Why It’s Good this Friday
. . . through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Acts 13:38-39 (ESV)
On their first missionary journey, having parted with John at Perga in Pamphylia, Paul and Barnabas headed north toward the Black Sea and found themselves not at that other more famous Antioch where followers of Christ were first called Christians, but in the Antioch in Pisidia, a city in the southern part of the Roman province called Galatia, or what is now a central part of modern Turkey.
Invited on the Sabbath to bring the teaching in a local synagogue, Paul did what I call “a Stephen”, and treated the congregation to a précised but quite lengthy, history of the Israelites. But eventually ending up with Jesus, Paul said this to his Jewish congregation as recorded in Acts 13:38-39 “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man (Jesus) forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”
EVERYONE who BELIEVES is freed from EVERYTHING from which they could not be freed. That is what was at stake and that is what brought the glory of this great day we celebrate this morning. And that, at heart, is why this is Good Friday.
It’s Good Friday because here, at last, the door to the grace of God is opened. Our salvation is no longer the impossible task of meeting all the requirements of the Law, but now it has been signed, sealed and delivered to us ALL by our all-conquering Saviour, Jesus Christ. By this, the single greatest and most influential, and most transforming act ever seen on planet earth, all who will receive it by faith can be set free from the terrible judgement our sins deserve. As Paul so wonderfully describes it in Romans 5:18 (GNB) “ . . . one righteous act sets all people free and gives them LIFE.”
At a single stroke, Christ’s death completely changes our standing before God, and in a single step, WE, through a response of FAITH, can NOW receive what we could never earn in a million years.
Paul vividly describes our state BEFORE we accept Christ in Ephesians 2:12 (NIV84) when he says we were: “. . . foreigners to the covenants of the promise, WITHOUT HOPE and WITHOUT GOD in the world.” “Foreigners”, and “without hope”. We were HOPE-LESS! We were IRRETRIEVABLY LOST!
Do we really comprehend our desperate position before Christ’s great sacrifice for sins on GOOD FRIDAY? We were utterly and eternally LOST.
I wonder if you’ve ever been alone and really lost. That happened to me as a child once and all these years later I can still remember how frightening it was. But lost, and WITHOUT HOPE - that is truly appalling and absolutely terrifying. And this is how we once were before we came to Christ, and sadly it is how so many ARE today who have not yet understood what Christ did for us on that first Good Friday.
But BECAUSE of that first Good Friday, Paul is now able to declare to us all in Ephesians 2:13 and 19 we “who once were far away HAVE BEEN brought near THROUGH the blood of Christ.” and now we are “. . . no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.”
And in Romans 5:1 Paul describes graphically what happens to us when we make that faith response to what Jesus did that day. He says: Now that we have been PUT RIGHT WITH GOD THROUGH FAITH, we have PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
So there is nothing “make-do” or temporary about what happens to us as we receive the good news of Good Friday personally and by faith. It’s not a cosmetic improvement, it’s a real, complete, permanent, and eternal “putting right” that happens.
Just listen to a few more words from Paul in Romans 5. Verse 10 tells us: “We were God’s ENEMIES, but he made us his FRIENDS through the death of his Son. and,
Verse 17 sums up the fullness of what God has brought us into through that great Good Friday sacrifice, saying: “It is true that through the sin of one man death began to rule because of that one man. But how much greater is the result of what was done by the one man, Jesus Christ! All who receive God’s abundant grace and ARE FREELY PUT RIGHT WITH HIM will RULE IN LIFE through Christ.
But just think for a moment about Christ as He approached the Cross at Calvary.
If we were MISUNDERSTOOD by those we love and are closest to us, wouldn’t we raise our voices to defend ourselves? But Jesus, in resolute submission and obedience, set himself to do the will of His Father even though He was completely misunderstood by those closest to Him for John 7:5 tells us: ” . . . even his own brothers did not believe in him.”
