What is so good about Good Friday? That is the question many of us probably ask when Good Friday comes around every year. After all, what is good about a day that commemorates Jesus’ horrible torture and execution on a Roman cross?
Good Friday is a dark day in some respects because it commemorates the day that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, but it is also a bright day in other ways because Jesus’ death and resurrection on Easter Sunday paved the way for our relationship with God to be restored. This is the good news that Jesus has asked us to spread, but in order to understand the good news, we have to understand the bad news that is called our sinful, human nature. Once we see that we are slaves to sin, the good news of deliverance makes sense.
The book of Hebrews tells us to live by faith in God alone. The father of our faith is Abraham. His faith in God made him “right” before God. As a result of this righteousness, God protected his family as they grew into a nation, the Israelites. Moses was their first official leader and he established their worship, culture and laws. God spoke to Moses as he wrote down God’s ways for the people, including the Ten Commandments.
These rules were given to teach the Israelites how to live. They were enforced to protect the Israelites from walking away from God and to protect them from destroying themselves and each other. These rules were not designed to replace faith, but by the time Jesus came these rules were more important than faith, mercy and kindness. The rules were more important than the people. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law. He came to fulfill it so that we, like Abraham, could be righteous through faith in God.
The good news of salvation is the cornerstone of the joy of Easter. In order to appreciate the joy of Easter, we have to appreciate what Jesus endured on Good Friday. Sin had to be punished because God is a just god who demands justice and hates sin. Because he hates sin, and because he wants to restore a loving relationship with us, someone had to pay the price for our sins.
In Old Testament times, sins were paid for by sacrificing animals. These animals had to be perfect in the eyes of the priests, which led to the marketplace in the temple where animals who were deemed to be perfect for sacrifices were available for sale. That was the same marketplace where Jesus upset the tables and drove out the moneychangers. When he laid his hands on the animal, the priest symbolically transferred sins to the animal, and the animal’s death symbolically cleansed the people from their sins.
Unfortunately, there was a problem. These sacrifices had to be repeated every time someone sinned, and because the priests were human, they also had a sinful nature. God wanted one ultimate sacrifice in order to complete his plan for our restoration to him. The only perfect sacrifice that would fulfill his plan was Jesus Christ, who was the perfect sacrifice because of his sinless nature.
We can’t underestimate the importance of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Before his death, we were separated from God. No one could approach God in the Holy of Holies portion of the Temple except for the high priest, and even then he could only enter it once a year on the Day of Atonement. Jesus’ death destroyed the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple and provided a way for us to be reconciled to him. Jesus removed the barriers for anyone who wanted to know and worship God. We can serve the Lord and abide in his presence.
When we accept what Christ did for us on Good Friday, we can get out of the black hole of our sinful, earthly life. That can be a struggle that we can’t fight on our own. The Holy Spirit will help us, but other Christians are also ready to fight alongside us. The writer of Hebrews even states in Hebrews 10:24-25 that we must “not neglect our meeting together, as some do, but encourage one another, especially now that Christ’s return is drawing near”. Around Jesus were a close-knit group, but those who believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour were quickly shunned by non-believers. The writer of Hebrews encouraged the early believers by reminding them that God will never abandon them. We as believers today can also be confident in our hope because God will never abandon us.
It is important for believers to gather together on a regular basis to worship God. We were not designed to “go it alone”. Belonging to a church not only protects our fellowship with God, but it is a vital part of how God matures us and transforms us to his image. Part of that transformation includes believing in Jesus in faith, especially in what he did for us on Good Friday.
There is strength in numbers. Getting together with other Christians strengthens our faith and provokes us to do more for God. All of us can encourage someone, whether it is a family member, friend, co-worker, casual acquaintance or a stranger. We can encourage others to keep going in times of difficulty. By worshipping with other Christians, we can celebrate the Eucharist and remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us. We can’t keep our faith strong unless we have encouragement from fellow Christians, just like Jesus encouraged his disciples and the early followers. True believers will not look the other way when we sin, just like God can’t and doesn’t ignore sin. Because of what Jesus did for us, we can have eternal life. We have direct access to God, unlike the Israelites in the Old Testament. Jesus’ sacrifice means that we do not have to feel guilty about sinning against God, provided that we confess our sins and ask God to forgive us.
Belonging to a good church is so beneficial for both individuals and families that it is well worth finding a church where leaders and members not only love God and believe and teach his Word, but also where they are loving, accepting and non-judgmental; where they present grace with truth; and where they are committed to ministering to each other’s needs. That’s why God designed the church, and that’s why people such as Pope Francis are trying to bring the church back to its roots just like Jesus brought the church back to its roots by his sacrifice on the cross. That, my friends, is one reason why Good Friday is good for us.
The Christian life is based on God’s promises. These promises fall into two categories:
- Unconditional: These are promises made without exceptions. A good example is the promise God made to Abraham to bless all the families on earth through him. Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, fulfills this promise because salvation is made available to all believers because of what he did on Good Friday.
- Conditional: These are promises that are subject to certain conditions. A good example is the promise that Jesus made to the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come to them if they waited in Jerusalem. We as humans can only make this type of promise because we can’t control every circumstance.
The truth of the cross is that God remembered every single sin that every believer has committed or will commit (no matter how small) and punished Jesus for each and every one of them as our substitute. Jesus’ righteousness is imparted to us so that we stand before God completely spotless. God forgets our sins because Jesus took them upon himself for us. The penalty has been paid, and so our sin debt has been forgiven.
God promises in Hebrews 10:17-18 that he will forget our sins if we confess them and believe in him in faith. The key words are “in faith”. There are people who make what sounds like great confessions of faith, but in reality they have no faith at all. Real confessions come from the heart when believers get God’s Word so deep in their hearts their lives are aligned with God’s plan for their lives. For example, believing in the forgiveness of sins calls on us to live our lives in a particular way. When we live with God’s forgiveness in our hearts, we are positive and hopeful. The hope of forgiveness comes from the pain of Good Friday.
I want to close my message with a story about a little boy who was visiting his grandparents. He was given a slingshot to play with out in the woods. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit the target. And getting a little discouraged; he headed back to dinner.
As he was walking back, he saw Grandma’s pet duck. Just out of impulse, he let fly, hit the duck square in the head and killed it. He was shocked and grieved. In a panic, he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.
After lunch that day, Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today, didn’t you, Johnny?” And then she whispered to him, “Remember, the duck?” Johnny did the dishes.
Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing, and Grandma said, “I’m sorry, but I need Sally to help make supper.” But Sally smiled and said, “Well, that’s all right because Johnny told me he wanted to help.” And she whispered again, “Remember, the duck?” Sally went fishing, and Johnny stayed.
After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s, he finally couldn’t stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he killed the duck. She knelt down, gave him a hug and said, “Sweetheart, I know. You see, I was standing at the window, and I saw the whole thing. But because I love you, I forgave you. But I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.”
Jesus Christ is like the Grandma, standing at the window. He sees all our sins, but because he had made the ultimate sacrifice with his blood, we can have forgiveness. Christ is the sin eater who has taken care of all our sins, and that is another reason why Good Friday is good for us.
- Stanley, C.F., The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASB (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2009)
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