As we celebrate this Good Friday by assembling for worship we have the privilege of looking back and devoting our minds to the contemplation of the greatest wonder this world has ever seen: the very Son of God in our flesh died the agonizing death to atone for the sins of His people. We look back on this through the clear lenses of New Testament revelation, which reveals to us the meaning of Christ’s death. For this reason, though our commemoration is a solemn occasion, we are filled with joy. Christ’s crucifixion is our salvation. His death is our deliverance from the midst of death. By His sacrificial death on the cross, these bodies of ours which otherwise will dissolve to dust are given new life that is imperishable. Our sins are taken away, covered, and forgiven because of Christ’s work accomplished on Good Friday, some 2000 years ago. What a reason we have to rejoice! What a reason we have to gather and worship our God for his gift of grace in Christ Jesus.
Yet, the first Good Friday was quite unlike the day we call Good Friday. That first Good Friday would hardly have been called “good” by the disciples of our Lord. In a matter of a couple days, they had been caught up in a sudden whirl of events which they had not foreseen and barely understood. They had seen their Lord and Master seized by Jewish authorities, tried, innocently condemned to death, and beaten. And then Friday, they stood at the foot of cross gazing with uncomprehending eyes upon the horrible spectacle of their beloved Teacher pierced with iron spikes and hung upon a tree to die slowly as a common criminal. They saw all these things but did not see them for what they truly were: the fulfilment of the mother promise, there before their very eyes. None had expected the serpents head to be crushed in such an unlikely way. We can hardly blame them for their lack of vision; we would have been no different had we been in their place. All that the disciples saw was the brutal death of their dear Master. That Good Friday was a day of sorrow, confusion, and dashed hopes.
We have the benefit of knowing the end of the story. We have the benefit of knowing from God’s Word what really happened there on Calvary. The death of Good Friday was not the end, except of our sin and condemnation. We see the crucifixion of our Lord in the proper perspective, in all its glory and all its splendor. For this reason the overriding emotion for Christians now when we celebrate Good Friday is joy, deep joy. This does not take away from the dreadful reality of what happened on the first Good Friday. The perfect Son of God was taken by wicked hands and put to death. What a terrible evil was perpetrated that day! This does not take away from the real sorrow of the occasion. This is the fearful penalty our sin required! But God was willing to pay it, so much did He love His people, He was willing to give His only begotten Son to save them from their sins. In this, the greatest evil wrought by human hands, we find the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us. As the apostle Paul says: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:8-9). In Calvary’s tree God’s love is clearly displayed for all to see.
As we worship God this Good Friday and commit ourselves to commemorating the atoning death of our Lord, let us keep this precious truth before our minds. Let us rejoice in the God of our salvation. On that day some 2000 years ago, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).” Therefore let us worship this Good Friday, this day of joy, not out of a sense of obligation, but because we desire to praise and to thank our God and Lord Jesus Christ for His unspeakable gift.