Millions of Christians will celebrate an ironic day in the history of the Christian church. Good Friday as it has come to be known is the day that Followers of Christ remember that a GodMan named Jesus was given up and captured by Roman soldiers at the behest of Jewish leaders and cheered on by most of the Jewish people in Jerusalem. His crucifixion on this day always begs the question, Why is this GOOD Friday? This year, something has happened to friends of ours that has turned Good Friday into GREAT Friday. But, to understand why, we need to reflect on what exactly happened more than 2,000 years ago.
The First Good Friday
What started out at the beginning of the week as a celebration with many waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”, turned very ugly by the end of the week. Many of those who were hailing Jesus as the Messiah, the One who they believed came to relieve and release them from the tyrannical rule of the Romans, in a matter of days came to hate and despise Him as a blasphemer and joined in the clamor for his death. While they cried for Christ’s death they simultaneously requested that a murderer, rightfully sentenced to death, named Barabbas be released from prison in exchange for Jesus’ death. There’s irony in that transaction that we now see much clearer. The release of Barabbas in exchange for Jesus is exactly what was about to take place for all of mankind. The release of mankind from the shackles of sin at the willing sacrifice of the GodMan, Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ willingness to be captured, tortured and crucified was not due to His weakness but to his obedience. It’s what He had come to do from the moment of his miracle birth and, had always been the plan since before time began. In a few days his death would make sense, at least to a few of His faithful followers. But not on this day, to those who had given up their livelihood to follow Him. No, today they were wondering how they could have missed the mark so far on following someone they thought would rescue them from the Roman stronghold. Sometimes we miss the most obvious things.
They MISSED It
This morning my wife and I were sitting at a Starbucks and she noticed some wires under a long table used by many as an office away from the office. As she peered closer she realized that under the lip of the table were a number of outlets. She (and I) had never noticed those outlets before. It took us sitting a few feet away to realize they were there. I’ve sat at that table and never realized I didn’t have to plug my devices into the wall. I could have plugged into the table. Sometimes the things closest to us are the things we miss completely. And so it was for the disciples.
The Church has called this day, Good Friday. We know why it’s good. Because as so many preachers have bellowed to the shouting “hallelujah’s” of those around them—-“SUNDAAAAAY’s A COMING”! For years I’ve appropriately celebrated this day in soberness and remembrance of the price my Savior paid to release me from the prison of my sin, like Barabbas. He took on a death that He didn’t deserve to give me a life that I didn’t deserve. That’s what the theological highbrows call Substitutionary Atonement. That’s AMAZING Grace. But for those who have not yielded their lives to this truth (yes, truth), today is not good. No, it’s bad. Yet, for those who have finally come to know that their sin has separated them from a perfect God, today is Good because they have finally known and embraced the truth of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and they are set free. In fact, it’s not only a good day, it’s a GREAT day.
This Good Friday Becomes GREAT for Friends and their son.
When this truth is lived out in the real life story of those you love, it’s even sweeter and more powerful. A few weeks ago, the 22 yr old son of a couple that we love was in a car wreck. He was messed up badly. There was a question as to whether he would live or not.
As part of our small group through our church we have walked through the challenges they have faced with children who had been making damaging life choices despite what they’ve been taught and the love they’ve been given. Our friends have wondered why some of their children continued to walk in disobedience when the love of Christ was with them all along through the love and faith they built into them. Many parents have wondered that. Additionally, they hurt because they know the truth that there will be many who call on Jesus in the end but will not be recognized by Jesus. This isn’t because God is pernicious or evil. It’s because all are exposed to God but many will deny him, until that day. Having denied him through word and deed throughout their lives and faced with eternal destruction, many will plead for their lives. If all were to get a pass into Heaven, then Good Friday and Easter are meaningless. But they aren’t meaningless. This is GREAT news for those who willingly give up their lives to follow Christ but BAD news for those who don’t. The possibility of losing their children to an eternity apart from them and God pained our friends over the years.
Then, a miracle happened and what we’ve known as Good Friday has become GREAT Friday for this wonderful couple, their family and all of those who have been praying for them over the years and during this period. My friends’ son is healing well physically which is nearly a miracle by itself. But, a few days ago, the light of what Jesus accomplished that started on Good Friday and concluded with an empty tomb on Sunday was brightly illuminated and it became GREAT news for this young man. Faced with physical death he was brought to the brink of his mortality and he faced it without knowing Jesus’. He had been close to it, like the disciples who followed Jesus. He just didn’t understand how it would make a difference to him. Maybe, like the disciples, he didn’t really understand what Jesus really came to do. But, in light of the situation he was faced with and able to step back a bit from all he had been exposed to over the years through church and his family, he finally saw what he couldn’t see before. He gave his life to Jesus and today is GREAT Friday for my friend’s son, his family and for everyone who knows what happened on a Sunday morning more than 2,000 years ago. That’s when the One who was crucified was no longer held by a grave and death was defeated. Not physical death but eternal death. That is why we call this Good Friday. But today, in light of seeing what God has done in the life of a friend and his son, today is GREAT Friday. And, Sunday is a comin’!!