On this day of days, I hope you are meditating on the death of Jesus Christ. I further hope that your meditations are leading you to worship him with deep gratitude. Perhaps you will be found among the millions worldwide who will gather in local congregations for Good Friday services.
If so, you may hear a faithful pastor talk about the death of Jesus as a fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose. Indeed, the Lord Jesus himself knew why he had come. The Father in heaven had sent him to earth on a saving mission, and he willingly embraced it. The New Testament reveals how Jesus repeatedly foretold his suffering, death and resurrection.
The gospel of Mark, for example, tells how the Lord “plainly” (clearly, openly and unambiguously) spoke of his impending death. Jesus “then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this” (Mark 8:31-32).
The disciples did not understand what this meant. Peter, their spokesman, protested vehemently that such a thing should never happen. Peter was wrong, and Jesus rebuked Peter: “Get behind me Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men” (Mark 8:33). Jesus was declaring that his death was necessary to fulfill God’s plan of salvation.
Later, Jesus repeated the prediction. He said to his twelve disciples: “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise” (Mark 9:31). The next verse says “They did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.” This was probably the time when Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). He was determined to carry out the Father’s purpose and to fulfill the prophetic scriptures.
Mark gives us a third occasion when Jesus predicted his death. He describes the reaction of the disciples who were incredulous. “They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. ‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise'” (Mark 10:32-34). Luke’s gospel adds the comment that “everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled” (Luke 18:31).
These three predictions in Mark’s gospel tell us that the Lord was aware of what was about to happen. He was preparing his disciples for the terrible events that were to take place in Jerusalem. He wanted them (and us) to know that his death would not be accidental. He was not a martyr or helpless victim. His death was purposeful. “The Son of Man must suffer many things,” he said.
He referred to himself as the Son of Man, which all Jews knew to be a Messianic title (Daniel 7:13-14). Another Messianic title was the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, a prophecy which describes his death on the cross. Jesus was telling his followers that his death would be the fulfillment of biblical prophecies such as these found in Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering,” and Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:12 says, “he was numbered with the transgressors.” Of this passage Jesus said, “I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me” (Luke 22:37).
Mark goes on to quote Jesus as saying, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). It was for the salvation of sinners that Jesus paid the ransom to set us free. This is what we remember on Good Friday. This is why we worship the Son of Man with gratitude in our hearts.
Perhaps tonight you will sing with others this hymn attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux (12th century) and translated into English by James Alexander.
“O sacred head now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,/ now scornfully surrounded with thorns, thine only crown:/ O sacred head what glory, what bliss till now was thine;/ yet though despised and gory, I joy to call thee mine.
“What thou my Lord, hast suffered was all for sinners’ gain;/ mine, mine was the transgression, but thine the deadly pain./ Lo, here I fall my Savior! ‘Tis I deserve thy place;/ look on me with thy favor, and grant to me thy grace.
“What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest friend,/ for this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end?/ O make me thine forever; and should I fainting be,/ Lord let me never, never outlive my love to thee.”
Pastor Randy Faulkner