Friday, April 2, 2010

What's So Good about Good Friday?

This was not simply disappointment. It was gut-wrenching tragedy. What could be "good" about it? Their hopes, like precious china, lay shattered. Their dreams were nailed with Him to a splintered wooden cross. Glancing over their shoulders in fear at each step, the disciples wondered who among them would be next. For those who loved Him, darkness smothered Friday like a damp woolen blanket. But what was that Friday like for Christ?

It began with flogging. Roman soldiers fashioned a leather whip, studded with small rocks and bone. Every blow against Christ's back ripped open new strips of skin. His muscles and tendons quickly turned into a mass of quivering, bleeding flesh. Most prisoners died of shock and blood loss long before being nailed to the cross.

After the beating, Jesus dragged his cross to the execution site where soldiers laid it the ground and threw Him down onto it. The seven-inch spikes hammered through His wrists and feet tore through exquisitely sensitive nerves. Electrifying pain exploded up and down His arms and legs.

Breathing became an all-consuming struggle while He hung between heaven and earth. Gravity restricted His respiratory muscles, forcing Him to push against his feet and flex His arms just to breathe. But any movement only intensified the pressure on His ravaged nerves, causing them to scream in agony. Adding to His torment, each attempt to breathe forced His back against the splintered wood, reopening the raw wounds. Every breath, every movement, every moment on the cross only inflamed His anguish.

For Jesus, for the disciples, for anyone standing at the foot of the cross, Good Friday seemed anything but good.

Then what was so good about that Friday nearly 2000 years ago?

Friday proved God's faithfulness. As early as Genesis 3:15, the Lord promised the human family a redeemer, someone to set us free from the Serpent's grasp, someone to take "captivity captive" to Himself. On that Friday, Satan bruised God's "heel." But more to the point, through Christ, God crushed Satan's head. The Serpent forever lost the right to enslave anyone in his devilish grasp. His power is nullified by the blood of Christ (Revelation 12:11).

That Friday tore through sin's impenetrable barrier between us and God. As Isaiah wrote, "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God and your sins have hid His face from you, so that He does not hear" (59:2). But on that Friday, God shattered the barrier. He rescued the prisoners. Laying our sins upon Christ's shoulders (Isaiah 53:5,6), the Father threw open the gates of reconciliation between us and Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).

That Friday proved God's love for us. It is easy to read quickly over John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son . . ." and not sense the searing emotions the Father suffered as He watched His Son agonize on Calvary. But as we ponder the Roman scourging, the spikes in His limbs, the flesh wounds -- perhaps we can better understand the personal nature of that verse -- "God so loved me . . that He gave."

That Friday imparted Christ's righteousness to us. The harlot, the thief, the murderer, the adulterer . . . think of it! There is no sin which cannot be cleansed by Christ's blood through repentance. There is no sinner who cannot be made as righteous before God's eyes as Jesus Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Finally -- if there can be a final point about Good Friday, when Peter and the apostles proclaimed to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem that it was their sins which nailed Christ to the cross, "they were pieced to the heart." In unison the crowd cried aloud, 'Brethren, what shall we do?" Peter responded, "Repent," and 3000 people turned back to God (Acts 2:22-41). If nothing else, that Friday challenges us to repentance.

Standing at the foot of Christ's cross, nothing about Friday looked good. But no one knew Resurrection Sunday was coming . . . and with it, God's redemptive plan which He conceived before the foundation of planet earth.

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