As 21st century believers, it’s easy to look back on the day our Lord Jesus went to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and call it “Good Friday.” Our Lord Jesus willingly suffered and died in our place so that we might have eternal life by trusting in Him as our redeeming Savior. But that day was anything but “good” for the friends, followers and disciples of Jesus who witnessed the horrific events that took place. At least . . . that’s how it looked at the time.
Jesus was sentenced to die by crucifixion, the most agonizing method of death known at that point in history. Prior to that, Jesus was beaten and brutally scourged, and the Roman soldiers added to His suffering by jamming a crown of thorns into His head before He was nailed to the cross. It had been prophesied that the physical abuse Jesus suffered would be so terrible that “his appearance [would be] disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14). By the time Jesus was lifted up on the cross, naked and beaten beyond recognition, the faithful few who stood by, watching and weeping, would have been utterly appalled. The One they had believed was going to redeem Israel was now dying in the most terrible way known to man . . . and their hopes were dying right along with Him. Jesus’ despairing cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” would have pierced their hearts like a sword thrust. It had to be the worst day any of them had ever experienced.
When darkness reigns
Now, for the Jewish religious leaders, it really was a “good” Friday — a great Friday, in their minds. For more than three years, they had fretted and fumed about the growing popularity of this Jesus, who was threatening to overturn their corrupt religious system and their very way of life. This Man who claimed to be the Son of God had backed up those claims with countless miracles, attracting such huge crowds that the religious leaders finally concluded, “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation” (John 11:48).
This unholy hatred caused the religious leaders to plot and scheme “to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him” (Matthew 26:4). So on that dark day some 2,000 years ago, the religious leaders were feeling a deep sense of satisfaction over the capture, confrontation, condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. They openly mocked Him as He hung on the cross, saying things like, “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him” (Matthew 27:43). Their sneering statements amounted to a smug, sinful, self-righteous “Good riddance!” to this unwelcomed and unwanted itinerate preacher.
And then, as darkness covered the land, Jesus uttered those last words: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Just a few hours earlier, He had said to His triumphant captors, “This is your hour — when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53), and surely the darkness of evil seemed to have triumphed. People smote their breasts to express their grief and walked away. Goodness had been tortured to death; the Light of the World had just flickered out.
What man meant for evil God meant for good
No one on that hill known as “The Skull” recognized that what sinful men had intended for evil, God meant for the greatest good the world has ever known. The apostle Paul rejoiced that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). You and I were sinners on the road to hell when Jesus bore the judgment and wrath of God that we deserved to bear for our sins. The Son of God was forsaken by His Father so that you and I will never be.
But that’s not all that’s good about Good Friday! As you know, the death of Jesus was not the end of the story. Three days later, on the first Easter morning, Jesus walked out of the grave, alive and well and walked into the hearts of millions. God the Father had put His stamp of approval on God the Son, giving us proof positive that Christ’s atoning sacrifice had eternally satisfied God’s righteous wrath against our sins . . . all our sins. The apostle Paul explained that “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Because Jesus was raised from the dead, all those who trust in Him can be sure they will be also.
What’s so good about Good Friday? What’s so great about Good Friday? The Spirit of God gave David a vision of it. “O Lord, you brought me up from the grave,” David exulted; “you spared me from going down into the pit” (Psalm 30:3). Man’s great fear is death. I served for years on the Hollywood Fire Rescue, and I have seen men die who knew not the Christ. I saw the sheer terror in their eyes, and I felt them grip my forearm, desperately fighting to keep from going down into the abyss.
But for the Christ-follower, no such fear exists. “‘Where, O death, is your victory?’” Paul rejoiced. “‘Where, O death, is your sting?’ . . . Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57). That’s what’s so great about Good Friday. God has demonstrated that there is nothing that can defeat those who place their trust in Him.
One last thought
On Good Friday, Jesus hung on the cross as darkness covered the land and evil appeared to have won the day. But God had a different plan! Is there some darkness that seems to be threatening your life today? Are you despairing about a health issue . . . a troubled marriage . . . problems at work . . . a prodigal child . . . financial distress? The resurrection of Jesus Christ places an exclamation point at the conclusion of God’s promise to work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Christian, when all hope seems to gone, God will do something unimaginably beautiful . . . in this life or in the next.
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing . . . that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (Psalm 30:11-12 ESV). That is His promise for your eternal future and mine, a promise that was sealed when a dead man got up and walked out of His tomb. You have His Word on it!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!
For more articles by Dr. Tommy Boland, visit goodnewsfl.org/tommy-boland.