29 Mar 2013 Why Good Friday?
Why do we Christians call today Good Friday? On this day the “Light of the World” was extinguished. Jesus Christ hung on a cross for six torturous hours and died at the ninth hour or about 3:00. His followers hid themselves in fear of instant death at the hands of crowds that had been whipped up against them by the rulers of the day.
We are now in the fifth day of the Jewish week-long celebration of Passover. The first of three pilgrimage festivals, Passover commemorates Israel’s liberation over 3,300 years ago by God as they were led by Moses from slavery in ancient Egypt. In Exodus 12:3 the Lord says to Moses,
“each man is to take a lamb[a] for his family, one for each household. . . . Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. . . . Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. . . .On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”
Some 1500 years later in the desert outside of Jerusalem, a man resembling the great prophet Elijah to some, John the Baptist, saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
John Yates observes that Jesus, perfect and sinless, was crucified between two criminals who fully represent the whole of humanity. On one side was a mocking, guilty, and unrepentant. Luke’s account (23:39) tells us “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’”
On Jesus’ other side was another guilty, yet believing man. Upon hearing the words of his fellow criminal he rebuked him and said “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus, fully God and fully man submitted himself to the cross because He and our Father loved us beyond our comprehension and absolutely beyond our deserving. In order to pay for our sins, to redeem us back to God, Jesus and our Father paid the ultimate price – the death of God’s only Son on a cross. Luke 15:34, “At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
Jesus repeated the first words of David’s Psalm 22. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? The Psalm is a chillingly accurate description of Jesus’ crucifixion, a method of death that would not be conceived of for hundreds of years.
16Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
Jesus knew the moment his Father abandoned Him. As John Gibson observes, God in His perfect Holiness so hates sin that all he could do at the moment His Son bore the full weight of humanity’s sin was to turn away. Gibson further points out that the moment of separation between Jesus and His father was a judicial one – necessary for man’s salvation, but was absolutely not a relational one. He remained his eternal beloved son.
“Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28.
Jesus, perfect and blameless became sin for all of us. He drank the full cup of God’s wrath against humanity and made a full payment for our salvation. Psalm 22 ends with David’s claim that God will draw all nations to himself. He has done it – PAID IN FULL.
When Jesus was dead, rather than break his legs as was typically done at the end of crucifixion to ensure death, and as was foretold in scripture, no bones of Jesus were broken. Instead, a Roman guard drove a spear into Christ’s side to ensure he was dead. When he did, water poured from his heart. He had shed every last drop of his blood in sacrifice for the sins of mankind past, present and future.
As Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Christ’s blood as the paschal lamb covers our sin from God’s wrath as the lamb’s blood did for his people 3,300 years ago in Egypt. As the blood protected the first born of the Jews in Egypt, God, in his infinite love for us allowed his first and only son to die, to pay the debt that we owe and cannot pay ourselves, to sacrifice himself to wash away the sins of the entire world.
The ‘Good’ of Good Friday is that out of perfect and complete love for us, our God through His son Jesus Christ took took our place, died the death that was ours through sin, so that those who believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
Happy Easter – He is Risen!