If we were MISREPRESENTED and falsely and unjustly accused wouldn’t we raise our voices in defence of the justice we know we deserve? But Jesus did not retaliate or even speak up for himself when His words and deeds were wilfully misinterpreted. Falsely and unjustly accused, the scripture records in: Mark 14:61 that despite the urging of the High Priest, “. . . he remained silent and made no answer.” in His defence.
If we were UNJUSTLY passed over in favour of someone much less deserving wouldn’t we protest and rage and rant about how unfair that was. But Jesus, when Pilate gave way to the chants of the angry crowd for Barabbas to be released rather than him, did nothing to halt this appalling and wicked injustice.
And how would you and I respond if all our plans were apparently undermined and brought to nothing by the selfish acts of others? Wouldn’t we struggle and vehemently defend our cause? But Jesus, accepting meekly the cross before Him; that appalling place of shame, humiliation, terrible cruelty, and absolute injustice, simply bowed His head in complete submission to His Father’s will and as Matthew 27:31 tells us: “And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe . . . and led him away to crucify him.”
And if we were INEXCUSABLY maligned by others wouldn’t we give way to anger at such an outrage against us? Yet Jesus IN THE VERY MIDST of the unimaginable brutality, agony and anguish of His crucifixion responds with those amazing words recorded in Luke 23:34 “. . . “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.””
So why is it GOOD, this Friday? What is it that we see on Good Friday that makes it “good”? It is good because whilst Easter Day will bring the triumph and victory of the glorious resurrection, here, on Good Friday, we see the true depths and the extent of the love of Jesus Christ for us. As Romans 5:8 confirms: “but God SHOWS HIS LOVE for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
So Good Friday, whatever the weather, is not a grey, miserable, depression of a day, any more than Christianity is a grim hanging on till Heaven. Good Friday is the knockout blow to the dominance of sin, so that Christianity can become a vibrant, fulfilling and energising relationship with God; a friendship with our Creator that bubbles over in peace and joy, and offers a life of lasting opportunity and fulfilment as we are strengthened to rule in all of life’s circumstances and challenges.
The death of Christ on Good Friday and His glorious and triumphant resurrection that we’ll celebrate on Sunday, is what makes the Gospel good news, not just good advice. The Gospel is not a set of swimming instructions shouted from the safety of the bank to a drowning man. It is the PRESENCE of a powerful lifeguard able to personally bring US to safety. There is nothing we MUST do; there is nothing we CAN do to come into all the good of the gospel. We simply take God at His word and put our TRUST, our FAITH, in what He has already DONE for us, through that sacrifice made on Good Friday.
So, whatever else, we mustn’t miss, the emphatic statement of God’s love that we see in Jesus’ sacrifice, as we consider what happened on that first Good Friday. Charles Finney once said: “Love, is the bringing about of the highest good in the life of another person.” And that is what we see in that terrible day at Calvary. The perfect, fathomless depths of God’s great love for you and I, as Christ poured out His life for us in full payment for all our sins. For “God has shown us how much he loves us . . .” Romans 5:8 (GNB)
This is why such an apparently black day; a day of seeming defeat and dejection is in fact so rightly referred to as GOOD Friday. For, in truth, it is an unchallengeable demonstration of God’s immeasurable love for each one of us.
It is not JUST a perfect sacrifice – though of course it is; it is also the perfect DISPLAY, an unequivocal DECLARATION, of God’s great love for those He has created. As 1 John 3:16 (GNB) puts it: “This is how we know what love is: Christ gave his life for us. “
The death of Christ is not to be overlooked; and Good Friday is not to be dismissed, downgraded or undervalued in the wake of the glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
We need to understand that the cruel crucifixion and death of Christ is forever THE most powerful expression of God’s love for us; and the victorious resurrection is first and foremost, a glorious vindication of the TOTAL EFFICACY of that perfect sacrifice on Good Friday.
So, if you need a reason - then ultimately, that is why it is Good this Friday and we need this morning and indeed each morning, to appreciate, as the hymn reminds us, that “Love so amazing, so divine” “Demands my soul, my life, my all.”