What an evening together. For us this evening would be comparable to coming to the funeral of your dearest friend.
Easter is the resurrection celebration, but tonight is the fullness of comprehending what it means that Jesus Christ became our sin.
If you’d take your Bible, 2 Corinthians 5 is where we’re going to be, in verse 21. Basically, one verse in the Bible summarizes this greatest week, in the history of all that we know of, in the universe. One verse capsulizes and God reduces down exactly what He was doing from Palm Sunday through today, all the way through Easter Sunday. This one verse, the 21st verse, God sends us what may be the most crucial, powerful, and vital verse in all of God’s word, the Bible.
In fact, if you wanted one verse to make sure you really understood the depth of what God was communicating, as far as it relates to everything that matters to us forever, it would be this verse. It would be the 21st verse. This one verse sums up, what I say would be, everything that matters forever. So, think of it tonight because tonight is very sobering. When we really plumb the depths of what God is doing; In fact, over 500 years ago Martin Luther was studying, as a new believer, the implications of Christ’s death on the cross. Especially when he was reading Christ’s words saying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” Luther said he was going away, and he was going to spend an entire week alone, contemplating, studying, and coming to an understanding of what it meant that God forsook His Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus. At the end of the week, he came back to his pulpit at Wittenberg, and He said it’s so deep. He said, I understand less now than when I left. He told the people that the simplicity is as God states. Look at the 21st verse here because we get to see God’s summary of why Jesus had to come as the Lamb of God. That’s what we talked about on Palm Sunday. The Lamb of God. God’s choice from eternity past, that Jesus would come to be the Lamb of God. God explains that to us, that He had to come to suffer the wrath of God on the cross. Our theme this Good Friday evening is that the real Jesus is the one who faced the wrath of God.
Now, each of the phrases of this verse break down into the elements of what we’re looking at this week. I’ll just remind you of each of them. It says at the beginning of verse 21, “For He made Him who knew no sin.” Now, notice it says He made Him. How many times did Jesus tell His disciples, I must/ need to go to Jerusalem. I will be taken by sinful hands. I will be delivered up and I will be lifted up. Jesus repeatedly explained His crucifixion as something God had chosen for Him, and He must obey. Palm Sunday, when Jesus presented Himself as the Lamb of God, it was Jesus saying that God the Father made Him, Jesus, who knew no sin to come as that Lamb of God. We celebrated that.
Now tonight, look at the middle of that verse. “To be sin for us.” That’s Jesus, facing the wrath of God. That’s the cross. That’s Good Friday. That’s what we’re looking at tonight, Jesus being made sin for us. Paul’s talking to the believers, he’s talking to the church, he’s talking to all the saints throughout all the centuries that read, and believe, and understand through the Spirit’s power of the word of God. He’s saying that Jesus on the cross became every sin that I’ve ever committed, that Paul’s ever committed, that all of us in this room have ever committed. Jesus became, God treated Him like he was sinning, like we have.
Then, the end of the verse is the glorious celebration that we will share on Sunday. “That we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” That is Jesus, risen as the Son of God. Declared to be the Son of God with power. The one who came to seek and to save the lost. That does and offers eternal life to all. But only because He became sin and only because He was the Lamb of God. This verse distills it all, in one small 16 Greek words.
The Lamb of God faced the wrath of God. The Lamb of God who came on Palm Sunday is the one who faced the wrath of God on the cross on Good Friday.
Welcome to the second stop on our journey through the greatest week in history of the universe. On Palm Sunday, we saw the Jesus was from eternity past, the Lamb of God slain for sinners. But the event is tonight, and this is ground zero of the wrath of God. This is the event that all of history points toward. Jesus Christ became sin. Jesus became the object of the focused wrath of God on sin. For us, as we saw in Palm Sunday, Good Friday marks the purpose of God, since before He created anything God. The Father displayed His wrath poured out upon His own son. He punished Jesus for your sins and mine, so that God’s great mercy could be seen as He forgave us undeserving sinners. All forgiveness, all of our sins needed a payment and Jesus became that payment in our place as the substitute. It’s the sinless one who took the sinners place and God poured His wrath upon Him.
