Download the Worship Folder & Announcements for April 2
Fill out a card to record your family’s online worship attendance
For supporting the ministry of the Gospel at Salem
Worship Series: The Hands of the Passion
Worship Theme: Nail-Pierced Hands
Message: The Hands of the Passion - Nail-Pierced Hands
Pastor Jake Schram
Were you there? Were you there on the day Christians around the world observe today? Were you there when they crucified our Lord… when they nailed him to a tree…when they laid him in a tomb? Were you there on Good Friday? Before you answer that question, let’s run through some of the people who we know were at the place of Jesus’ crucifixion.
We saw so many hands present for the occasion. We saw the hands of the Roman soldiers. Their hands carried out punishments with brutal efficiency. They probably didn’t realize that when they drove home the nails and divided up Jesus’ clothes, they were fulfilling prophecies that were hundreds of years old. Two other criminals were there, being punished for their crimes. One would eventually confess his faith by asking Jesus to remember him. And Jesus assured him that they would soon be reunited in paradise (Lk 23:41-43). The Jewish leaders were there, perhaps to make sure that Pilate would follow through on his pledge to execute Jesus. They had waited a long time for this. In their minds they had won a great victory. They taunted and jeered and challenged Jesus to come down from his cross, totally oblivious to the fact that at any moment he could descend and destroy them all. Even if Pontius Pilate was not physically present at Golgotha, he made his presence known by both condemning Jesus and having a sign posted above Jesus’ cross, reading, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (Jn 19:19). Jesus’ mother was there on Good Friday, and what Mary witnessed must have made her heart break. When Jesus was a baby, Simeon predicted that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul (Lk 2:35). And as she watched her son slowly dying before her eyes, Mary could fully understand what those words meant. It would be nice to be able to say that all the disciples were there to give support to their Lord in his dying hours. But they weren’t, despite all their supposed bravado. They had deserted Jesus the night before in the garden. They had abandoned him in his time of need, just as Jesus had predicted. Only one disciple, John, had come to Calvary.
Working through a list like this helps us remember the people and places and events of Good Friday and point fingers at who might be responsible, but it doesn’t answer the original question: Were you there? The obvious answer is no. We weren’t there. You and I are separated from that day by thousands of miles and thousands of years.
There is another way to look at that question. The hymn “God Was There on Calvary (CW 140)” tells us, “All the world on Calvary, crucified the Prince of life, pierced the hands of God’s own Son, there on Calvary.” If those poetic words are true, if the entire world was there on Calvary on Good Friday, then you were there. And so was I. We didn’t come up with the charges that were used to convict Jesus. We didn’t hand down the order to crucify Jesus. None of us wielded the hammer that drove the nails through his hands, but we were there because our sins were there. Jesus carried them there, and on the cross he bore the crushing burden of the sins of humanity.
That means our sin is the reason God’s Son had to suffer and die. That means you and I are no less guilty than the people who were directly responsible for Jesus’ death. If you are having a hard time accepting that, if you want to put that charge to the test, don’t look around and compare yourself with the Roman soldiers or the Jewish leaders or the disciples or anyone else who was there on Good Friday. Look up at the cross. Look deep inside and examine your heart and compare yourself with Jesus.
I have to confess that I am not even worthy of comparison. I am not even close. Jesus taught many lessons about forgiveness (“turn the other cheek,” “not 7 times, but 70 times 7,” the parable of the prodigal son, etc.) and I realize how bad I am at it. All the perceived slights and petty squabbles, the hurtful things I have said and the vengeful things I have done. I start thinking about the times—way too many times—when I withheld forgiveness and held on to grudges instead. My mind comes to the logical, condemning conclusion: If real Christians forgive like Jesus, what does that make me? If you claim to be a Christian, and if you are held to the same standard of forgiving like Jesus, what does that make you? It makes us guilty, not at all able to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, not at all deserving of God’s love, in desperate need of a miracle to be rescued from our sins.
The man who performed so many miracles during his ministry didn’t look like a miracle worker on Good Friday. He looked weak and helpless. Stripped of his clothing. Stripped of his dignity. Bloodied. Beaten. Unable to carry his cross. Barely able to stand. Jesus had been defeated. The devil had won the day.
But the celebration in hell turned out to be short-lived. The evil ones had good reason to be afraid because the Messiah was about to perform his greatest miracle of all. To declare his final victory over the devil, to demonstrate his power over death, to announce to the world that reports of his demise had been greatly exaggerated and assure you that all your sins have been forgiven, Jesus holds out to you his nail-pierced hands.
A couple days after Good Friday, the disciples, the same people who were nowhere to be found on Calvary, gathered together behind locked doors. They were confused about what had just happened. They were fearful about the future. They became even more afraid when what they thought was a ghost appeared among them. But this was no apparition. It was the Lord, and he brought them a message of peace. And then Jesus did something else, something special, something personal, something that instantly allayed their fears. He showed them his hands.
Scars are not usually attractive, but for the disciples those nail marks were the most beautiful thing they had ever seen. And the beauty of those scars is not lost on us either. Those wounds remind us of the high cost of our redemption. Of a fulfilled and completely paid cost. Jesus took on our flesh. Jesus felt our pain. Jesus endured the righteous wrath of God in our place. He earned forgiveness with his own nail-pierced hands and then, without hesitation, forgave us!
How can Good Friday be called good if all these things happened to our innocent Savior? The unconditional, sacrificial love of Jesus is what makes this day good. When your sins condemn you, he intercedes for you. When Satan seeks to devour you, Jesus will defend you. When you are feeling guilty, spiritually empty, totally unworthy of God’s love, remember what Jesus has done to save you. Remember that he will never leave you or forsake you. Remember that he has ascended into heaven to prepare a place for you.
If all of this sounds too good to be true, if you are looking for proof that it is indeed true, all you need to do is look up. Look to the cross. Look to Jesus. Look at your living Savior’s nail-pierced hands and see the forgiveness those scars guarantee for you. Amen.