March / June 1995 Easter in the Light of Good Friday
From the March / June 1995 issue of The Concordia Lutheran
EASTER IN THE LIGHT
OF GOOD FRIDAY
There would be no Easter, no resurrection, except for what happened on the first Good Friday! A trial without precedent was held–almost 20 centuries ago; a trial presided over by a spineless and cowardly Roman governor whose name was Pontius Pilate. It was the duty of this man to decide whether or not an accused person was guilty of the charges laid against him and, in this case, whether that person deserved to be put to death. Pilate was personally convinced that the accused person was innocent, BUT because of the riotous disposition of an angry mob of Jews, he withheld making a formal declaration of “not guilty” in behalf of the prisoner and sought to compromise with the people. A compromise of the truth is, of course, always in favor of error and in favor of that which is evil and wicked–and so we see Pilate yielding more and more to the wishes of the Jews and even taking advice from the very people who were seeking an innocent person’s death. He asks them such questions as, “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?” “What shall I do then with Jesus, which is called Christ?” “Shall I crucify your King?” The answer we find stated in only four words in Matthew 27:35, “And they crucified Him!”
Historically speaking, the ones who actually drove the nails through Christ’s hands and feet were the Roman soldiers–under orders from Pilate. In the strictest and most literal sense, THEY crucified Him! Yet the responsibility and the guilt for the act of crucifying the Savior falls directly upon Pontius Pilate. And in back of Pilate were the Jews who relentlessly insisted that Christ be crucified. And behind the angry mob of Jews were their religious leaders, the members of the Sanhedrin, who had stirred up the people to oppose Christ. These people were indeed guilty of carrying out the actual act of crucifying Christ and, in this sense, THEY crucified Him. BUT the all-seeing eye of God pierces much more deeply than merely scanning the outward actions of men. “The Lord looketh on the heart,” (I Sam. 16:7) and He sees the actual unbelief and sin in the hearts of these men and THAT, IN PARTICULAR, is what makes them guilty of the Savior’s crucifixion.
Now, it is NOT difficult to see how this truth applies to us and to all sinners of all ages. The Bible says, “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all;” (Is. 53:6); “He was delivered for our offences, … wounded for our transgressions, … bruised for our iniquities,” (Rom. 4:25, Is. 53:5); “He is the Propitiation for our sins …,” (I John 2:2). Yes, the Lord Jesus died on the cross for the sins of each and every sinner who has lived, or is living, or is yet to live on this sin-cursed earth so that each and every one of us must consider himself guilty of the blood of this just Man. If you, therefore, look closely, in the light of God’s Word, at the scene of the crucifixion you cannot help but recognize yourself, your family, your friends, and even your pastor among those who took part in that terrible act! Because of OUR sins, all of us must be included in the act of crucifying Christ.
The inevitable answer of SIN, to this day, to the question of Pilate, “What shall I do then with Jesus?” is still, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” And if we, who have tasted the grace of God in Christ Jesus and profess to be Christians, persist in opposing the Lord and His Word in our lives, we will thereby reiterate that same murderous cry, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” The Bible says of those who persist in willful sinning, in spite of their knowledge of Christ and His precious Gospel, that “they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame!” (Heb. 6:6).
It is therefore necessary for all those who believe in Jesus as their only Savior and Redeemer to take heed NOT TO CRUCIFY HIM ANEW by unholy living. The Apostle Paul was indeed cognizant of this danger and wrote about it frequently in his epistles. Christians are not merely to suppress their sinful flesh or to keep sin down to a minimum in their lives. They are to CRUCIFY the flesh with its affections and lusts, (Gal. 5:24) and then, in place of the dead man of sin, the Old Adam, they are to substitute the LIVING CHRIST! This was the practice of the Apostle Paul, for he writes, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me!” (Gal. 2:20).
Faith, therefore, answers the question, “What shall I do then with Jesus?”, differently than sin answers that question. The answer of the New Man in the Christian is the very opposite of the answer of his Old Adam. Sin puts the FLESH FIRST and the result is CRUCIFYING CHRIST. Faith puts CHRIST FIRST and the result is CRUCIFYING THE FLESH! This is the very ESSENCE OF OUR CALLING as Christians–the very heart of our Christian profession! It is the true significance of our Christian Baptism! The Apostle Paul elaborates on this very point in His epistle to the Romans, saying, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are DEAD TO SIN, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are BURIED with Him by Baptism into death: that like as Christ was RAISED UP FROM THE DEAD by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin!” (Rom. 6:1-6) Without the significance of Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday, Christ’s resurrection on Easter morning would also lose its significance.
Let us therefore keep the feast, “not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us!” (I Cor. 5:7,8).