It would be very important for us to understand the wrath of God. The wrath of God is not a popular topic. In fact it doesn’t, probably in Google’s analysis of our lives, doesn’t make it very often in the search engine is as a big, hot topic. The more we understand it, the more tonight comes across our minds as what it was that God was doing.
Think of the wrath of God, this way. God’s wrath first of all is fearsome. When you think about God’s wrath, think of the countless people who watched the Earth get covered by water and Noah’s flood. Think about the fact that God killed every man, every woman, and every child, but Noah and his family. There was no mercy on the others. No one else were spared. God’s wrath but not in the Ark. Now, that’s a little glimpse of God’s wrath. God didn’t say well, some of them are screaming so loud and so some of them have tried so hard, I’ll just send out a couple of life books. God drowned them, all of them. God’s wrath when it’s let loose is a fearsome thing.
God’s wrath is also merciless. Just ask those, seen in the incineration of Sodom and Gomorrah. Every human, but four were mercilessly burned and buried. Every man, every woman, every child died. And you say, is that fair? They were all guilty sinners, and they did not receive God’s mercy. They deserved His wrath, and they became a display. God’s wrath is merciless.
God’s wrath is also inescapably horrible. Just ask the families of the firstborn of Egypt. Not one of any age was spared. Every firstborn perished as the Destroyer invaded every home and stable that did not obediently have an innocent Lamb’s blood put on the door. God’s wrath is inescapable, horrible.
God’s wrath is globally coming. Just think of those trapped on Earth in the future. The wrath of God is poured out in a solar storm, and meteorite shower, and plagues, and pestilences, and murder, and warfare, and starvation, and demon beast allowed to stalk every human gripped by fear, and terror, and hiding. In fact, the Bible says every other human on Earth will die horribly in just a matter of those horrific 42+ months of the great tribulation. God’s wrath is globally coming.
God’s wrath is fearsome. God’s wrath is unstoppable. It’s inescapable. It’s dreadful. It’s horrible. It’s beyond description.
The clearest display is not the flood of Noah’s day, or the fire and brimstone of Abraham and Lot’s day, or the destroyer of the firstborn of Egypt in Moses’ day. None of those compare with Good Friday’s display because all those were spread out. His wrath was spread out. In every one of them it’s going to be spread out over all the Earth in the end, it’s spread out over all the Earth at the beginning, but on Calvary all of God’s wrath was focused in one place. All of that fearsome, unstoppable, and inescapable dreadful, horrible beyond description, wrath. But Calvary is God’s fiercest wrath. Every other outpouring of wrath was upon a group of individuals. Even the wrath of God, justly expressed in the eternal torments of hell, will be very depending on the person’s awareness of God’s law, but on the cross all of God’s holy wrath was concentrated and focused on that one person.
Now look back at verse 21 of 2 Corinthians 5, because Jesus, on the cross as the Lamb of God faced God’s full wrath against the sin of the world. In the process, what the scripture say is that God treated Jesus like He was guilty of everyone’s sin, for whom He died. Of everyone’s sin, as the Lamb of God for the sin of the world. God treated Him like sin and focused like a laser, all that wrath on Him. That’s the fierceness. Jesus compressed all of our eternal debt payments to God into one horrible six hour stretch. Good Friday was good for us, is bad for Jesus. In fact, it was the longest day in the universe.
