The late Rev. Billy Graham once said, “We all talk about the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. But we seldom talk about the sacrifice he expects from us!” Of course, Pastor Billy wasn’t implying we shouldn’t remember the price Jesus paid in exchange for our redemption. He was saying mere head knowledge of Jesus’ sufferings is useless unless we do something with it because knowledge demands a response. The Bible says,
‘Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.’ James 4:17 (NASB)
So tonight, even as we remember the sufferings and the death of our savior, I want to show you four things we can actually do in response to His sacrifice. In my sermon, I will consider four characters that are prominent in the Good Friday story recorded in the Gospels.
(A) Respond by Confessing and Repenting
Let’s start with Judas, (Hebrew = ‘praise’). I call him the blessed man with a cursed end. I say he was blessed because he had the privilege of learning directly from Jesus. Jesus told Judas and the group they are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, while others are not, (Matthew 13:11)
Judas heard every single word Jesus spoke. He was an established eyewitness of the great miracles Jesus performed. Still, Judas brought an eternal curse upon himself by betraying Jesus at the hands of the heathens, (Matthew 26:24). He wasn’t deaf or blind. Then why did he fail? Because he failed to respond to Jesus. He kept on sinning in secret, (John 12:6)
There are many ways one can respond to Jesus. Judas should have responded by confessing and repenting which he didn’t. He had plenty of opportunities to respond to Jesus. In John 13:26 Jesus extended Judas a chance to change his plans. Judas however willfully and consciously refused even this final opportunity he could have used to rescue his soul, (John 13:27).
Knowing we have forgiveness for our sins because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is useless unless we respond to that knowledge through confession and repentance. Tonight, there are two things we must do to respond to Jesus. Confession of sins and repentance. Confession is vital for a victorious Christian life because it is through confession we unleash the power of Jesus that possesses the ability to destroy the cycle of sin in our lives. Repentance is important because through it we commit ourselves to stop sinning and return to Jesus. Confession and repentance are two sides of the same coin. One is useless without the other. The Bible says “But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.” (1 John 1:9).
(B) Respond by responding to God’s Grace
Then we meet Peter (Hebrew = ‘rock’) the leader of the twelve. The Gospels say Peter had his fair share of weaknesses. According to Matthew, he did not know where to draw the line sometimes, (Matthew 16:22). From the Gospel of John, we learn he was a violent man, (John 18:10).
Still, Peter wasn’t a bad person. According to the Gospel of Matthew, he was the first disciple to whom God revealed Jesus’ true identity, (Matthew 16:13-20). From the Gospel of Luke, we learn he was a godly man, (Luke 5:8). John tells us Peter was a man of great zeal (John 13:6-9) and he loved the Lord, (John 13:37).
Although the Bible reveals many traits of Peter, most of us know him as the disciple who denied Jesus. He failed at a time when friendship with Jesus ought to have made him truest and most loyal! The account of his denial appears in all the four Gospels, (Matthew 26:33-35; Mark 14:29-31; Luke 22:33-34; John 13:36-38).
Why did he fail? (Sometimes we joke Peter was mad at Jesus for healing his mother in law in Matthew 8:14-15) His self-confidence made him weak! (Luke 22:31-34)
I don’t intend to blame self-confidence. But Peter shows us self-confidence is a human trait and it is subject to snap at some point. The grace of God, on the other hand, is a divine virtue that cannot be broken. So how do we respond to grace tonight?
The Bible says ‘For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.’ Habakkuk 2:14 (KJV).
Will you be surprised if I told you this prophecy has already been fulfilled? Don’t be surprised. God has made it possible through the evolution of technology. When Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440 it made printing the Bible much easier and quicker. As of October 2017, the Bible has been translated into 670 languages. The New Testament alone into 1,521 languages and Bible portions or stories in 1,121 other languages. The Gospel is being preached on Television. The Good News is being proclaimed over the Radio. There are thousands of websites on the Internet spreading God’s Word. Frankly speaking, the knowledge of God’s glory is being poured into the world in a way it has never been before. You might ask, what has the knowledge of God’s glory got to do with grace? Dr. John Piper of Desiring God Ministries says ‘Grace is the pinnacle of God’s glory.’
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:5-6 (NASB)
So how do we respond to grace in the light of this knowledge? When faced with a crisis, let prayer be a rapid response than the last resort. Don’t take matters into your own hands because it can make the situation far worse. The problems we face in life today require divine intervention because they are beyond our control. It can be a terminal illness, financial issues, and relationship problems. If you think self-confidence can help, you are taking a knife to a gunfight. Rather depend on God’s grace in every situation in life.
