Friday is called, “Good Friday” in our day, but there was nothing good about it almost 2,000 years ago. The hopes and dreams of all of those who had followed Jesus for three years had crashed to the floor as they watched Him hang lifeless on the cross. It was a dark Friday. A hopeless Friday. A day of despair and disappointment like Jesus’ friends had never experienced in their lives. By Saturday many of Jesus’ followers wondered if they would ever be able to escape the hopelessness of Friday.
There are still many among us who could be characterized as “Friday people.” Life has let you down. You’ve experienced heartache after heartache, disappointment after disappointment, and you wonder if things will ever change. You’ve let yourself down. You’ve made some horrible decisions that have cost you, and those who love you, in a big way. You wonder if you will ever be able to stop the insanity. Others have let you down. You’ve put your trust, your hopes, in people, only to be disappointed. You are wondering if there is even one person in the world that you can trust. All of this has shaped your soul so that now you are a “Friday person.” Gloom has taken the place of gladness. Sorrow has set in where there was once serenity. Pessimism has replaced the hope you once had of a brighter day. I’ve come to tell you today that you don’t have to live in Friday any longer. Sunday is here!
Many years ago Dr. Tony Campolo told a story about a “preach off” that took place between a group of preachers. One pastor after another took their turn at the pulpit and preached their best sermon. Dr. Campolo had finished preaching his best sermon, when his pastor, the late Rev. Marshall L. Shepard, Sr. Pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in West Philadelphia came to the pulpit. The old man could barely be heard when he began his sermon, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming.” With each passing word Rev. Shepard’s voice grew stronger and stronger, his passion built, and his conviction was heard with an unmistakable clarity. Rev. Shepard spoke up.
It’s Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying. But Sunday’s coming. It’s Friday. The disciples are hiding and Peter’s denying that he knows the Lord. But Sunday’s coming. It’s Friday. Jesus is standing before the high priest of Israel, silent as a lamb before the slaughter. But Sunday’s coming. It’s Friday. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. But Sunday’s coming. It’s Friday. Those Roman soldiers are flogging our Lord with a leather scourge that has bits of bones and glass and metal, tearing at his flesh. But Sunday’s coming. It’s Friday. The Son of man stands firm as they press the crown of thorns down into his brow. But Sunday’s coming. It’s Friday. See Him walking to Calvary, the blood dripping from His body. See the cross crashing down on His back as He stumbles beneath the load. It’s Friday; but Sunday’s a coming. It’s Friday. See those Roman soldiers driving the nails into the feet and hands of my Lord. Hear my Jesus cry, “Father, forgive them.” It’s Friday; but Sunday’s coming. It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, bloody and dying. But Sunday’s coming. It’s Friday. The sky grows dark, the earth begins to tremble, and He who knew no sin became sin for us. Holy God who will not abide with sin pours out His wrath on that perfect sacrificial lamb who cries out, “My God, My God. Why hast thou forsaken me?” What a horrible cry. But Sunday’s coming. It’s Friday. And at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil of the Temple that separates sinful man from Holy God was torn from the top to the bottom because Sunday’s coming. It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, heaven is weeping and hell is partying. But that’s because it’s Friday, and they don’t know it, but Sunday’s a coming. And on that horrible day 2000 years ago, Jesus the Christ, the Lord of glory, the only begotten Son of God, the only perfect man died on the cross of Calvary. Satan thought that he had won the victory. Surely he had destroyed the Son of God. Finally he had disproved the prophecy God had uttered in the Garden and the one who was to crush his head had been destroyed. But that was Friday.
Friday was a dark and dreary day for all of those who watched their hopes and dreams nailed to a cross. All that Jesus had said, the miracles they had witnessed, the love they had felt—He was hanging lifeless on a bloodied tree. Would the rest of their lives be lived in an eternal Friday?
As dark as Friday was for those who loved Jesus, it was darker still for Jesus Himself. He had endured more than any person has ever had to endure as the authorities of His day had beaten, mocked, and ripped His body to shreds. When they drove the nails in His hands and feet all of Heaven shrieked at the ghastly sight of God’s own Son writhing in pain. Why? Why? Why? I’m not concerned with why they did it. The depths of depravity that sinful humanity will sink to will never amaze me, but why did He choose to endure it all? There have been hundreds of theories, but God’s own Word tells us that He did it for our freedom.
