Read John 19:16-30
It is finished. Done. Complete. There’s nothing else we can do. That’s what makes Good Friday so good. The problem is that we, as responsible individuals who take care of ourselves just can’t quite grasp the concept. We want there to be more. We’d prefer to have to DO something for our salvation.
During the first Sunday of Lent, I gave everyone a nail. That nail says so many things. We learned that the nail was our nail, that it was by the wounds of that nail you could be healed. We learned that it was that nail that caused our name to be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life so that we could live forever. We learned that the nail erased all of our sins and the nail gives us a reason to tell the world of a Savior’s love. Because that is really the message of the nail . . . the message of Good Friday . . . the message is love.
And that’s what I want to talk to you about tonight. It’s time, we, the people of Christ truly understand the magnitude of what Christ did and what our response to that should be. To do that I want to share with you the story of the woman from Bethany and how that story changed my life forever.
Read Luke 7:36-48
Some of you have heard me say I used to have a real problem with this story. You see, I was raised to understand how to be good. I knew all of the rules and understood the right way to follow Christ. I accepted Christ at 15 and rededicated to Him when I was in my early 20’s, but as I read this scripture, I knew in my heart I didn’t really love Christ the way that others I met love Him.
I’d heard testimony of people who’d been in prison and others who’d done things that were what my family would have called too bad to be mentioned, and I sensed in these folks this deep love and appreciation of Christ, and these words of Jesus kept coming back to haunt me: “He who has been forgiven much, loves much, but the one who has been forgiven little, loves little.”
I knew that I wanted to have that deep love of Christ that those “bad” people had, and I told God that it wasn’t fair. I was sure I’d never done anything really “bad” in my life to be forgiven MUCH for, so it wasn’t fair that I didn’t get to love much.
That’s when God started showing me what it means to be forgiven much and to love much.
My problem was I estimated the level of my goodness based on human standards. I didn’t drink, smoke, cuss or treat people badly, so I had very little to be forgiven. But it all changed when I evaluated my “goodness” based on the standards of this nail.
Most people would say that cold blooded murder is one of the worst crimes a person can commit, and this nail said that’s what I’d done. You see, if I really could be “good enough” Jesus wouldn’t have had to die. I could have made it to heaven on my own goodness. But the moment I spoke badly about a person, in fact, the first time I got angry with a person, Jesus says in Matthew 5, I might as well have murdered them.
James 3 tells me that if I curse a person, you know, call someone a nasty name, I’m cursing God because that person was made in God’s image. And those are just a couple of the reasons that Christ felt the pain of my nail.
You seem, my nail murdered Jesus. I thought I was so good, but I discovered that my goodness really was as Isaiah said, “filthy rags.” I am a murderer.
I eat too much, and anytime I take more than I need of anything, I am a glutton, on the same level as a drunkard. I am proud, worrying about what others think of me, so I’m no better than a tax collector.
It wasn’t until I began to take responsibility for my nail that I began to understand what Jesus was saying. I wasn’t forgiven little because I had little to be forgiven. I was forgiven little because I had ASKED for little to be forgiven. And when I learned all the damage my nail had caused my Savior, I began to understand, I began to love Him more, I began to change my life and reprioritize.
It’s the truth of my nail that helped me begin to see my excuses in a much different light. Right now there are several of us working through the Experiencing God study. In it Rev. Blackaby makes a couple of points that really cause a person to evaluate their love of God. He says, “if you don’t have time for a quiet time with God, you don’t have a scheduling problem, you have a love problem.” And “if you aren’t obeying, you don’t have an obedience problem, you have a love problem.”
And Rev. Blackaby is correct. You see, as I grew closer to Christ, I began to hear others use excuses that I’d used before, but what I really heard was, “You don’t love Jesus enough.”
I used to say, “I just can’t get to church every Sunday.” But what I was really saying was, “I don’t love Jesus enough to make it a priority.”
I used to say, “With three young kids, it’s hard to find time to read scripture every day.” But what I was really saying was, “I don’t love Jesus enough.”
There have been a lot of things in life that I’ve said “I can’t” or “I don’t” about, but the truth is when Christ asks me to do something He empowers me to do it, so when I say “can’t” or “won’t” what I’m really saying is “I don’t really appreciate the full extent of what Christ did for me on the cross, so I just don’t love Jesus enough.”
We think God isn’t revealing Himself to us. We want the big showy miracles that we read about in scripture. But have you read about those people whom Jesus healed? Have you read about their faith, about how much they love Jesus Christ? We want Jesus according to our terms. We want Him to fit inside our cozy little box. But when we do that what we’re really saying is, “I don’t love Jesus enough to put Him first, to trust Him to always do what is right.”
That’s why this nail is so important to me. I want to make sure I live my life appreciating what Christ did. I want to be like the woman at Jesus’ feet in Bethany. That woman loved Jesus; she didn’t care what everyone else in the room thought. She knew they were talking about her, but it didn’t matter, she loved Jesus. I want to love Jesus that much. I don’t want to worry about what others think. The only person’s point of view I want to allow to change my perspective is the view of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ loves you. He calls you friend and believes in you. It’s like He pulled you from a burning fire, but do you appreciate Him that much? Do you love Jesus enough to put away the excuses, to believe that what He says, He will do? Do you care about your creator more than anything else in the world? He cares about you that much!
I want my world to revolve around this nail. You see because of this nail, I can know that I am loved, and it’s only by the power of this nail that I can really give love. It’s the realization of the power of this nail that sets me free.
Until we truly believe that those scars Jesus received were really meant for us. Until I get to the point where hearing the Good Friday retelling cuts me to my core knowing it should have been me, I will not love Jesus enough. Tonight we’re going to take communion, but before you take a piece of the bread and dip it in the cup that represents Jesus’ blood, I want you to bring your nail and use it pierce this candle. You see, this is the candle we used on Christmas Eve, the one we lit to remind us that a baby was born pure, white, without Sin, the Son of God. If you heat your nail just a bit in the light of the candle, you can take your nail and push it into the side. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, you may simply bring your nail and consider the damage YOUR nail caused your Savior.