Think of how concentrated on Christ was the lifetimes of all people that had sinned on this Earth. There’s an element, actually two sides to what Christ suffered. Theologically speaking, Jesus paid the penalty and one sacrifice for the sin. The totality, as Spurgeon said. Jesus paid for the totality of the mass of the sin, of every human that ever lived. That’s called the sufficiency. The breadth of His sacrifice was sufficient for all. Specifically or theologically, efficiently, Jesus actually paid for the lifetime of my sin, and of your sin, and of all who would ever trust in Christ. All of those lifetimes of sin were compressed into six hours. It’s an amazing concept. Jesus in those six hours faced the compressed eternal wrath of God for all who would ever believe, reduce down to six hours. Very hard to understand. That’s why Luther came home from his retreat. He said, I don’t understand how God did it, but I’ll just preach, and proclaim, and believe it.
As we saw on Sunday, Jesus was the Lamb of God lifted up as Moses did the brazen serpent. Jesus was the Lamb of God that faced God’s wrath as David saw in the 22nd Psalm.
All of those pictures tell us that God sacrificed His son for my sins, for your sins. Historic Christianity says that Jesus suffered, and bled, and died. Saving faith says Jesus suffered, and bled, and died for my sins. See the personal element of the reception of the sacrifice?
Jesus was crucified during Passover week. There were two calendars followed by the Jews in Christ time. The northern or Galilean calendar went from sunrise to sunrise. The Southern or Judean calendar went from sundown to sundown. This allowed for everyone to celebrate the intricacies of the Passover. When the city was overflowing with hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, being Galilean, Jesus and his disciples considered Passover day to have started at sunrise on Thursday and to end at sunrise on Friday. The Jewish leaders who arrested and tried Jesus, being mostly priests and Sadducees, considered Passover to begin a sunset. Therefore, through the predetermined, sovereign provision of God, Jesus could legitimately celebrate Passover and so He did with His disciples. He celebrated the Passover meal, like all the Galileans on the night before Jerusalem celebrated theirs. In the first half of the 256,000 lambs that were probably slain, were slain on the same day as Christ celebrated, the first half of them. The blood that was shed in the temple mount went down a pipe that drained in the Kidron Valley, and washed all the way down the Brook Kidron, all the way to the dead sea. It still drains that way today.
As Jesus, after Passover, began walking with His disciples to the garden of Gethsemane from the upper room, they had to cross the Brook Kidron. Think about the fact that as Jesus went down and crossed that brook and went to the garden Gethsemane, the Brook Kidron was probably still running red by all the blood, from all the lambs that were portraying Jesus Christ. After Christ’s late night arrest, Peter’s denials, and a night in prison with Caiaphas, in the early morning light as it began to dawn, hundreds and then thousands of Judeans began to line up with their lambs at the temple for their Passover lamb to be sacrificed.
Allow your minds to retrace the events of what happened on what we call Good Friday, which was the Passover for the Judeans. The Passover schedule that God followed in the scriptures went something like this. The Levites had just opened the doors to the temple so the crowds could enter to offer their sacrificial lambs as families.
At 9:00 AM, this was the specified time for the Passover lambs, at that exact moment three events took place. While Israel’s high priest was tying a Passover lamb for the nation to the temple’s altar to await its sacrifice, each head of each household took a knife and prepared to slaughter a lamb that he would sacrifice for his family. The family came carrying their lamb. The father held the lamb. The priest gave him the signal and he sacrificed the lamb for his family. At that very moment outside the walls of Jerusalem, Jesus was being nailed to a cross to hang and to bleed for six hours. Both the lamb at the temple’s altar and Jesus as the Lamb of God. Both awaited death, the little innocent lamb in the temple and the Lamb of God hung on a cross.
Then at 12 noon, as thousands of individual lambs continued to be brought into the temple, the sky begins to darken. The crowd inside the temple grows silent and pensive. Only the light of the temple torches illumined the darkened courtyard. The flickering light shined off the pavement. The pavement of the temple was wet with the blood of thousands of lambs. At that moment on Calvary’s stark mountain, God the Father, the final high priest of all creation placed His holy hand on the head of His only begotten Son, allowing the sin of the world to descend upon Him in the dark. While the stones of the temple ran with that blood of thousands of lambs and goats, the Lamb of God was spilling His life blood outside the walls of the city. While the father in each household slaughters a lamb for the sake of his family, God the Father was slaughtering His holy Lamb for the sake of the world; to save all who would accept Christ’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life.
