Today is “Good Friday.” “Good Friday” marks the day that the only perfect man to have ever walked the face of the earth (Jesus Christ) unjustly suffered and died on a wretched Roman cross. And the Church – the bride and body of Jesus Christ – refers to this day as “GOOD”?! …the day on which their Bridegroom, their Best Friend, their Savior and King was betrayed and brutally executed …this day is given the label “GOOD Friday”?!
The Christian faith is full of paradoxical professions like this. Perhaps you have heard something about how Christians believe that the Son of God willingly submitted Himself to being born (the fullness of God in helpless babe!) into this broken and devastatingly vexed world called “planet earth,” and He wasn’t merely born …but He was born into a poor family, which (at best) would afford Him the unglamorous status of “Jewish carpenter” (an extraordinarily underwhelming class when compared with the coveted rank of Roman prince – which would’ve been the obvious societal destination for God incarnate). Of course, all of this was voluntary – shrewdly mapped-out from before the foundation of the world. God has always preferred the company of the lowly (see Deuteronomy 7:7), and therefore when it came time for God Himself to become man, He elected to live in obscurity for the majority of His life, and even when people started taking notice of Him, He seems to have been adamant about avoiding the bumptious limelight and celebrity exaltation so deeply esteemed by worldly kings. He surrounded Himself with rejects, screw-ups, the lowly, the broken, the shamed, and the guilty. God in the flesh chose this precise path …a path that promised a summit of infinite suffering! God incarnate walked this road in order that He might chiefly accomplish the all-important objective of getting Himself tortured and hung on a cross, and that He might endure the wrath of God on behalf of His beloved bride. In short, according to the Christian faith, the ENTIRE SCOPE of history – the mission planned from all eternity – was for Jesus Christ to endure the penalty, suffering, and death of the cross, and the infinite wrath of God. WHY did He insist on doing all of this? In order to guarantee the salvation of a bunch of stubborn, arrogant, pompous people whose sin held Him to that cross. So …if you’re tracking with this, the first reason Christians call this day “GOOD Friday” is because it commemorates the day that the Son of God once-and-for-all delivered them from the everlasting pain and misery of hell.
But I would assert that there is a more substantial way in which the Christian faith understands this once-and-for-all act of the Son of God as “GOOD”. A portion of Scripture that helps clarify why we call this day “GOOD Friday” is James 4:4-10. In this passage we see that God takes His love for us VERY seriously! In fact, He takes it so seriously that He views even the thought of idolatry in our minds, or the impulse of idolatry in our hearts, as being completely unfaithful and adulterous (Jas. 4:4; Ezek. 16:32). The true, sincere, definitive, and objective perspective of God views all mis-prioritizations of our relationship to/with Him as being contemptuous and hostile toward Him (Rom. 8:7; Matt. 6:24). And logically we might think that this would ensure our doom (seeing as how God is perfect in His assessments). But shockingly we see that God takes His relationship with us SO seriously that He is unwilling to give up on us – even in light of our ongoing and persistent unfaithfulness. God’s love is so jealous for us that not even our wretchedly obstinate and adulterous hearts will deter Him from pursuing us (Jas. 4:5). God knew that no amount of commanding us to trust Him would be effective – our hearts were too deeply proud and depraved to submit to in the slightest, [nevermind fulfill] the perfect law of God (Matt. 5:48). God knew that the only way to capture and enrapture our hearts to the degree that His infinitely jealous love necessitates is by pouring out the full extent of His wrath which our sins and transgressions deserve upon His only Son. And thus the day that Jesus hung on a cross is deeply “GOOD” for us, because it accomplishes a perfect atonement regarding a penalty that we (even at our best) could never pay, and additionally it explicitly and overwhelmingly reveals to us that we have ABSOLUTELY NO REASON TO DOUBT GOD’S LOVE FOR US. The cross definitively demonstrates that God loves us more than we love ourselves. The cross communicates that even when things seem nightmarish, God is still LOVINGLY in control (Rom. 8:28). The cross reveals that our disobedience and unfaithfulness toward God is utterly incoherent and infinitely more heinous than we are able to comprehend. The cross overwhelmingly shows us that we cannot simply dismiss or downplay the brokenness and depravity of our lives and the world we live in (Jas. 4:9). The cross eliminates the cancer of pride in our hearts and brings us to a place of true humility where we can actually submit to God (for His glory, and our own joy) (Jas. 4:7-10). Every moment of the Christian life (not just “Good Friday”) the disciple of Jesus is privileged to practice the Words of 2 Corinthians 7:10, which says “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.”
Your invitation is to contemplate the cross. Relish the reality that God really really really LOVES YOU. He seriously and lovingly created you. He seriously and lovingly promised to redeem you from your sin and its eternal consequences. He seriously and lovingly has patience with you daily. He seriously and lovingly lived a life of perfection in order that He might completely credit His spotless righteousness to you. He seriously and lovingly faced the wrath and forsakenness of God on your behalf. …Seriously consider, contemplate, and savor these profound truths. Ask yourself, “What does the cross say ABOUT ME?” Allow yourself to experience Godly sorrow, so that you might truly come to see the necessity of repentance, that you might truly be humbled, that you might truly come to apprehend and cling to salvation in Christ alone, so that you might (being ushered into heaven by God’s free grace) have no regret.
John’s Gospel is a gospel of extremes. Jesus is the exalted, all-powerful, all-knowing God made flesh and he is the servant who performs the most lowly of tasks. Touching at the same time the highest divine glory and the deepest human humility, Jesus fills all the space in between, revealing his glory in his supreme act of humility. You do not understand the true greatness of Jesus Christ
until you know both his glory and his humility.
But knowing this, we are freed to be honest with ourselves about ourselves—that is to say, to be both humble and glorious ourselves. When we discover the glorious humility of God we no longer have to try to convince ourselves either that we are too good to wash the feet of others, or that our feet are too dirty to let others wash. To quote Pascal again: “Jesus Christ is a God whom we approach without pride, and before whom we humble ourselves without despair” (Pascal, Pensées 245). Because Christ reveals to us a God who stoops to wash our feet, filling all the space in between humility and glory, as we share tonight in his act of humility, freed from both pride and despair we can touch his glory, the glory that is revealed in these days of cross and resurrection, the glory that we share in mystery even now the glory with which we too will one day shine in God’s kingdom.
Fritz Bauerschmidt, “Holy Thursday”