Good Friday: Look to Christ!
And said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (NKJV)
Preparing dinner last week, my son brought me his school folder with the enclosed announcement of an Easter party. I frowned and shook my head. As I stewed on my disappointment, announcements appeared across all forms of media declaring this event or egg hunt, and “Don’t forget that the Easter Bunny will be present for family photos at the mall” or, worse, the local church. They sought eggs, candy, snacks, little gift bags, and other trinkets to hand out to the children in his class. They reduced my Lord's sacrifice to an egg festival with goodies for all.
Our society co-opted Easter for their pagan celebration of Spring's arrival. Divorcing the message of the cross from the holiday, many (Christians included) succumb to the same joviality as pagan worshipers dancing around idols and celebrating the arrival of Spring and fertility. Tossing aside the necessary humility and required adoration of our Savior and His redemptive work, many have services filled with prideful frivolity devoid of any reverence. “Indeed, Christ has died for your sins!” They shout. “Yes, He has risen!” They declare. “Come and celebrate with our One-Thousand Easter Egg Helicopter drop!" They advertise. It is dreadful to see the holy gospel coupled with a satanic distraction that pulls the eyes away from the cross and onto bright, colorful eggs filled with candies. Indeed, we live in times where the church of Vanity Fair is on every street corner. Do not fear boredom, for "there is at all times to be seen jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind." Do not worry about Christ on the cross; they have a photo booth for your children and the Easter Bunny.
Listen to the words of Stephen, and let us look upon the Son of Man and His glory!
The Cross was Plan A
The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Gen. 3:14-15 (ESV)
In verse 15, God declares the coming of Christ and the final destruction of Satan. These were the plans since before time was spoken into existence: The Father would give the Son a people for His Son's obedience, the Son would be obedient to His Father unto death, and the Holy Spirit would declare the Father and the Son. Creation centered around the work of Christ. The Godhead decreed the fall of angels and man required for Christ's Redemptive work. God promised (predestined/preordained) and elected a people for His Son's obedience and decreed vessels of wrath destined for destruction so that all would see His righteous anger, justice, and power.
What shall we say, then? Are we to believe that the Garden was Plan A and that Satan interfered with God's decree requiring Christ's death as a Plan B reaction? By no means! How can we rightly worship and serve an Almighty God, believing His plans can be changed, complicated, challenged, overturned, or even stopped? Do you not know that we serve an immutable God whose decree stands for all eternity and that all creation hinges upon His Son, Christ? (3) Do you not know that the cross was known and anticipated before the Earth's creation so that there would be a sufficient sacrifice, as there can be no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood?
Look at the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!
Rebels Against God
Our fathers refused to obey him but thrust him aside, and in their hearts, they turned to Egypt, saying to Aaron, 'Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' And they made a calf in those days and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. Acts 7:39-41 (ESV)
Stephen, in his passionate sermon, reminds those in attendance how quickly Israel turned their hearts back to sin and idolatry even after the miracles God performed. Their faith was weak and fickle. Like Lot's wife, who turned back to Sodom, their hearts turned back to Egypt. They were stiff-necked, and their hearts hardened to God.
And such were some of us. How often do we turn our eyes away from Christ? Even now, we find ourselves tempted to reject our Lord and return to the land of Egypt, for those idols are mute and do not require anything. They do not demand holiness or expect us to forfeit our life rights. I wonder how many golden calves will be trotted out on Easter Sunday for the people to worship! One could argue that it is much easier to gaze upon the soft fur of a white rabbit and hold within your hands colored eggs with printed shapes rather than looking up at the bleeding Christ and feeling the weight of the hammer and nails in your sin-stained hands.
Look at the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!
Look to the Son of Man
But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:57-60 (ESV)
Consider Stephen as he looked upon Christ. The Spirit filled him, and he endured the stones that rained down upon him for declaring Christ to the Jewish leaders. Have you considered this cost for yourself? Do you not know that you are not your own, for you were bought with a price? Remember that we are slaves to Christ, having been bought by His precious blood. Meditate upon this. Look to the heroes of faith within Hebrews Chapter 11. They looked to the Son of Man even as they were tortured, endured scourgings, imprisonment, stoned, sawn in two, tempted, slain with the sword, and fed to vicious beasts as they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins. Dear Reader, have you contemplated and accepted the cost of service to Christ, or are you distracted with vanities? Do not let the festivities and vain traditions distract your eyes from the cross. Let Christ be the center of our lives.
I echo again on this most precious and marvelous Good Friday: Look at the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!