sunday, and all the days of my life to be good because of what the good perfect Savior did for the unholy, unrighteous me. So I give you my life. Forgive me of my sins. I give my life to you in Jesus's name. Amen.
Now, if you prayed that prayer, if you made a decision to follow Jesus, you'll see instructions right there on your screen. You can simply text the words SAVED, S-A-V-E-D to 505- 5095-433. Or you could visit our website, cavalrynm.church, and click Know God, like I want to know God. Click that, and our team will get in touch with you.
Now, don't pass that up. Don't say, ah, it's too complicated. Do it. Let somebody talk with you, let somebody interact with you, and talk about and share with you how to have a walk with Jesus from this day forward.
It's not just a Good Friday. It's a great Friday for some of you, because you've made that decision. Congratulations. We're going to close in the song in a minute, but we have the elements of Communion. So we have a little peel tops up here. But wherever you're at, if you have the bread, or the cracker, or you have the element that you got here from church, take it out, and let's pray together.
Lord, we know that on the night Jesus was betrayed when He had that meal with his disciples that He took the bread of the Passover, and He broke it. And they understood so far in their own history that that symbolized deliverance from past bondage in Egypt, but you were making a new covenant not based upon what happened thousands of years before in a deliverance of Egypt, but what you were about to do on a cross, that holy transaction between heaven and Earth. Whereby that once and for all, never to be repeated again act that was sufficient for all.
Your body would be broken, and sins could be forgiven. Even the thief on the cross could be guaranteed salvation. So we hold this spread, and we take it, mindful of that broken body. In Jesus's name. Amen.
And then if you take the juice that you have-- some traditions use wine. I don't think it matters. I think both of them are symbolic of what Jesus was about to do in shedding his blood on the cross. In the Passover meal, Jesus certainly had the glasses of wine before him for Passover.
But Jesus said, "Take this cup. It symbolizes the blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you for the remission of sins." So as you take this-- and communion, by the way, is only for believers. It's those who trust in Jesus Christ and have made Jesus their own Savior, because you are saying, I believe it. I take it not because I think it will help me, no, no. It's because Jesus saved me, past tense, and I'm remembering that. I'm agreeing with that.
So we take this juice, this wine. Let's pray.
Father, we want to thank you for what Jesus did for us on that cross, shedding his blood. The Bible says the blood of Jesus Christ, God's son cleanses a man, a woman from all sin. And so even now, when we fail, and we do fail, you said, if you confess your sins, if you bring them before God and just are mindful of them, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all and unrighteousness.
So we thank you for the Blood of Jesus, shed once for all but effective throughout all time, down to us who are taking it today. We ask it in Jesus' name. Amen. Let's take together. Now, we're going to close this service with a song, so let's worship together.