The following was preached at sister congregation Ascension Lutheran Church & School of Tucson, AZ on 30Mar18. It is repeated here upon request:
John 19:30 – 30ὅτε οὖν ἔλαβεν τὸ ὄξος ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν Τετέλεσται καὶ κλίνας τὴν κεφαλὴν παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
There was a song written and performed by Jimmy Dean that became a hit in fall of 1961 entitled “Big John”. The song was a ballad about a fictional character named John who was 6ft6 and weighed 245(lbs). No one really knew much about Big John, and, because of his physique, everyone around him pretty much gave him his space so as to not cross him. It is this fictional character’s selfless act that we will examine for our consideration today, which is a model for what our Lord Jesus did for us on that first Good Friday some 2,000yrs ago.
Let Us Pray:
Lord Jesus, we thank you for Your obedient walk to the cross, so that You became the one perfect sacrifice in order for the entire human race to be atoned from its sins. You knew that we were permanently consigned to an eternal grave away from You, a worthless pit that we would never avoid without Your perfect work of redemption. Please, Lord Jesus, send Your Spirit to work in our soul to better understand the magnitude of our hopelessness apart from You, so that we then appreciate the free gift we have received from You in memory of this day. To You Lord Jesus we commit this request, You who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore. Amen.
The song, “Big John”, was about underground mining of some sort of commodity, probably coal. The danger with any type of mining underground is a tunnel suddenly collapsing, and basically entombing all who are working in the mine. This is kind of a model for what our life is like in this Age.
Ever since our first parents, Adam & Eve, decided to disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit, all of us are preoccupied with thoughts, desires, even passions, to go in the opposite direction of God’s Word. James, half-brother of Jesus, wrote: How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. (Jam 3:5b-9 as quoted from the ESV) Our tongue is controlled by our very essence, and that essence apart from God the Holy Spirit is full of evil. Our tongue therefore reflects what is in our soul, and it will not change unless there is help from above. Without this help, there is no way we, like the miners of the song, can free ourselves from the eternal fate of Hell.
We read of the lyrics from “Big John”:
Then came the day at the bottom of the mine, When a timber cracked and men started cryin'. Miners were prayin' and hearts beat fast, And everybody thought that they'd breathed their last, 'cept John.
Imagine for a moment you are a miner working underground. There is only one way into the mine and one way out. It really doesn’t matter if you are 200ft down or only 20ft down; if that one way out is blocked, you are stuck. This is a similar analogy to our life in this Age. Many of us here think we are not all that bad of a person. Surely God will take that into account on judgement day! The reality is if you are only 20ft down under instead of being worse off father down in a pit, you are still entombed! You are still eternally separated from the freedom of movement at the earth’s surface. This is where we are without the saving sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the church at Corinth: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them,… 21 For our sake he (God the Father) made him (Jesus Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Co 5:17-19b, 21 as quoted from the ESV)
The song continues:
Through the dust and the smoke of this man-made hell, Walked a giant of a man that the miners knew well. Grabbed a saggin' timber, gave out with a groan, And like a giant oak tree he just stood there alone, big John. And with all of his strength he gave a mighty shove, Then a miner yelled out "there's a light up above!" And twenty men scrambled from a would-be grave, Now there's only one left down there to save, big John.
There was no way out of the man-made hell without someone rescuing us from the pit, regardless of how far down into the pit we exist. Lest you think that you were somehow put into the pit without your consent, we do plenty each day to offend the Lord with our sin to the point of Him saying, “Depart from me, you cursed!” But as Moses pleaded with the Lord on behalf of the faithless nation of Israel, when, after the twelve spies came back from the Promised Land to report to all what they saw, all of Israel griped and complained and made up a lie about the Lord bringing His people out of Egypt only to kill them in the desert of Sinai. We read from Num 14:18-19 - 17 And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ 19 Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.”
God heard the prayer of Moses on behalf of the people. The sins of the Israelites were pardoned. Yes, sin has its consequences, and we know this in our own life to this day. The consequences of sin were not unique to those grumbling Israelites. God indeed heard the pleas of His own heart for His prize of all creation, mankind. The Lord saw how we were going to be trapped underground for eternity even before the foundations of this world were created. He knew the day would have to come, when He would have to send someone to rescue mankind from their own sin – their circumstances of their own making. That day is that first Good Friday, when Jesus walked to Golgatha – the place of the skull – to be shamefully hung onto a cross. Everyone hung on a tree is cursed says the scriptures, and Jesus was cursed with your sins so that yours were then taken away!
The song, “Big John” continues:
With jacks and timbers they started back down, Then came that rumble way down in the ground. And then smoke and gas belched out of that mine, Everybody knew it was the end of the line for big John.
From the song, we conclude that the man everyone knew as “Big John” had sacrificed himself in order for everyone else to have a way out of a terminal situation. And, just like the miners who started back down, there was nothing anyone attending Jesus’ execution at Golgatha was going to be able to do to save Jesus from the Roman death sentence. There absolutely needed to be a shedding of blood from an unblemished lamb in order for sins to be atoned for. Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday wanted to save the Lord, but what was the result? Jesus stopped Peter, because there was no way for the cup of God’s wrath to pass from Jesus and yet we all be saved from being eternally entombed in Hell. The events had to happen the way they did some 2,000yrs ago.
Make no mistake; Jesus paid a HUGE price for our salvation. Just like Big John in the song, Jesus gave of himself when called upon due to the circumstances of our sin. Jesus’ death on the cross was dirty, messy, and certainly bloody. It was a humiliating death that no King of Kings and Lord of Lords should have had to endure. He did endure that torture for you and for me so that as the Psalmist wrote - Psalm 40:2-3 - He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
I call upon you to sing the new song of praise to our God. Motivate yourself to turn from your sinful ways, by remembering this day, a day Jesus’ followers mourned His innocent death on a cross. The song by Jimmy Dean hit #1 on the charts almost 57yrs ago. It had its day, just like Satan had his day. But the day is coming to an end for Satan and all of the evil of this generation. Satan’s time is short, but so are the days we have to endure the filth of ourselves, the sinful world, and the garbage that Satan and his henchmen dish out to all who are of Christ. The day is coming when everything will be new, for the first heaven and first earth will have passed away. That is the implication of Jesus’ simple word from the cross, “It is finished”. We will sing a new song in praise of our God who will wipe every tear from our eyes. This is the wonderful result of a very bad situation that happened 2,000yrs ago. This is why it is called, “Good Friday”. Amen.