WHAT MAKES GOOD FRIDAY GOOD?
For most people Fridays are a celebration of the end of the work week, and the start of not having our bosses tell us what to do. Everybody is working for the weekend, whether that is a chance to party or a chance to mow the lawn. No one in their right mind is looking for a chance to celebrate murder. Except this Friday, which we call Good Friday; a day when we as Christians celebrate the wrongful torture and execution of the only perfect, completely just man, Jesus.
Let’s be really clear here: This isn’t murder by the state or a corrupt system, but by people; individuals. Us. People knowingly tried and sentenced him based on false testimony in a court. Fellow countrymen went up to him and ripped out patches of his beard. A guy ripped skin off of Jesus’ back with a whip embedded with rocks and metal hooks. Individuals held his arms and legs to wooden boards, while another person held a stake in one hand and a mallet in the other, and then drove it into his wrists and ankles. People did this.
Many Christians remember what happened on Good Friday by wearing the 1st century equivalent to an electric chair around their necks. We decorate our homes with symbols of brutal torture of the Roman Empire. Instruments used for evil are tattooed on our bodies. How is this day considered “good”?
Here are three things to contemplate that make this Friday good:
The Bible is explicitly clear that Jesus, while fully man, was also fully God and thus knew no sin (Jn 8:46; Heb 4:15). He perfectly fulfilled the law, living the most compassionate life, a life we should have lived. He was undeservedly betrayed and abandoned by his closest friends, given up and mocked by his countrymen, and then was falsely accused in a sham trial by his religious and political leaders. They did it in secret, by the cover of night, rather than in public during the day (Luke 22ff.). No matter what injustice we face, it will never compare to what the sinless King of Kings, who owns everything, but set aside his rights to be like us and win us, experienced. And when we suffer injustice, we can look to the one who suffered before us and be encouraged our God actually knows what we’re going through and we are not alone in it. But unlike us, Christ deserved none of the punishment he received from God at the hands of those who betrayed him. But, because of Christ, we do not receive God’s punishment, and can endure any betrayal and suffering from man.
Jesus' death was a death we should have had; it should have been us on the cross. Instead, “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21). By taking our penalty, and having his perfect righteousness applied back to us, we are justified forever before God and no longer face that penalty for our sin (Rms 5:1, 9). Justification doesn’t just mean “not guilty,” but rather that we are considered “innocent.” This transfer and application of Christ's righteousness for our sin is called the Great Exchange. This is what it means to be saved, or justified, from our sins.
Additionally, Jesus doesn’t just give us a clean start and then leave it to us to remain innocent, having to earn our righteousness from here on out. We are made into the likeness of Christ through ongoing sanctification with the righteousness he gives us. And we will one day be completely without sin with him in glorification, again still clothed in his righteousness (Rev 19). So past, present, and future we have justification with God because of this Great Exchange with Christ. What’s more, he did this while we were still enemies of God (Rms 5:8), for our sake, because God loves us (Jn 3:16).
In addition to the cross declaring that we are justified in the court of law, it also declares us justified in the court of adoption. Meaning, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection not only rescues us from our due penalty of wrath for our sin, but he brings us back into right relationship with God. Anyone who has had an estranged relationship with a family member knows how painful it is. The author of Hebrews says, “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.” (Heb 2:11). And Paul says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Rms 8:15).
We don’t let that sink in enough. Because of the ugly, bloody, horrible, excruciating death on the cross, Jesus makes it so that we can once again call God our Father. There is no longer a relational gap with him. The one who creates and controls the universe, from distant black holes in far away galaxies to the very cells in our bodies, is our Dad. He is not angry with us, and we are no longer his enemies. He is our dad, and he made a way through the cross to make us his.
The wrongful execution of Jesus was sin. But what man meant for evil, God meant for good. He satisfies his justice by the blood of his own son, giving us Jesus' perfect righteousness, perfect legal standing, and perfect relationship with God. Join us at 7pm this Good Friday and let the depth of the cross sink in as we worship God as his sons and daughters.