Very few holy days have been observed with greater antiquity or with more solemn and unified participation. This holiday has been celebrated for almost 2000 years by Christians around the globe. It is one of the few holy days in the calendar that has not been entirely commercialized, sentimentalized, or trivialized by marketers or consumers.
We call it Good Friday.
This day stands alone as a day when all the world stood still and watched as a series of truly horrific events unfolded.
At the end of the day, the Creator had been forcibly and unjustly taken prisoner by the very creatures He had created – who cruelly crucified Him on a Roman cross in the sight of all His creation!
The world watched and the entire universe stood still that Friday morning some 2000 years ago. It was the day where God was killed by those He had created to be in His image.
Consider how He must have appeared to those who watched –
He had claimed to be a king – look carefully and see his crown of thorns!
He had claimed a kingdom – he was enthroned on a wooden cross and surveyed His gruesome kingdom…a skull hill, the place of execution. His ragged band of followers who had proclaimed a coming kingdom were nowhere to be seen. Gone was His power to do miracles – He who had so often appeared to have saved others could not even save Himself.
He who had claimed to be the Son of God was crying out that His Father had abandoned Him. He who had claimed to be the water of life was crying out in thirst. He who had claimed to be the resurrection and the life was dying in gruesome agony. He who had claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life, was hanging between common criminals. He who had claimed to the everlasting “I am” was in the final moments of life and soon would “not be.”
How in the world can we look at these very bad events that took place on this day and in any way call this day “Good Friday”?
The answer to that question is surprising to an outside observer – the unbearable events that took place on that cross contained an astonishing power to vanquish death and to bring about life!
Just a few years later, a man named Paul would crisscross the world of his day to announce the power of this cross to anyone willing to hear his message!
And he announced it in a dark and difficult city called Corinth.
That city was very much like the cities in which most of us live – it was commercially driven, socially and racially diverse, religiously depraved, and morally perverse.
And one day, a man named Paul showed up in town to preach to them about the impact of the events that took place on that first “Good Friday” in the city of Jerusalem across the Mediterranean Sea from where Corinth was located.
And what he said was this:
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. -1 Corinthians 1:17-18
What is it about the cross – the crucifixion of Christ – that makes it this “power of God.” What about this Gospel makes it the most powerful message on the planet today?
The writer of the hymn captured it in these poetic lines:
Oh to see the dawn
Of the darkest day
Christ on the road to Calvary
Tried by sinful men
Torn and beaten, then
Nailed to a cross of wood.
The bottom line is this – Jesus, the man from Nazareth, really did live a righteous life, and He really was cruelly beaten and unjustly executed on a Roman cross!
He was tried by sinful men. He was torn and beaten by them till He didn’t even look human. And He was actually nailed to a cross of wood!
Even more shocking is that all of this was done by the predetermined plan of God!
Why? Because it was the plan of God to take His own holy, righteous, just Son and make Him to be sin for sinful men – for us!
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. -2 Corinthians 5:21
These are the facts – this is what historically happened on that Friday some 2000 years ago – and it was all according to God’s plan in order that His Son, Jesus Christ, could be our sin-bearer!
What now? The song answers that question –
We stand forgiven at the Cross!
Because of the awful event that took place 2000 years ago when Jesus went to the cross – and because of the astonishing thing that He did on that cross to take our blame and bear our wrath – there is an amazing opportunity offered to each of us at the Cross! Forgiveness!
- Full Forgiveness – forgiveness for all of our sins. No matter how many. No matter how vile
- Free Forgiveness – at no cost to us! Free does not mean cheap. It did cost a price – one that we could never hope to pay. It’s not just that we don’t have enough to pay for it – we don’t even have the right kind of currency to pay for it!
- Forever Forgiveness – a forgiveness that gives us permanent status with God!
Such forgiveness turns what looked like a very bad Friday into a glorious Good Friday. And so we join with believers around the world to rejoice and declare –
Oh to see my name
Written in the wounds
For through your suffering I am free!
Death is crushed to death
Life is mine to live
Won through your selfless love
This the power of the Cross
Son of God – Slain for us
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.