Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today is the Friday which we call “good.” Good Friday. An odd name, don’t you think, for the anniversary of the torture and execution of one man some 2000 years ago? By the evening of the first Good Friday, what was different in the world? What happened that makes this day so special, so good? The writers of the New Testament seem to think that something was drastically different after that one fateful afternoon. What makes this Friday Good, and how is that good for us?
This Day is Good Because Atonement has Been Made
We get a hint at why this is a good Friday as John continues to remind us that these events are the fulfilment of the Scriptures. Everything Jesus has ever done, right up to his crucifixion, has led to this goal. Jesus’ passion and death are the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies (2:19–22; 13:18; 19:24, 28, 36–37) . Jesus is the King to whom the prophets pointed. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world was to give new life to fallen man, to repair humanity’s ruined relationship with God, and to establish a new humanity, all by making restitution for sin on the cross. Jesus came to make the Devil powerless through his death. He completed all the intended functions of the Messiah successfully!
When Jesus declared, “It is finished,” he meant far more than merely that his earthly life was about to end. This was not a cry of resignation. “It is finished,” is what you would write on a bill after it had been paid. The bill is dealt with. It’s finished. The price has been paid. He has finished the work that the Father had given him to do (17:4). He has loved ‘to the very end’ his own who were in the world (13:1). He has accomplished the full and final task. Jesus’ work is now complete. He had succeeded in living a sinless life. He had succeeded in his task of redeeming the world. He had succeeded in conquering sin, death, and hell. The victory was complete. The Lamb of God has made his sacrifice. The ransom price for sin has been paid. This is for us and for all mankind. All the efforts of people to add anything to this perfect work of Christ are null and void. The sacrifice for sin is complete. It is upon this finished, complete work that people from all ages have placed their hope.
This is why we call this particular Friday good: It took that bloody death upon the cross for sin to be atoned for. God could not wink it away. God could not ignore sin. For he is holy and just – and sin pays out nothing but death and judgment. But God is also merciful and does not desire the death of sinners. So God in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, lays down his Life of priceless worth of his own accord. He does this not out of a sense of obligation or duty, but simply because of his great love for you. In that one, solitary act of unsurpassed love, in the darkness between noon and three, the griefs and sorrows of our fallen humanity were borne by the Son of God, our sin was answered for, the just demands of the Law were paid, and we were reconciled to the Father. One moment in history for all time. One Man for all men. Jesus bears the burden of sin for us, he nails it to his cross, and he took our sins to the grave, and left them there.
This Day is Good Because it was All For You
What does this mean for you? It means that it is for you! It means that he “suffered, died and was buried, that he might make satisfaction for [you] and pay what [you] owe, not with silver nor gold, but with his own precious blood” (LC, Creed, II.31). He rescued you. He bought you. He has died for you, on your behalf. Your sins were the burden he was glad to bear. He carried you. Jesus has dealt with all your griefs, your sorrows, all that death has done to you or will do to you, all that others have done to you, all that you have done to yourself, Jesus dealt with them in His own body on the cross.
“With his stripes,” said Isaiah, “we are healed,” (Isaiah 53:5). They are a medicine that’s not like any other, a “medicine of immortality.” Medicine is only ever a temporary measure. It can delay death for a time, but it cannot cure it forever. Death’s wound can only be healed by a physician who has the cure for death, and that is Jesus Christ! Jesus healed many people while he was on earth. Those healings had their source in His bloody wounds. Because of Good Friday the penitent find pardon. Because of Good Friday the guilty are acquitted. Because of Good Friday the sick are healed and the weak find strength. In the very wounds that were inflicted upon Jesus on Good Friday, there is the ultimate and final cure to what truly afflicts us. His wounded head is the healing of your mind. His wounded back is the healing of your strength. He received blows so you may be healed of all the blows you have endured at the hands of others. He received insults so you may find healing for all the insults you have received. His wounded hands are the healing of your work. His wounded feet are the healing of your walk. His wounded side the healing of your hearts turned away from God and against one another.
On Good Friday, Jesus was put on trial, and found guilty of crimes he did not commit. He was sentenced to death for blasphemy and treason against Rome, despite being completely innocent. Jesus was mocked, beaten, scourged and crucified. He drank sour wine, the bitter cup of our grief and woe. He shouted a last cry, a cry of victory in the midst death, and He died in the darkness. The events of this particular Friday are the basis of your salvation. God’s own Son laid down his life to atone for your sins. And it is for your eternal good that he did this. Out of the dark, bloody background of this Friday comes brilliant rays of life and hope. In that glorious death, God is reconciled, your debt discharged, and forgiveness offered freely. Repent of your sins because this is the day when our Lord died to save you. We call it “Good Friday” for a a very good reason. Trust that the innocent suffering and death of your Lord Jesus Christ is for your eternal good.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.