Good Friday

christ on the cross

We all suffer.  In some way, whether with a chronic physical condition, emotional or moral distress, mental illness, or spiritual oppression, everyone must face living in a fallen world with its pain and heartache.  Suffering which seems to have no reason, the senseless kind and the type where nothing good appears to be going on at all can be very troubling to our souls.

At first glance, “Good Friday” might seem a bit oxymoronic for a day observing the torture and death of an innocent man.  Yet, it is very good in the sense that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ meant the redemption of the world.  On this day Christians remember and commemorate the events that led up to the cross; unpack those events and interpret them with profound meaning and significance; and, worship Jesus with heartfelt gratitude in light of this redemptive event.

The bulk of the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are given over to the final week of Christ’s life, especially leading to the cross.  Good Friday worship services often take a somber form due to the brevity of Christ’s experience on the cross.  Christians remember the last words of Christ, and recognize the significant impact his death had on the immediate persons around him.  Believers also contemplate the lasting results of that singular death as an atoning sacrifice; perfect love; reconciliation between God and humanity; victory over evil; and, redeeming all creation.

Sadness, then, is far from the only emotive expression on this day.  It is appropriate to feel wonder, gratitude, and deep satisfaction for the accomplishment of deliverance from the power of sin.  There is the recognition that something profound and meaningful has truly happened in the egregious suffering of Jesus.  Thus, we not only remember the anguish of Christ, but what that horrible torment accomplished.  In fact, the cross of Jesus is so significant that an eternity of considering its impact could not plumb the depths of its far-reaching effects.

With all that has been said, one would think that Good Friday is a hugely observed day on the Christian Calendar.  Yet, it is not.  The bottom line is that the cross is not popular.  Perhaps that is because no one likes suffering and cares not to think about it.  Not only do unchurched folk care not to think about it, but church attenders would like to be mindful about other things than the cross.

Episcopal priest Fleming Rutledge has adroitly put her finger on the problem: “Religious people want visionary experiences and spiritual uplift; secular people want proofs, arguments, demonstrations, philosophy, and science.  The striking fact is that neither one of these groups wants to hear about the cross.”  Indeed, as the Apostle Paul has said, the cross of Christ is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

Our contemporary religious milieu celebrates and promotes self-styled spirituality; it is the “in” thing to eschew church and develop a personalized religion that fits the demands of the modern (or postmodern) world.  The cross, however, is “out;” too much blood and sacrifice, and not enough of what I’m looking for in life.  Perhaps we should think long and hard on Hebrews 13:12-13 –

“Jesus suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.  Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp, and bear the abuse he endured.”

The extent of Good Friday goes far beyond just a day on the calendar; it is the fulcrum upon which all of Christianity hinges.  Because Christ suffered, our suffering has meaning.  So, today, let us contemplate the cross, observe the salvation accomplished through Christ’s death, and offer prayers and petitions for those who need deliverance from the power of evil.  In short, let us worship God in Jesus Christ because of the suffering on the cross.  Amen.

Good Friday

 
 
            At first glance, “Good Friday” might seem a bit oxymoronic for a day observing the torture and death of an innocent man.  Yet, it is very good in the sense that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ meant the redemption of the world.  On this day Christians remember and commemorate the events that led up to the cross; unpack those events and interpret them with profound meaning and significance; and, worship Jesus with heartfelt gratitude in light of this redemptive event.
 
            The bulk of the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are given over to the final week of Christ’s life, especially leading to the cross.  Good Friday worship services often take a somber form due to the brevity of Christ’s experience on the cross.  Christians remember the last words of Christ, and recognize the significant impact his death had on the immediate persons around him.  Believers also contemplate the lasting results of that singular death as an atoning sacrifice; perfect love; reconciliation between God and humanity; victory over evil; and, redeeming all creation.
 
            Sadness, then, is far from the only emotive expression on this day.  It is appropriate to feel wonder, gratitude, and deep satisfaction for the accomplishment of deliverance from the power of sin.  Thus, we not only remember the suffering of Christ, but what that horrible suffering accomplished.  In fact, the cross of Jesus is so significant that an eternity of considering its impact could not plumb the depths of its far-reaching effects.
 
            With all that has been said, one would think that Good Friday is a hugely observed day on the Christian Calendar.  Yet, it is not.  The bottom line is that the cross is not popular.  Not only do unchurched folk care not to think about it, but church attenders would like to be mindful about other things than the cross.  Episcopal priest Fleming Rutledge has adroitly put her finger on the problem:  “Religious people want visionary experiences and spiritual uplift; secular people want proofs, arguments, demonstrations, philosophy, and science.  The striking fact is that neither one of these groups wants to hear about the cross.”  Indeed, as the Apostle Paul has said, the cross of Christ is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23).
 
            Our contemporary religious milieu celebrates and promotes self-styled spirituality; it is the “in” thing to eschew church and develop a personalized religion that fits the demands of the modern (or postmodern) world.  The cross, however, is “out;” too much blood and sacrifice, and not enough of what I’m looking for in life.  Perhaps we should think long and hard on Hebrews 13:12-13 – “Jesus suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.  Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp, and bear the abuse he endured.”
 

