Have you ever wondered why the church has, for many centuries, marked the day of Jesus’ death on the cross as Good Friday? What is Good about the condemnation of an innocent man, an impoverished itinerant preacher from Nazareth who is brutally executed via Roman crucifixion? “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) What is Good about the voices of humanity rising in unison to shout “Crucify him, crucify him”? What is Good about the day the Lord of all history tasted the sting of death? What is Good about the day the second person of the trinity, Jesus Christ, cried out “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46)
Friday is Good because “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) It is Good because Jesus paid the price for your sin and my sin — “the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6) — through his death on the cross. It is Good because of what Jesus accomplished through his substitutionary atonement — our justification: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21) It is Good because we have been redeemed from the curse of the law: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us -- for it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” (Gal 3:13) It is Good because Jesus’ work on the cross fulfills John the Baptist’s prophecy: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29) Indeed, Friday is Good because we can confidently proclaim The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, as in John Owen’s classic exposition of the saving power of the cross.
It was through death that Jesus ultimately conquered sin, death and hell. On Good Friday, the 500th since Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, let us drink deeply of the awesome sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us meditate on the depth of God’s love for us as revealed in the substitutionary atonement: Christ died specifically for you and for me, in our place, for our sin. He paid the penalty that we rightfully deserve as the punishment for our wicked rebellion against a perfectly Just and Righteous God who hates sin. In his first Theses, Martin Luther declared: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Let us repent of our sins of commission and omission and find forgiveness in and through Jesus’ death on the cross. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
William Cowper, the English poet who suffered debilitating bouts of depression for much of his life, penned these poignant words after finding forgiveness in the aftermath of a failed suicide attempt. May we remember and treasure the reason Friday is Good in the light of Cowper’s hymn.
There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains…
The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away…
Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more….
E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die…
How are we to respond? Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:24-26: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”
Questions to ponder:
- What do you need to repent from?
- What do you need to put to death in order to follow Jesus more closely?
- What idols of the heart (relationships, money, power, status, comfort, reputation) do you need to crucify?
- What are you trusting in for salvation?
- How do God’s infinite Justice and Mercy come together on the cross?
– Jon Hoddenbagh