Sermon: Why is this Friday “Good”?

Text John 18:1-19:42
Good Friday
Listen to the sermon here.

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? What was different in the world by the evening of the first Good Friday? What happened that makes this day so unique, 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

A hint at why this is a good Friday comes 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 fulfil 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 atonement 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!

Jesus declared, “It is finished,” he meant far more than merely that his earthly life was ending. This was not a cry of resignation. “It is finished” is what you would write on a bill after being paid. The bill is dealt with – it’s finished. The price has been paid. He has completed 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). Christ has accomplished the final task. Jesus’ work is now complete because he had succeeded in living a sinless life. He had succeeded in his mission to redeem the world by 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 for us and 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. People from all ages have placed their hope on this finished, perfect work.

We call this particular Friday good because it took that bloody death upon the cross to atone for sin. God could not wink it away. God could not ignore sin. The Creator is holy and just – and sin earns us nothing but death and judgment. It was your sins which put him upon the cross. 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. Jesus doesn’t offer his life because of obligation or duty. He goes to the cross simply because of his great love for you. In that solitary act of unsurpassed love, the Son of God bore the griefs and sorrows of our fallen humanity. In the darkness between noon and three, your sin was dealt with. It was the suffering and death of Jesus that made amends for you. One moment in history for all time. One Man for all men. Justice cries out for your eternal incarceration in Hell. God took the record of our rebellion, the sworn affidavit of our treason, and folded it up, put it in the hand of Jesus, and drove a nail through it. Through his hand and into the cross. Our record of debt, God, set aside, nailing it to the cross of Jesus.

This Day is Good Because it was All for You

What does this mean for you? It means your debts are paid, and the capital sentence for treason is executed. The law demands are satisfied because sin has been condemned in the flesh. Christ has been smitten by God., pierced for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities/ On him, the Lord has laid the iniquity of us all and then drove it through his hands with nails into the cross. 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 ransomed you from sin, death, and the Devil. He has died for you, on your behalf. Your sins were the burden he was glad to bear. He carried you. Jesus took care of all your griefs, sorrows, and all that death has done to you or will do to you. Those things that others have done to you and all you have done to yourself, Jesus dealt with it all.

“With his stripes,” said Isaiah, “we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). His wounds are 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 repentant can find pardon. Because of Good Friday, the guilty can be acquitted. Because of Good Friday, the sick will be healed, and the weak will find strength. In the wounds 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 scourged 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 the insults you’ve borne. His wounded hands are the healing of your work, and his wounded feet heal your walk. His wounded side, the recovery 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. Despite being completely innocent, he was sentenced to death for blasphemy and treason against Rome. Jesus was mocked, beaten, scourged and crucified. After He drank sour wine, the bitter cup of our grief and woe, He shouted the last cry, a cry of victory amid death, and 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.

You have lived so wickedly, and eternal punishment is what you have earned. Repent of this. Amend your life while there is time. The Lord Jesus Christ died for you. Thank Him for His passion and death? You cannot be saved except by His death. So, while life remains in you, place your whole trust in His death alone and nothing else. Entrust yourself entirely to His death. Cover yourself with this alone. And if the Lord your God wishes to condemn you, say, “Lord, between Your judgment and me, I present the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot argue with you in any other way.” And if He says that you are a sinner, you say, “Lord, I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my sins and You.” If He says that you have deserved condemnation, say, “Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between what I deserve and You; and His merits I offer for those I ought to have, but have not.” If He says that He is angry with you, say, “Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between Your wrath and me.” And when you have finished this, say again, “Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between You and me.” Repent of your sins because this is the day when our Lord died to save you. We call it “Good Friday” for 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 surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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