A plaque in the Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born to die.
When I was growing up, I did not understand why it was called “Good” Friday. What I knew of the day were the images, in pictures and words, of Jesus suffering and dying on the cross, and all those songs about the blood. So much blood! How is that good?, I wondered. Jesus, who taught so many wonderful things, who did so many miracles, who showed love to so many people, killed on an old rugged cross. To me, it sounded more like “Bad” Friday.
Now, many years later, I understand why it is called “Good” Friday. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus was not a “victim”. In John 10:18 He says, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” He came to die.
But why? That is the sense that it is “Bad” Friday. Jesus , the only sinless One who has or ever will live, executed by sinful men. All the earthly events surrounding His crucifixion show how bad people really are. None of this nonsense that people are basically good. Romans 3:10b-18, quoting the Old Testament, makes this crystal clear: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips.” And it goes on several more verses to paint an even worse picture of our hearts.
During the crucifixion it says that darkness covered the land. Such perfect symbolism for the state of this world. As the apostle Paul told Agrippa what God commanded him to do: “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” It took God becoming flesh and dwelling among us in the person of Jesus to provide a way to bridge the unbridgeable gap between our sinfulness and God’s holiness. And to break the incredible grip of deception that Satan has over so many.
As a result, we could call this Bad Friday since it reveals how far our sinful hearts are from God, how impossible it is for us to come anyways near God. That our “kind”, with complete and willful premeditation, condemned and killed the only perfect Being to ever walk this earth.
In fact, it is so bad that God, in the perfect balance of His love and justice, found it necessary that the only way to provide a path to Him was the sacrifice of His only Son. Despite the gut-wrenching pain it was for God to allow people to demean him, mock him, beat him and spill that precious blood of Jesus, Paul explains to us that He did this out of love for us, in Romans 8:31b-32: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
It was and still is all about love. On Passover, back in Egypt, the Israeli people put the blood of a lamb on their wooden doorposts so the death angel would pass over them, save them, and provide a way out of their bondage and towards life. In the same way, the blood of the perfect Lamb of God was sacrificed on the wooden posts of the cross, and when God saw it, He now had a just legal reason to provide forgiveness to all who come to Him via Jesus and welcome them into His holy presence to live eternally with Him forever. Love in its most perfect expression.
So while there is a lot of “bad” about this particular Friday, there is also a lot of good, for God makes a way where there was no way, a way of love, for us to find forgiveness and restore our relation with Him.
No one is forcing us to follow him, but as it says in John 3:17-18: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” We are not condemned because we refuse to believe. We are already condemned because of our sin, and what Jesus did provides a ways out from under that condemnation, to not only eternal life, but to a life here on earth where we can be assured that God will never leave us nor forsake us, where we can have a peace that passes all understanding, joy in the midst of suffering, hope of eternal life, comfort no matter what is happening around us, and so much more. Out of love, God provided a way back to Him through Jesus. The only question that remains is whether we will take it or turn our backs on it and ignore it. We can make it for ourselves a “Good” Friday or a “bad” one.