At 3:00 PM, or exactly as the Bible says, the ninth hour, the high priest began to ascend the altar in the courtyard of the temple. He took the little lamb, that had been tied there all day, to sacrifice him on behalf of the nation of Israel. Unstopped by the unusual darkness that had covered the land for three hours, the high priest carefully places his hands on the head of the lamb and slides a razor sharp knife across the innocent throat, spilling its blood. At that very moment, barely able to lift His blood splattered face toward Heaven, Jesus thundered out over the city of Jerusalem in triumph; it is finished. One word in Greek, tetelestai. By the way, it’s the very same word that has been found in the records of the Roman courts when a criminal finished his sentencing and his time of prison. They would hand him back his certificate of his crime and they would stamp across it tetelestai, paid in full. The payment’s done for your crime, Jesus said it’s finished.
As the songwriter said, “Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied, for every sin on Him was laid; here in the death of Christ I live.”
The Bible says, basically the message of salvation is, Christ became sin for us. Now, look at what Paul says about those six hours on the cross we celebrate tonight. “He made Him who knew no sin,” the perfect sinless, spotless Jesus Christ, “to be sin for us,” who knew no sin so “that we might become the righteousness of God.” Basically, what was happening is, God the Father was looking down on Christ and saying, I’m treating you like you have done what they have done, and will do. I’m going to treat you that way. I punish you, my Son, like you committed their sins.
Now, why did Jesus say, take that cup from me? We talked about that Sunday night. Think about what God was doing. God was looking at Jesus and saying, I treat you like you are self-sufficient, and self-righteous, and consumed with yourself, and puffed up with selfish ambition. God treated Jesus like He was greedy, and lazy, and gluttonous, and a slander, and a gossiper. God treated Jesus like He was a lying, conceited, ungrateful, cruel, adulterer. Jesus became our sin. Jesus became my sin. God treated Jesus like He had practiced sexual immorality, ingested pornography, filled His mind with vulgarity, gave Himself up to homosexual passion, and lusted after what was forbidden. God treated Jesus like He had with all His heart loved pleasure more than God. God treated Jesus like He hated others and murdered them with the bullets of anger fired from His own heart. God treated Jesus like He oppressed the poor and ignored the needy. God treated Jesus like He loved money, prestige, and honor. God treated Jesus like He had worn a cloak of outward piety, but inside was full of dead men’s bones, as a hypocrite. God treated Jesus like He was lukewarm and easily enticed by the world. God treated Jesus like He was filled with envy, and rage, bitterness, and unforgiveness. God treated Jesus like He had a razor tongue that lashed and cut with criticism and sinful judgmental attitudes. God treated Jesus like His mouth was a fountain of condemnation and obscenity, like He had no self control. God treated Jesus like He was a betrayer who stirs up division and factions. God treated Jesus like He was a drunkard and a thief.
God was, it says in 2 Corinthians 5, in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. God was looking at each one and seeing the sum of our sins, and treating Jesus like He’d committed those sins.
Basically, God was punishing Jesus, saying you’re an anxious coward, you do not trust me, you mock your parents, you are an un-submissive wife, you are a lazy disengaged husband, you file for divorce, you crush the parable of my love for the church, and the list of your sins goes on, and on, and on. That’s what was happening for six hours. That was Good Friday for us and bad for Jesus.
Christ became sin for us. God said, drink my cup in. Jesus did. He drank it for hours. He drank it down to every drop of the scalding liquid of God’s own hatred of sin, mingled with His white hot wrath against sin.
