Good Friday: John 3:16

I have a dear friend, Jedidiah, whose name means Beloved of God, who sits a vigil to keep awake and pray during the time that Jesus was in the tomb. She waits with great sorrow for all that we caused him to suffer on the cross, and she sits with wonderful anticipation for all that we will continue to receive through his resurrection.
Under what we used to call normal circumstances, many of us would be busy on Good Friday organizing egg hunts and Easter baskets, cooking for celebrations with our families, and looking forward to wearing colorful Spring outfits to church services where we are likely to see friends who haven’t been in attendance for a while, but made a special effort to come and worship at Easter time.
But this year, everything is different.
God has allowed us to be taken out of the hustle and bustle of holiday planning and is giving us the opportunity to look at the world and each other from a new perspective. This Good Friday, we are all keeping vigil.
On the very first Passover, God commanded all the people of Israel to remain in their homes, while the final plague that he intended to send into Egypt passed over them:
Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb.  Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning.”
At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations. (Exodus 12:21-22, 41-42 ESV).
While they were waiting, God had a plan, and he was working.

While Christ was in the tomb, his closest disciples had gathered in the same Upper Room where, just two evenings before, they had celebrated the Passover Supper with Jesus. On that Good Friday between the Last Supper and the Sabbath, their world had fallen apart. They were together, but they were agonized, confused, and terrified. They did not realize that the Blood of the Lamb of God had been poured out for them, so that they never had to be afraid again.
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?... in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31, 37-39).
While they were waiting, God had a plan, and he was working.

Forty days later, the Risen Christ gave his disciples specific instructions:
He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. (Acts 1:3-5, 8-9)
While they were waiting, God had a plan, and he was working.
After ten days had passed, 120 of Jesus’ disciples were watching and praying in the Upper Room when something unimaginable happened:
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4).
While they were waiting, God had a plan, and he was working.

That same morning, Peter – filled with the Holy Spirit - stood outside the Upper Room in Jerusalem and preached the Church’s first sermon:
And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’… So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 1:38-39, 41).
While they were waiting, God had a plan, and he was working.
Beloved Friends, during this time of waiting, God has a plan, and he is working.
This is his plan: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
And this is how he is working: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).
Everything that we see happening in the world is for the furtherance of his plan.

While we are in this time of waiting, God is preparing us to serve as a part of his plan. This is our Upper Room experience, and God’s plan is always working behind the scenes.
Shortly after Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, Luke witnesses in Acts 2:46-47 that, “… day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” The time of waiting will not last forever. God intends for his people to serve as joyful witnesses to his grace and goodness, and we cannot do that if we are always in the Upper Room.
But while we have this precious time to be set apart, let us come together in the Spirit and seek the Lord and pray that God will prepare us to meet whatever challenges lie ahead with joy and strength, in Jesus’ name.

“…but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
Like my friend, Jedidiah, we are all Beloved of God. And like her, let’s all sit vigil, watching and praying, in anticipation of the unimaginable miracles God has planned for us as we celebrate his resurrection, alone but most definitely together in Christ Jesus.
“None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’” (1 Corinthians 2:8-9).

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.

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