I love Easter. When you walk into our church on Easter morning, the smell of our flower cross fills the sanctuary. The bright white of the banners and lilies provides a brilliant contrast to the pastel colored shirts and dresses. Everyone is smiling. Church is full. The music is glorious. The message is all about life and victory and heaven. What’s not to like about Easter?
Good Friday, however, is another story. Good Friday seems so sad. In our church, we have what’s called a Tenebrae Service. As the service progresses, the lights in the church are slowly extinguished. At the end, we walk out in darkness and silence.
What’s so good about Good Friday? On Good Friday, we are forced to watch Jesus suffer brutality and gore which rival anything Hollywood could ever produce. We watch him bleed. We hear him cry out. On that day, God abandoned God. On that day, God died. Why would we call it good?
Especially when we remember that it’s our fault.
In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, the director Mel Gibson made a famous cameo. You actually never see his face, but his were the hands which drove the nails. He later said why he chose that scene: because it was his fault.
It was my fault. It was your fault Jesus died. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking our sins are no big deal. It’s just a little lie. I only drink on weekends. Nobody waits until marriage any more to have sex. Sure, I know it’s bad, but at least I haven’t killed anybody.
Yet you have killed someone. You killed the Son of God. It was your hands which nailed him to that tree. It was your sins he carried. It was your punishment he bore. On Good Friday we are forced to face the horror our sins have caused – the horror we deserve.
So what’s so good about Good Friday? We call it Good Friday because Jesus carried our load, bore our burden and suffered our punishment willingly. He could have stopped it, but he didn’t because he loved you and me so much. On Good Friday, we get to see the amazing, extraordinary, overflowing grace of our God.
We call it Good Friday because with his death, Jesus won for us forgiveness. Our sins were nailed to that cross forever. God will never punish you because he punished Jesus in your place. No matter how bad you mess up, no matter how far you fall, God will always take you back. He will always forgive you because of Jesus.
We call it Good Friday because we know it’s not the end of the story. We leave in silence on Friday, but return joyfully singing on Sunday. Jesus didn’t stay dead. He lives and because he lives, we too will live.
As I write these words, my wife is packing our suitcases. We found out only a few hours ago that her grandfather in Mexico died. In just a few days we will stand next to his grave with tears in our eyes. But we know. We know Jesus died his death. We know that though he was not perfect, he was forgiven. Three hours ago, he closed his eyes to this world and opened them to his home in heaven – all because of what happened on that dark Friday two thousand years ago.
That’s why we call it good.