In writing about our sin and the price Jesus paid for our freedom, Paul wrote in Romans 6, 22 “But now that you have been set free from sin…” The scars that Jesus bore in His own body were the scars of victory.
Up until Easter morning, when Jesus was raised to life by the mighty hand of God, all of humanity was held captive by sin. There was nothing that could be done about it. You and I do not have the power to overcome the sin that so easily entangles us apart from resurrection power. But on Sunday, when the sun began to shine and the birds began to sing a new song of victory, prison gates opened wide and shackles of sin began to drop like rain on a spring day! Sin was defeated and the sting of death was taken by Jesus our risen Savior! Paul writes in 1 Corinthians,
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:56-57 NIV)
For those who live in the resurrection power of Jesus today, the power of sin holds no power—they have become “Sunday people.” The sting of death has been swallowed up in the eternal security and rest of Almighty God. This is the power of God, the glory of Easter, for those of us who live in the year 2009.
The sad reality is that there are many who know the story of Jesus’ resurrection, but have never experienced His salvation, and His power to unlock the shackles of sin so that we might leave our prisons of deception and deceit. There are many of us here this morning, seated in a sanctuary on Easter morning, but still living a Friday kind of life, still dragging the ball and chain of sin’s captivity around with us each day. Satan has convinced us that Easter’s resurrection is but a story to be told once a year and not a reality to be lived each day. Satan has convinced us that we will always be held captive. We will never break free from the chains of sin and death. Satan has convinced us that we will always be alone, we will always fail, and we will always fall back into our old ways. I’ve got good news for you today – Sunday is here, Jesus is alive, He knows your name, and He can open your prison door and set you free this very morning! Step out of your prison and into His grace. He knows your name.
I wish my sister Mary Magdalene was here this morning to testify before you. Mary was once a Friday kind of woman. She knows the prison that sin can be when life is lived apart from Jesus. We find her name popping up over and over again in Scripture. The first time we run into Mary we learn that she has had seven demons cast out of her. Luke writes,
1 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; (Luke 8:1-2 NIV)
Now nobody knows what the demons had done to Mary Magdalene, the nature of her demon possession, or how she had suffered because of them. We do know that she had been delivered. Her deliverance from seven demons didn’t clear her record because even to this day there are rumors circulating around town about Mary Magdalene. There will be preachers who will stand up in their pulpit this morning and preach about the first person who saw Jesus after His resurrection and her sordid past. They have arrived at that conclusion from reading Luke 7, the chapter right before Mary Magdalene is introduced to us in Luke 8.
In Luke 7, a woman who has lived a “sinful life,” a woman many say was a prostitute, came to Jesus and wet His feet with her tears before she poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair. There is no doubt that this took place, but nowhere in Scripture does it say that this woman was Mary Magdalene.
Mary was a sinner, there is no question about that, but the stories that have circulated about her throughout the centuries have been rumors, unfounded rumors, stinging stories that pierced her soul. Maybe you can relate? You know that you are a sinner, but the stories that are going around school about you hurt you more than they will ever know. You know that you are a sinner, but the stories that they tell about you at the Country Club, or the Women’s Circle, or the luncheons, or the Food Pantry, or the Sunday school class parties are not who you really are. Oh, you know you are a sinner, that you need a Savior, but you swear you aren’t as bad as your husband makes you out to be. You know that you are a sinner, but you try to be a good mom, a good dad, but your kids can’t see it and they continue to tell all of their buddies how horrible you are. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me…” Those are the words of nursery rhymes. You know that words can’t break your bones, but they can break your heart. They pierce you like a knife.
