GOOD FRIDAY SERMON BY THE ARCHBISHOP OF LAGOS.
MOST REV. ALFRED ADEWALE MARTINS. GOOD FRIDAY, APRIL 18, 2014.
As I reflected this morning about the fact that Jesus died for us individually even though he died for all of us as the human race, an image came to my mind of a person who has a VERY rare blood group, a blood group that you can find only one in a thousand people that have it in any one city. Unfortunately, the crown Prince, the only son of the king of a town has his rare blood group and he gets involved in an accident as a result of which he needs blood transfusion. They looked in all the family; none of them has the same blood group. They searched the whole town but could not find anyone with the same blood group. Then they made inquiries in the next town and fortunately found only one person with the same blood group. Unfortunately, however, the citizens of both towns do not relate with each other because of some misunderstanding and wars that had existed between the two peoples since the time of their forefathers.
Of course, people of the town believed that no one from the next town would donate blood for a person from their own town. So they did not even bother to ask. However, the elders of the town of the Person that has the rare blood group got together and said: Well, we have been in enmity with this people but the life of the man that is in danger is the life of a human being made in the image and likeness of God. So we shall allow our son to donate blood in order to save the life of the so-called enemy. So they permitted their son to go and donate blood to this prince. How do you think the king and people of that town would react? I am sure they would so grateful that they would promise not to do or say anything that could bring misunderstanding between the two peoples anymore.
I can imagine that from that day on, all enmity would be brought to an end there would be such a sense of gratitude that the two peoples would become one, united with one heart and mind. None of them would do anything that would bring any a quarrel or conflict between the two peoples.
It seems to me that that is similar to relationship between the human race and God. The Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit did not treat the human race according to our faults, our sins. Instead God decided to end the break in relationship that sin has caused since the time of Adam and Eve. The whole of the human race was created good by God and it was given the pride of place among all other creatures of God. Indeed after Adam and Eve were created, God said he gave everything to them from the depths of the sea to the sky and everything in between, he gave over to them to be at his service and he was conquer the earth and have dominion over it all. Notwithstanding the prime position God placed us as human beings, we lawlessly departed from God. As Scripture says: all we like sheep have gone astray.
From the time of that sin, we lost all rights to the mercy of God and we were fit for punishment. Since the sin of Adam and Eve, the wickedness of people have increased to almost an unimaginable degree. The number and the kinds of sin have continued to grow and multiply and we had become twice as fit for hell as we were at the time of Adam and Eve.
Yet God decided to intervene by sending us his son to donate his blood, the only one who has the very rare blood group in order to save us. He sent his son to save us, his precious creatures, not minding our unworthiness of such a grace and favour. The Scripture says: the proof that God loves us is that he sent his only Son to save us even while were still sinners unworthy of his attention not to talk of his intervention in our sorry state of affairs. My dear bros and sisters, that son came in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, God-made-man and he was put to death in the most brutal way that they knew how to at that time. If they knew any worse way, I am sure it would have been used.
Many years ago, I came across a literary piece wall on a wall hanging. It was titled: One Solitary Life. That piece made a deep impact on my mind because of the short but precise summary of the life of the Lord Jesus whose death on the cross we gather to celebrate this afternoon. It goes thus:
He was born in an obscure village. He worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. He then became an itinerant preacher. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He had no credentials but Himself. He was only thirty three when the public turned against Him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His clothing, the only property He had on earth. He was laid in a borrowed grave.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone and today He is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned have not affected the life of man in this earth as much as that One Solitary Life.
We are now in the 21st century, which means that that piecewas written two centuries agobut what it says is still as true and correct now as it was true and correct then. The question is: How come that that man who died so long ago is making so much waves so many years later, in fact he seems to be making so much more waves than he made in his time? The answer according to that piece and according to the Scriptures did not come from the circumstances of his birth, he did not come from an influential family,it did not arise from the high level of education he got. The impact that the Lord Jesus is making is not due to the popularity that he enjoyed among the high and mighty of the time.
