Today is the day in the Christian calendar when we remember and reflect on the death of Jesus Christ. There seems to be great confusion over exactly what happened on that cross and why it is such a pivotal event in human history. Many think that the cross is another tragedy of social injustice as an innocent man was executed unjustly. Others think it is a sad case of religious martyrdom, a good man who faced an unfortunate death. Yet the importance of Good Friday is monumental. The tragedy of that day was not that innocent Jesus was hung by violent, barbaric men, but that Jesus was crushed by the will of His Father. As we reflect on the great wonders of the cross – that horrific place of shame and judgement – we must remember why it is Jesus came into this world and why it was that he had to die. As a result there are a few things we must remember carefully as we mediate on the meaning of Good Friday.
The Cross Reminds Us of Our Condemnation
In the 21st Century most of us recoil at the doctrine of sin. We don't want to believe that there is anything fundamentally wrong with us or with humanity. We live in a culture in which we hate to be told we are wrong, let alone that we are deserving of judgement. Yet, the Bible teaches clearly that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23) and that "the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23). Despite our modern presumption of naive optimism we have about our lives, the Scriptures speaks the truth that many of us do not want to hear. We are sinners who are condemned before God and deserving of His just and righteous wrath.
The cross is a reminder of our own condemnation. As we remember what Jesus went through on the cross we must remember he did so in our place. It is my sin that nailed him to that tree and it was my judgement that Jesus endured. As we look to the cross we are reminded of the wretchedness of our sin and how costly and deadly the punishment for our sins truly are. Our sin was so detestable and horrid that the only way it could be paid was through the death of His son.
The Cross Reminds Us of our Redemption
The cross not only stands as a reminder of our condemnation but as a reminder of our redemption. It was God's great plan before the foundation of the world to redeem a people for his own possession. It was God's zealous desire to spread his glory through a people that led him to send His son Jesus on the greatest rescue mission the world will ever see. Jesus entered into this world not to be just a moral teacher or a great example, but the savior of the world. The way the Messiah achieved our salvific victory was through his fatal defeat.
The cross became the symbol of Christianity for good reason; it is the a constant reminder of the great love of God towards us in the crushing of his son. It is a vivid reminder of the great cost of redemption.
The Cross Reminds us of the Love of God
There is no greater indicator of the love of God towards us than the cross. The cross is the objective reality of God's love. It cannot be doubted or thwarted. We do not have to guess if God loves us; he demonstrated his love for us at the cross. As His suffocating body hung gargling blood in horrific torture he endured the suffering as joy for us. As Jesus tells us "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13) or as John reminds us "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us" (1 Jn 3:16).
The Sorrowful Joy of Good Friday
The response to the cross should be a sorrowful joy and a mourning worship. At the cross we see our spiritual poverty and we weep over the deadly price of our own sin. Yet we rejoice in worship that God in his unshakeable love for us sent Jesus to die in our place.
As John Stott wrote in his classing book The Cross of Christ, "As we face the cross, then, we can say to ourselves both ‘I did it, my sins sent him there’ and ‘he did it, his love took him there'". Yes, the cross was something done by us and for us. It was our sin that placed him there but it was the love of Jesus that took him to the cross.
As you reflect over these humbling truths this day, remember the treachery of your sin, the lavish expense of your redemption, and the objective proof of God's love for you – the cross of Christ.
Yet also remember that "weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Ps 30:5), and that as his body lay in the grave, resurrection is coming.