Mary Magdalene knows how you feel, she has been there, she felt their words cut her to the core. They talked about her then and they still talk about her to this day. Maybe that is why Mary Magdalene found more than a Savior in Jesus…she found a friend. She found her freedom. He was someone who loved her, for who she was, someone who welcomed her, and set her free from their words and much, much more. Jesus left such an imprint upon Mary Magdalene’s life that while the other disciples were running for their life, Mary couldn’t take her eyes off of Jesus. Mark tells us,
33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?“—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” 36 One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” 40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there. (Mark 15:33-41NIV)
Would there ever be anybody again who would ever understand her like Jesus understood her? Would there ever be anybody who would stand with her while all of the town made fun of her and called her names? Would there ever be anyone who could set her free from the guilt she knew like an evil friend? Would there ever…? She watched Jesus hang on the cross knowing that if she identified herself with Him that she could be badly punished or even killed, and yet it didn’t matter to her at all. Without Jesus life would never be the same again.
She couldn’t get Jesus out of her mind. She thought about Him throughout the day as her mind raced through all of the experiences she had had with Jesus. Finally, after He had taken His last breath and died, Joseph of Arimathea asked to take Jesus’ body and prepare it for burial. Through the whole ordeal, Mary never left. She was right there, brokenhearted, but with her Lord. Matthew tells us,
57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. (Matthew 27:57-61 NIV)
Did you notice? She is still there. Jesus’ lifeless body is laid in the tomb, Joseph has already gone home, yet Mary Magdalene will not leave. Why would she? While the rest of the town knew her as the woman who had been possessed, Jesus’ love had possessed her. Jesus didn’t remind her of her past; He reassured of her of a glorious future. Mary Magdalene was honored and loved by Jesus.
Maybe you can relate. Does your past follow you around like a stray dog that won’t go away? No matter what you try to do to gain a new start there is always somebody from your past to dig up the dirt and throw it in your face. You’ve failed your kids in the past, but you want to be a good dad now. You’ve given your life to Christ and you want a fresh start, but they keep reminding you of how you let them down. You’ve been through a broken marriage, but you don’t want to stay broken. Yet your ex-wife or ex-husband won’t let you start again. You sowed your wild oats when you were young, or maybe when you weren’t so young, and yet you want to close that chapter and live a life of integrity. Your old buddies want you to take another walk on the wild side. They say, “Oh, are you too good for us now? You weren’t too good for us when you wanted us to share our drugs with you. You weren’t too good for us when you were sleeping around. You weren’t too good for us when you were drunk out of your mind and needed a ride.” Will it ever end? Is there any hope for a new life, a fresh start, a new beginning? Mary Magdalene knows how you feel and that is why she clung to Jesus, even when He had died.
For all of us “Mary’s” that are here this morning you need to know that Easter has come! The Savior is alive and a new beginning is waiting on us if we will but step out of our prison cell of insanity and sin and step into His wondrous grace. Let me tell you the story that is found in John 20.
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11 but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. (John 20:1-20 NIV)
The same Mary Magdalene who thought that life was over is the same Mary that first saw Jesus alive, the Overcomer of sin and death! When Mary realized that her Savior was alive, then she knew that she would live as well. And so it is with me, and so it is with you. He is life! He is not only the Gate Keeper to eternal life, but in Him is found abundant life, life overflowing for the right now. For those of us who will trust in His resurrection power we can be freed from the shackles of slavery to our old life, freed from the prison cell of sin and death and be set free to truly live.
There is one section of John’s story that grips me like none other. It is found in verse 15-16. Listen as I read it to you.
15 Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:15-16 NIV)
Jesus knew her name. She heard His voice! Mary Magdalene was free! She was free! Jesus knew her better than anybody had ever known her in her life and yet He called her by name. He knew her. He loved her. The Good News for you and me this Easter is that Jesus knows us as well as He did Mary Magdalene. He knows the deepest secrets of your heart, He knows the things about you that you would like to forget, but this morning He is calling your name. Won’t you cry out to Him and allow Him to come into your heart and set you free?
The first step that we must take is to face the truth of who we are, sinners in need of a Savior. We are Friday people living with no hope and no remedy to what ails us apart from Jesus. If we will allow the Lord to reveal to us the sin that is imprisoning us then we can lay that sin at the foot of the cross knowing that Jesus has already paid our debt. I want to invite you to spend the next few minutes in prayer. Allow the Lord to show you the true condition of your heart and confess your need to Him. Sunday has come! Jesus is alive! He is here! Won’t you allow Him to bring you out of the Friday of hopelessness and despair into the hope and eternal peace of knowing that Sunday has come?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
April 12, 2009