The Challenge: What Is Good About 'Good Friday?'
Darkness fell across the land and the man they thought would be their savior cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Soon after, he breathed his last. The people standing at the foot of the cross beat their breasts and walked away. From a distance, his mother and friends watched in somber silence as all this took place.
His disciples were broken in spirit – no doubt confused, hurting and angry. Disappointed to say the least. They had followed this man for years, left their work and their families for him. They thought he would change everything. But in the course of one day, all of their hopes were defeated.
They all felt the sting of betrayal when Judas brought the soldiers and guards to the garden to arrest Jesus. Later, Peter saw the darkness of his own heart as he denied his closest friend. Their miracle-worker remained silent as he was accused, kept still as he was beaten, and carried his own cross. They heard the crowd mocking him, telling him to save himself, and they swelled with anticipation waiting to see him do it. Surely, he would. But instead, he gave up his spirit.
How many times have you felt the sting of betrayal in your own life? Are you haunted by your own conscience? Consumed by bitter disappointment? Confused and dismayed because things didn’t go according to plan?
How are we ever to believe the promise in Romans that “all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose?” Does it really mean all things? Our own sin, injustice, even death itself?
I tell you, the world has never seen a graver injustice than the death of Jesus. The only man who lived without sin of any kind was tortured and crucified. As the Prince of Peace suffered, the adversary rejoiced with a sickening sense of victory.
Yet what seemed like victory for the powers of darkness, God used for the salvation of all mankind. What seemed like sure defeat was the greatest gain.
The Hope: Easter Dawns
Good Friday is only good because we know the rest of the story. Even the darkest day can be called good when you see from God’s perspective. The power of God raised Jesus to life again, defeating the power of sin, defeating the power of death itself. God dealt a decisive blow to our enemy, and we reap the benefits of his victory. Without Easter, there would be no Christianity, so let us consider the story again and learn what we can from it.
A group of women went to visit the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body with spices, as was customary in the day. But when they arrived, an angel greeted them and showed them the tomb was empty. “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day” (Luke 24:5-7).
They rushed back to tell everyone what had happened, “but the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it” (Luke 24:11). The disciples were so consumed by their disappointment and hurt that they couldn’t believe the good news. It wasn’t until Jesus appeared to them and showed them his wounds that they finally believed.
Have you ever thought about how strange it is that God raised Jesus from the dead but didn’t heal his wounds in the process? In her book, Feed My Shepherds, Flora Slosson Wuellner addresses this anomaly:
“Why did Jesus still have wounds on His risen body? The traditional answer is that the wounds proved it was really he…But I believe the wounds had a deeper meaning with radically transforming implications that affect us through the ages. I believe the wounds were the sure sign that the eternal God through Jesus has never and will never ignore, negate, minimize, or transcend the significance of human woundedness. The risen Jesus is not so swallowed up in glory that he is beyond our reach, beyond our cries.”
Again, it wasn’t until after many of the disciples saw Jesus’ wounds that they finally believed. These disciples were so wounded themselves that they were blind to the glory, closed off to the good news that was standing in front of them. Their personal hurt weakened their faith and they couldn’t bring themselves to believe.
Jesus didn’t condemn them for their lack of faith. Instead, he showed them his wounds. He even invited Thomas to touch the nail piercings in his hands and side – to not only see, but also touch so he could believe. Jesus knew that wounded people have a hard time moving past their hurt to accept healing.
The Infinite Creator not only gave up His Godhood to become like us, He let the weight of the world crush him so he could become one of us. He identifies with our woundedness so that we can trust him. And when we trust him, he can bring us up out of the brokenness to find new life in God’s power, just like he did. His life defeats death and his wounds defeat our doubts.
Although we are all broken and hurting, I pray “that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead…” (Ephesians 1:19-20).
We, as the church, are his body – his wounded and broken body. But we are “made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself (Ephesians 1:23). It seems the deeper the emptiness, the greater the capacity for filling.