I’m writing this blog on Good Friday, the day we remember Christ’s earth-shattering words, “my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” as he identified with humanity’s separation from God. He experienced tremendous sorrow so that we could be reconciled to God.
After over forty years of pastoral service, I taught my first series on Hell and eternal judgment a few months ago. It was the most counter-cultural set of sermons I have ever taught, but interestingly the crowds grew, the church strengthened, and an appreciation for grace, mercy, the cross, and Heaven intensified dramatically. As we wrestled through the Scriptures, our joy in worship increased, prayer meeting attendance improved, and our youth department grew significantly. I was mystified. Then I saw it: darkness had to be contrasted with light, and thus it follows that there had to be a death on the cross for resurrection to take on real meaning.
The value of Adam and Eve walking with God in the Garden of Eden is realized when the snake deceives them into disobeying God and they suffer the consequences. Abel’s love for God, the blessing on his life and the favor he enjoyed is seen in perspective when Cain kills him because, after all, doesn’t the rejected one often want to hurt the accepted one? Elijah performing the miraculous feat of killing 300 prophets of Baal becomes more vivid when we see him running from Jezebel in such fear that he wants to die. And King David’s majesty is measured against his having sex with the wife of one of his faithful officers, and then having that officer killed so David could escape the exposure of his sin.
- It is the constant encroachment of chaos that makes us value order.
- It is the darkness that makes us value light.
- It is Hell that makes Heaven increasingly attractive.
Good Friday is Jesus experiencing you and me. On Good Friday, Jesus fully identified with us. He experienced our darkness, our separation from God, and our endless toil to shield ourselves from the vulnerability the future holds for us. Aging, accidents, disease, and conflict are in our futures. All of us know what it’s like to be fearful, and angry, and resentful, and bitter. We know what pain means. Not only do we experience these feelings in our own lives, we produce them in others. Even though our parents and our culture told us that we were good and everything would be ok, the suffering of Good Friday reminds us that we have a propensity toward corruption, and that we too often are capable of tormenting and corrupting others.
Good Friday is all about God’s sacrifice for us so that we are not swallowed by darkness. Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil, and the resolve he displayed during those 40 days proved his goodness to us. He experienced every temptation that we have experienced, with complete victory. That gives value to the holiness he builds in us. He paid for our power to be clean.
Good Friday proves that regardless of where we are in life, there is hope and a future.
Gethsemane communicated Jesus’ willingness to do it alone, without support, love, understanding, or kindness. At Gethsemane he was not strengthened by his family, friends, or a supporting group. He did it alone, and that gave value to the reality that we who were not a people have become a people, a family, an assembly, a group. As a result of his aloneness, we now belong to each other.
One of our Elders, Col. Sam Barringer, USAF, was walking our congregation through Hebrews 11, the chapter that lists the heroes of our faith. He noted that the Bible makes an obvious and intentional effort to communicate the failings and struggles of its heroes. Then he emphasized that it was those failures that actually qualified those listed to become the heroes of our faith the Bible describes.
Why in the world do we call the Friday that reminds us of sacrifice, murder, depravity, betrayal, and the deception of humanity toward God’s Son “Good Friday?” Maybe it’s because the badness of Friday is required for us to realize the goodness of Sunday morning. I think so. It does take understanding the depth of human depravity to fully grasp the value and significance of Christ’s resurrection and, consequently, our redemption. Good Friday shows us how bad we human beings are without Christ’s righteousness infused into our lives and graciously dominating us. Good Friday is good because Christ demonstrated perfect love for us in his suffering, and in suffering he purchased every possible blessing for us.
We are resurrection people.
- Is there a snake in our garden like the one in Adam and Eve’s garden?
- Will there always be “Cains” in our lives who seem to have it rough, who are rejected and never quite “in,” who quietly allow resentment to grow toward the “Abels” of the world who seem to live easier lives? Do we know “Cains” who want to hurt the “Abels?” Could we be Cain or Abel, depending on the situation?
- Will we, like Elijah, want to run and hide, or maybe even be tempted to kill ourselves in the midst of depression, after a wonderful demonstration of God’s might?
- And might we be tempted to satisfy our most basic sinful desires immediately after perfect worship like David?
The answer to all of these questions is YES. That is why Good Friday is so good.
Jesus saved us on Good Friday, so we could resurrect with him on Sunday morning.
And Sunday is coming.