This Easter, let His love bind us together especially while we're apart.
So much has happened in a short span of time. It’s hard to believe that only weeks ago we were in the midst of rehearsals and making final preparations for our Easter services. But with the arrival of COVID-19 everything has come to a grinding halt. News of the virus has brought sweeping changes to nearly every area of our lives.
We’re now following social distancing protocols, homeschooling our kids, streaming our church services, working remotely, and self-quarantining. Many have lost their jobs and face financial uncertainty in already difficult times. And the 24-hour news cycle only adds to that grind.
This year, Easter will look different for all of us, but despite the pain and tragedy, the church is coming together like never before and is moving beyond its walls. In this time of crisis, when it feels like everything is falling apart, we turn to Jesus. We look to Him as we remember His death and resurrection. We call upon His name knowing that He hears our cries. As we gather online, let His love bind us together – especially while we’re apart. And let’s remember these powerful words:
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NIV)
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (KJV)
Introduction: We are here to worship God. We remember how Jesus suffered and died for us and to thank God for his love and his mercy.
Call To Worship: Based on Isaiah 53: 1-3
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before God like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Prayer: Let us pray. Merciful God - as we recall how your son Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross, how all three hours His silence cried for mercy on the souls of all, we ask you to help us to understand the mystery of your love, and make us into a people who are ever more worthy of it. Amen.
Reading: The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee, these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there. It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid Mark 15: 37-47 TNIV)
Why is Good Friday good?
Some insight from 8 year olds about Easter
“We have chocolate eggs to celebrate Easter because the tomb was empty and most eggs are hollow, except when they have chocolate buttons in them” (Piers, 8).
“Jesus died because of God’s love and at Easter time we have eggs because they are a sign of new life. They’re made of chocolate because chocolate is really nice and Jesus was a really kind and good person” (Molly, 8).
What did happen on Good Friday? And why did Jesus have to die? If Jesus died on this day then why is it called GOOD?
It’s important to know that it was, in fact, religion that killed Jesus. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were jealous of the support and following that Jesus had and so they plotted a way to get rid of him – and they succeeded (for three days at least!) Not much has changed; religion is still trying to kill Jesus today. In fact, some religious institutions kill Jesus every week – some kill him every year.
This is highlighted in a blog I read some time ago. Speaking of Good Friday the person wrote:
“This is the day of the year that I wish would end quickly for it is a day of mourning and grief. Every minute of this day I am constantly thinking about His suffering. We call this day good only because of ourselves. We are to die with Him on this day … on this day of remembrance, mourning, and grief, are we not going to remember, mourn, and grieve? Sadly, for most people they will not remember, they will not mourn, and they will not grieve … on this day of sadness, I hope the Lord keeps me a little more subdued and a little more humble. For Christ died on this day of darkness and I am grieving a bit now…”
But what does the Bible say about Jesus sacrifice?
Hebrews 7:27, “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.”
Hebrews 9:26, “Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
Hebrews 9:28, “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
Hebrews 10:10, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Get the message?
Jesus doesn’t need to die again every week or every year. His death on the cross two thousand years ago was enough. On the cross, Jesus took the punishment that belonged to us. We are the ones who have broken God’s Law. We deserved to be punished.
But in his love and mercy, Jesus bore our punishment for us. The sacrifice he made was enough and to prove that is was, three days later God raised Jesus from the dead – and he didn’t die again. That’s why Good Friday is GOOD!
My prayer for you this Easter is that you will come to know, appreciate and experience the power and value of the sacrifice Jesus has made for you on the cross.
The world looks at Christians 'celebrating death' on Good Friday, and they can't figure it out. They say, “That is so extreme! Why, before God could forgive people, would He require the death of His Son? Why wouldn’t He simply, benevolently, forgive people’s sin? If I did something against you, you would just forgive me. Why can’t God do that?”
But that kind of questioning betrays a sort of ignorance that is two-fold. One is of how heinous our sin is, and the other is of how great and holy our God is.
Nobody speaks of sin anymore. In fact, sin has almost disappeared from the Australian vocabulary. We speak of “problems” or “hangups” or “issues.” It’s called a “sickness” or it’s called someone else’s fault. But the Bible says very plainly that if we say we have no sin, we are liars (1 John 1:8).
How serious is it? Paul said, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We sin because it’s our nature.
“Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). And we sin by choice. Every day we commit individual acts that are an affront to God.
They are an affront because God is absolutely holy. You see, holy God is wholly incompatible with sin and unrighteousness. “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness” (Habakkuk 1:13). “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you” (Isaiah 59:2).
Perfect, holy God cannot coexist with sinful man. And because of that, we’re separated, we’re lost. So one of two things must happen. Either holy God must destroy unholiness, or holy God must declare that which is unholy, holy.
And that takes us to the cross. Jesus lived the perfect life that we could never live, and then took all our sins on Himself. So effectively, God said, “I’ll take the rap. I’ll take all of your wickedness and evil and I’ll put it on Myself so that when I die on the cross, it’s finished, once and for all.”
The cross is the only place that God will meet with mankind before heaven. The cross is the only place where both God’s mercy and God’s justice could meet.
How can God be a God of love and a God of justice at the same time? How can holy, perfect God meet with sinful, rebellious man? Only at the cross. He came, He took our punishment, and then He declared you and me righteous because of it.