 

            The extent of Good Friday goes far beyond just a day on the calendar; it is the fulcrum upon which all of Christianity hinges.  So, today, let us contemplate the cross, observe the salvation accomplished through Christ’s death, and offer prayers and petitions for those who need deliverance from the power of evil.  In short, let us worship God in Jesus Christ because of the cross.  Amen.

Isaiah 52:13-52:12


             “He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye, no beauty to draw us to him.”  As I was reflecting on this phrase this morning and contemplating the life and death of Jesus on this most holy of days, Good Friday, I began to think about Abraham Lincoln, of all people.  You see, in his ascendancy to the presidency and in his time in office Lincoln was routinely caricatured in political cartoons as an ape or baboon.  Memoirs of people who had seen the president often commented on how extremely normal and homely he appeared.  In fact, Lincoln was quite gangly; he was tall with very long arms and legs.  Indeed, he did look something like an oddity.  Yet, when Lincoln spoke, people listened and were amazed at his intelligence, ability to connect with people, and his grasp of political philosophy.
             Sometimes I wonder if our Lord was actually physically here on earth today if most people would even remotely recognize him.  Perhaps Jesus would be ridiculed and despised, just like he was all those centuries ago.  I think it is safe to say that he would not make it to the cover of GQ, or make commercials selling underwear.  Instead, Jesus came as a humble servant.  He suffered throughout his life, endured a horrible death by torture, and secured for us deliverance from the power of sin.  God has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
             Most people have forgotten that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on Good Friday in 1865.  Just as the press did not miss a beat to castigate Lincoln while he was alive, they quickly recognized the parallels between him and Christ in their respective deaths.  But while Lincoln was clearly identified with the American people in their baptism of blood with the Civil War, his was not a salvific death.  Only Jesus, in his singular suffering, died as a substitute for us.  Perhaps Jesus had no outward beauty, but his inward beauty has not only drawn me to him, but saved me from an empty life of sin.  Praise be to God!
             Lord Jesus, you were the suffering servant who has pioneered salvation for me.  Thank you for your sacrifice, and I give eternal praise and gratitude for your willingness to endure the cross.  My heart and life is yours; use it as you see fit.  Amen.

Good Friday


            What makes Good Friday good?  For Christians all across the world, this day reminds us that the grace of God in Christ makes Good Friday good.  The good news is that when Jesus died on the cross, it was neither simply a terrible act of violence nor just another crucifixion by the Romans; it was a courageous rescue operation that broke our bonds and set us free from the tyranny of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  
            What has God liberated you from?  Do you have and enjoy freedom in Jesus Christ, or are you still in bondage and need to be freed?  One of the harshest masters in our culture is the enslaving master of shame.  It locks us in an inner prison of the soul and makes sure that we do not tell our secrets.  Shame’s slaves are legion:  a well-respected mother secretly struggles with alcoholism, afraid to divulge what really keeps her going throughout her day; a much-loved man keeps looking at pornography, with no one suspecting his dark insatiable lust; a woman cannot bring herself to share with anyone that years ago she had an abortion, and barely a day goes by without the guilt raging within her; a family is too ashamed to ask for help, and are wondering how they will pay the bills this month; a couple suffers in agonizing silence, lonely and too scared to speak to anyone in the church for fear that they will be labeled as weak and unspiritual.  And on and on the examples can go.  
            All these people live in the icy grip of shame, which is why they keep up appearances on the outside, but on the inside are hurting and dying a thousand deaths.  A load of guilt has kept them hostage.  They are ashamed because they feel they have not lived-up to others’ expectations of them.  And that sense of not measuring-up has enslaved them.  
            But here is what makes Good Friday good.  This good news, the greatest story of all, of Christ’s crucifixion tells us that Jesus not only bore our guilt, he bore our shame.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3).  Because Jesus did not allow himself to be bound by any shame, he freely took our place.  He took on the shame that should have been ours – the cruelty, the rejection, the mockery, and the sheer humiliation of shame – he took it all for us.  And since Jesus became shame for us, there is no need for us to be ashamed of anything anymore.  Our addictions, our failures, and our sinful secrets were crucified on the cross with Jesus.  By faith in this substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf we experience real and genuine freedom.
            We are all to come to the foot of the cross and find forgiveness, love, and healing in Jesus’ name.  Christian author Richard Foster has said:  “By living under the cross we can hear the worst possible things about the best possible people without so much as batting an eye.  If we live in that reality, we will convey that spirit to others.  They know it is safe to come to us.”  Good Friday is good because it frees us from our pride and self-centeredness and allows the new community of Jesus-lovers to help others break their bondage to shame and guilt.
            Grace is neither just a word, nor simply a nice idea – it is a powerful spiritual reality to be lived and experienced.  Today is the day of salvation.  Today is the day of forgiveness.  Today is the day to let go of our crushing burdens and tell our secrets in Jesus’ name.  Today is the day to rid ourselves of bitterness and the petty nursing of grudges against others.  Today is the day to repair that damaged relationship and apologize for being such an obnoxious and stubborn sinner.  Today is the day of salvation.  Jesus is waiting for you with outstretched arms.  See the wounds on his hands and his feet – wounds that heal and bring new life.