To those of you that still haven’t accepted Christ as your personal savior, you probably have heard Jesus died to earn forgiveness for you. Tonight by the grace of God, salvation is yours. All you have to do is surrender your life to Jesus. The Bible says,
‘If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ Romans 10:9 (NLT)
(C) Respond by loving Him over the World
Next, I want you to turn your Bibles with me to the Gospel of Mark Chapter 14. We will read verses 51-52. It says here, “A young man was following him, wearing only a linen cloth. They tried to arrest him, but he ran off naked, leaving his linen cloth behind.”
There are many assumptions about the true identity of this man. One of the assumptions is this was Mark himself. We do not know for sure. But it makes sense. Here’s why? First Mark is the only writer to record this incident. Then it is said Mark’s mother lived in Jerusalem. So Mark was probably sleeping at his mother’s house on the night Jesus was arrested. Men in Jesus’ day wore linen clothes when going to bed. It’s possible he heard the soldiers leaving the city to arrest Jesus and went after them to the garden of Gethsemane to see what will happen. Maybe he wanted to be with Jesus but followed from a safe distance because he was afraid. It seems Mark was in a great dilemma.
When the soldiers tried to apprehend him he left the linen cloth in their hands and ran off naked. At that moment he must have felt a lost reputation is better than being dead with Jesus. (I might have done the same if I was Mark.)
Some of us can actually identify with Mark. We often feel lost between our desire to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and the fear of rejection by society as well as potential persecution. But Jesus said we cannot follow him unless we are willing to carry our own cross, (Matthew 16:24).
Some of us have old habits which we wish to keep alive but don’t fit the lifestyle of a disciple. We just cannot let go of the worldliness in us. So we compromise. We love the world and follow Jesus from a distance. In the Bible also there were people who felt this way, (John 12:42-43).
But in 1 John 2:15 the Bible forbids us from loving the world. Most translations end this verse as the love of the Father is not in them that love the world. But in the NIV it ends differently. It says, ‘Love for the Father is not in them’.
So the third way in which we can respond to Jesus is by loving Him over the world. For we cannot love the World and the Lord at the same time. Besides, the world never died for us. Jesus did. But then we have a problem. The world will not hate us as long as we love it. But it will start hating us the moment we choose to love the Lord. Why do you think Mark and the other disciples were persecuted? They were seen with Jesus. The Society of Jesus’ day knew the disciples were followers of Jesus. So don’t be surprised if the world rejects you for loving the Lord. Don’t get discouraged. Continue in your love for Jesus. Remember, friendship with the world is enmity against God, (James 4:4).
(D) Respond by being His Friend in Need
Someone said a friend in need is a friend indeed. John was Jesus’ friend in need. Jesus had one need in particular while he was hanging from the cross. Someone trustworthy to look after Mary after Jesus is gone. He couldn’t count on James (his brother) or the other disciples. They were nowhere near. But there was John and Jesus knew he could count on him to protect Mary because John was there regardless of the threat to his own life, (John 19:25-27). Only after that, it says Jesus knew his mission has been accomplished, (“…After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished… John 19:28-ESV)” We know that Jesus had power over even the precise time of his death.
• The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down and the authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:18)
• When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed!” Then he bowed his head and gave up (Greek: “paradidomihis” means to yield willfully) spirit. (John 19:30)
Jesus could not die until he knew his mother was safe. His mission would be incomplete if he abandoned her. Therefore John met Jesus’ final and greatest need. So he was Jesus’ friend indeed.
John teaches us friendship with God may be formed in times of prosperity but it is tested in the wilderness. I am also reminded of a few things I learned from a devotional I read this morning before leaving home. Each one of us has something that is needed by Jesus to fulfill some part of His great plan in this broken world. It can be a gift, a special talent, your time, your career, your knowledge, your wisdom, work experience, and maybe even your finances! Whatever it is you will be there for Jesus if you are truly his friend. (By the way, you also can read that devotional by clicking here.)
Since my sermon was all about responding to Jesus on Good Friday, I want to close it with the story of a man who actually responded to Jesus. If you have watched the film ‘The Passion of the Christ’ you will also know that in it the role of Jesus was played by an actor named Jim Caviezel. Apparently, he is a much less known actor compared to others but he has starred in at least 24 box office films and won a number of awards also. He is also the lead actor in my favorite TV Show ‘The Person of Interest’.
In March Jim announced that he heard God’s voice while performing in ‘The Passion of the Christ in 2004. He also said that God was broken-hearted because not many of His own people love Him as much as He loves them. In response to this message, he had promised to love the Lord and proclaim it in public no matter what. Shortly afterward he announced he has decided to star in films he believes will “bring the most souls to Christ”. Jim has demonstrated his faithfulness already. He can be seen playing the role of Luke the Physician in the film titled “Paul, Apostle of Christ”.
I shared with you four ways that you can respond to Christ tonight. What will you do with everything you heard?
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