That was the Father’s cup. Omnipotent hatred and anger for the sins of any generation. Past generations. Present generations. Future generations. Omnipotent wrath directed on one man, hanging on a cross. The Father no longer could look at His beloved Son, His heart’s treasure, the exact image of Himself. God looked away. Jesus pushed Himself upward and howled toward Heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And all that came back was silence. Silence. Separation. So, Jesus whispered I’m thirsty and he begins to sag under that weight.
The scriptures just tell us, for every sin on Him was laid. Jesus pushes Himself up again and cries it is finished and it is. Every sin, of every child of God, has been laid on Jesus. He drank the cup of God’s wrath dry. It’s 3:00PM, it’s Friday afternoon, Jesus finds one more surge of strength and presses His torn feet against the spikes, straightens His legs, and with one last gasp of air cries out, “into your hands I commit my spirit.” Then He died, shocking the century because it was so sudden. In that moment, the mountains shake, the rocks split, the veil tears, the tombs open, and God says the mission has been accomplished, the sacrifice has been accepted.
That leads us to our celebration tonight because those who are saved are saved in Christ alone. God doesn’t have a do it yourself kit that He offers us to just do it ourselves, and patch things up with Him. He said, I only accept Christ’s payment. You accept it or you reject it. You have the Son or you don’t. On the cross God treated Jesus as if He were a sinner. He brought Him, the sinless one, to be the substitute for sinners. He depicted on the cross all the sacrifices in the Old Testament, a substitute giving His life for the sinner. God killed Jesus with His wrath over your sin, instead of doing it to you and to me. To put it another way, on the cross God treated Jesus as if He lived your life, as if He lived my life. That’s right on the cross, God treated Jesus as if He lived your life and mine. Listen to that. Think of that. That’s how we treated Him on the cross.
Do you know what that does? If you look at 2 Corinthians 5, you know what it says in verse 15. Because “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves.” You see, there’s a response needed to the One who died on the cross. Verse 15 says, this one that became our sin makes us not want to live that way anymore. We don’t want to, as it were, put more on the bill. But also, if you really think about it verse 20 tells us we are “ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we beg you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”
If you realize how awful the wrath of God is against sin and Christ on the cross, why would you want to reject His payment and have to pay that bill forever in eternal darkness, in hell. To put it in another way, on the cross God treated Jesus as if He personally committed every sin ever committed, by every person who would ever believe, throughout all of human history. He treated Jesus as if He had personally committed every sin ever committed, by every person who would ever believe; even though He never committed one of them. That’s the cross. That’s reconciliation. God treated Jesus like He committed them.
Communion is when Jesus said, do this remembering what I did. So, what’s tonight? It’s when we remember the Lamb of God, who faced the wrath of God.
What I would like you to do is, please stand with me and as you stand the men are going to go and prepare communion for us. I’d like you just to bow your head with me and I’m going to read these words that we’re going to sing as we celebrate communion. In your heart, there should be one of two responses. If you know Christ, then it should be an overwhelming gratitude of Thanksgiving. If you don’t know Christ it would be a time to say, would you pay the price for my sin too? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to celebrate communion tonight as a forgiven, blood washed, Saint, headed for Heaven? I don’t assume that everybody here tonight has their sins on Christ, but I know you could if you’ll ask.
Think of these words with our hearts bowed before Him.
“In Christ alone my hope has found, He is my light, my strength, my song; this cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What Heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when striving cease! My comforter, my all in all, here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone! Who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe. This gift of love and righteousness, scorned by the ones he came to save: till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied, for every sin on Him was laid; here in the death of Christ I live.”
Father, we’ve gathered tonight to remember our Savior. Good Friday was good for us, horrible for you Lord Jesus. Thank you for becoming my sin. Thank you for becoming our sin, for every one of us who have asked for your forgiveness. May this Good Friday communion be a sobering, overflowing reminder of the wrath that you bore for our sin. Thank you for this bread, as it portrays your body becoming our sin. May we with great thankfulness receive, hold, and celebrate you tonight. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.