My thesis for this third Wednesday in Lent is that Good Friday is the greatest event in the history of the world.
Last Wednesday, I said that Christmas was the greatest event in the history of the world. And, it was—for the time being. God had come in the flesh of a human being. He did it in humility, allowing Himself to begin life the way that you began life. He made it so that He who created hearts and lungs and mouths was now required to have His heart continue to beat, and His lungs keep on breathing, and His mouth take in food, if He were to continue to live.
That’s the thing. Now that God was a human being, He was subject to the laws of the world He had made. Jesus was able to take on the sins of the world, though He would not sin and was without a sinful nature. He was free from sin, because sin comes from Adam, and the Bible traces the sinful nature through the father, and the Lord Jesus had no earthly father.
The wages of sin is death. Jesus was born into the world for the purpose of paying for your sins. Therefore, Jesus was born to die. This is what makes Good Friday take over the position of the greatest event in the history of the world, because, in the Good Friday crucifixion of Jesus Christ, God died.
Um, what? God can’t die!
It was my first semester of my first year of seminary. I was sitting in Dr. Burgland’s New Testament Isagogics class. Isagogics is too fancy a word; they could have called it Introduction to the New Testament, but they love confusing first year students, which Dr. Burgland immediately did when he challenged us with the question: can God die?
We virtually hollered back to him that, no, of course God can’t die. God is eternal, with no beginning and no ending. He can’t die. He’s above death. Death comes from sin. God isn’t a sinner. Dr. Burgland was clearly seeking to lead us astray.
Over the years, I asked the question in Bible class probably a few dozen times. The vast majority answered that God can’t die.
Here’s where we get hung up. The problem doesn’t begin with the notion of God dying. Rather, it begins with the fact that God became a human.
You don’t have a problem with God becoming a human. As I said, last week, you celebrate Christmas with birthday party-like revelry. But, if you are so easily over the hump of God becoming human, then it should be no leap of faith to hurdle the fact that God died.
If God can become a man, then God can die, because humans can die. God became fully human. God the Son became the Son of Mary, and was given a human name: Jesus. Jesus is God. Jesus died. God died.
When we keep it that simple—Jesus is God, Jesus died, God died—we can grasp it and we get it right. But people don’t keep it simple, and as I outlined last week regarding how philosophers and other religions are offended at the thought of God coming into direct contact with this corrupt world, and finding it patently ridiculous that God has a Son and that Son became a human being, so are many offended at the talk of God dying. Only now when I talk about those offended by talk of God dying, I’m not talking about other religions, but about our own Christians.
One of the theological opponents of Martin Luther—the man with my favorite name: Ulrich Zwingli—could not accept God’s dying. So, Zwingli decided that, just before Jesus was nailed to the cross, the God part of Jesus fled back to heaven, leaving only the human part of Jesus to die.
In this sort of thinking, Zwingli is not alone. Throughout the last two thousand years of history, Christians have reasoned and rationalized how Jesus’ death did not mean that God died.
To jump this hurdle, we have to ask: God the whom?
I am not saying the Father died, nor did the Holy Spirit die. Jesus is God the Son. But, Jesus is God, one hundred percent.
Jesus is God. Jesus died. God died.
Why is it important for us to get this right?
Which typical human is able die for the sins of the world? Which humans can pay for their own sins with their own deaths?
You likely know the verse, that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). You all know the truth, that everyone dies. That you keep on burying your loved ones, and that you, too, are heading toward the grave, is proof that all of us are sinners.
But, Jesus wasn’t a sinner. Jesus was born without Original Sin. Jesus faced Satan for forty days and forty nights and fended off the devil’s every temptation. Throughout His life, Jesus never gave into a temptation and never failed a test. Jesus always loved, always served, always obeyed—both God the Father and His fellow man.
Here is where it all comes together. We couldn’t die for our sins as payment, because we are sinners. God had to become a human being so that there could be one person in the history of the world who was without sin, who was perfectly obedient to the commandments, who loved without fail.
This one sacrifice had to be a man, because, otherwise, God can’t die. This one sacrifice had to be God, because sinners can’t die for their own sins. This one sacrifice had to be God in the flesh, born of a woman. He was named Jesus, because Jesus means the Lord saves.
The verse which speaks directly to the amazing truth that God died for us is 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake [God] made him to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Because God became a human being in the person of Jesus, He made it possible for Himself to die, because it was possible for sinless Jesus to take our sins into Himself. Because God so loved the world, He gave His only Son into death—God died on the cross—so that, believing in Jesus, you have eternal life.
Since you know the rest of the story of Easter, the Ascension of our Lord Jesus, and that He will return on the Last Day to put an end to this fallen and corrupt world with the resurrection to the perfect Paradise of forever, consider how God’s death works for you—how Good Friday has come to you, personally.
Romans chapter six enlightens you as to how Jesus’ death with your sins in His flesh was personally given to you: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” More than your sins having been buried with Christ in His grave, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
Here’s the beauty of God having died for the sins of the world, and your having been baptized into Christ’s death: you have already beaten death. Through the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior has joined you to the reason He took on your human flesh—to die for you so that you could live with Him.
And so you do.
And so you do!
The death you will die will only be to your body; your soul will live in eager expectation of the resurrection you will have, which will be exactly as Christ’s resurrection.
Just as personally as God died for the sins of the world in the person of Jesus, Jesus’ death has come into you, so that when you die you can go into heaven.
Good Friday, the greatest event in the history of the world, has set the table for Easter, which will be—you guessed it—the greatest event in the history of the world. Amen.