Rather he was able and is still able to have such an impact because he was willing to offer himself for the salvation of others. With such a selfless love, he brought hope to the hopeless and restored life to the dead.By his death he freed people from death and darkness of sin and death. He brought eternal salvation and peace to people.
The Lord Jesus did a lot of preaching teaching and healing. He taught a new way of living characterised by love, love even of enemies; doing unto others what you would wish done unto you; putting the good and welfare of others before one’s own. He by his example taught that love conquers all things and that even the law is subject to the good of people and any law that brings unnecessary hardship on people is not acceptable before God. He was hated and despised by the Jewish leaders and priests as a result of which he was put to a most shameful death. He was beaten, spat upon, crowned with thorns, and nailed to the cross. He went through all of these in the hands of the leadersof the Jewish people of his time for no one else but you and me.
The question is what should be our response to the one who loved us so much as to shed his rare blood to save us and free us from sin and death? How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me? We must respond by following his teaching and living according to the way he marked out for us so that we avoid sin and all acts that would be betrayal of his love and sacrifice.
We listened to the Passion Narrative and saw what different characters did in the story of the passion and death of Jesus. None of them is alive today but something of them is still living in some, if not all of us even up till today. If anyone of us has dealt treacherously with others for the sake of money, if we have cheated anyone out his property or been party to taking over what does not belong to us, we must admit that we are the Judas who betrayed Jesus with a kiss after receiving only thirty pieces of silver. If we have ever condemned or persecuted or cause to bring to shame any person that we know to be innocent, we are like the Jewish leaders of the time that out of envy and pride condemned Jesus to death on the cross. If anyone of us has ever attempted to hide his or her Christian identity out of fear or desire to avoid discomfort or trouble, such a person is like Peter who denied the Lord three times before the cork crew. If we have ever covered up the truth for the sake of some personal ambition, to secure our positions or to take a position of comfort, we must realise that we are like Pilate who condemned Jesus to death even though he knew in his heart that Jesus had done nothing wrong. If we have pretended to be loyal to Christ in public but we have been carrying out actions and plans that are contrary to the will of God then we are like the soldiers who crowned Jesus with thorns and were mocking him calling him the King of the Jews.
If on the other hand, we can say we are like Mary sho stayed with Jesus all the way to his death on the cross or we are like veronica or Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus to carry his cross, then we give praise and thanks to God.
We live in a nation in which people profess faith in Christ, carry out acts of worship and it is as if the Church was their second home but in fact we see a huge amount of unrighteous living. Corruption that has ensured that our nation is held captive and we have been made unable to reach the height that our human and natural resources should have placed us. The monster of corruption has ensured that our youths are living from day to day without much hope for the future because there are not many job opportunities. We have a situation in which parents are constantly being put to shame because they cannot find job that will earn them enough to take care of their children adequately. We live in a country where it would seem that life means nothing. We are witnesses to the spate of killing for ritual purposes, kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery. We live in a country in which we are so intolerant of one another on the basis of our places of origin or else on the basis of religion etc. We have a country in which politics is nothing but a means of personal enrichment rather than service and provision for the welfare of citizens. As we celebrate the death of Christ today, offering himself for the good of others, the Lord challenges us to a new way of life that puts others before ourselves.
We must use this opportunity to call on all those who are causing mayhem in our country, in the North East of our country and in the middle belt to please have a change of heart. The mindless killing that we experienced recently in Nyanya, the killing and abduction of our children must stop for the sake of all that is good. Our security Agencies should not relent in their efforts to deal with this menace that is threatening the existence of nation. Indeed we expect them to do even more and the authorities to ensure that they provide for their welfare and their security. Our security men need to be paid well, provided with good accommodation and be given life insurance that would motivate them to work conscientiously.
We must begin to let the fear of God drive all our actions and desires and plans. That is the only way we can hope to not only live well in this world but also gain eternal life. It is only if we fear God that the death and resurrection of Christ would be meaningful and useful for our salvation. Let us abandon the way of sin and unrighteousness in order that the merits of the death of Christ might be applicable to us. May the death and resurrection of bring eternal life to all who believe and worship him in spirit and truth.
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