Good Friday, 2020
“Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.”
We are all excited for Sunday. We’ve been hungering for something significant to celebrate. For some really Good News. Thoughts of the resurrection and Christ’s victory over death bring us renewed hope. Maybe we’ll eat special food with our family - or enjoy something we’ve been denying ourselves for Lent. Sunday is coming, and I’m so so glad.
But let’s not hasten there too quickly. Let’s do our best to sit for a time in the horror of Friday and the awful silence of Saturday. Before Sunday’s resounding Alleluia, we are called to contemplate Friday’s agony. And Friday’s gift.
Today we remember the sufferings of Jesus. He was crucified for me. For you. Apparently a quick and relatively painless death would not have sufficed. He was tortured and humiliated. He suffered horribly. We know this. Why did it have to be so?
In Jesus’ suffering on the cross, the terrible weight of our sin is revealed to us. The ugliness and the awfulness of it. This is what sin does. Not just the spectacular kind, but your kind and my kind. When was the last time you were aware of your sin? The weight and the darkness and the wickedness of it? The cross forces us - if we will pay attention - to face the fact that our sin is so deep and so dark that it required the blood of God Himself to get rid of it. The consequence of our sin is Jesus hanging on a tree, in blood and gore and unspeakable agony.
Yes, this is on us. On me. My petty jealousies and unrelenting selfishness. My pitiful greed and lack of love and my laziness and my unbelievable inability to think of someone besides myself for more than 5 minutes at a time. My unholy thoughts and cutting words and mystifying lack of faith and my brazen arrogance. And yours, too.
Look what we have done to this world that He entrusted to us.
Why must we face this? Why ‘celebrate’ such a thing every Good Friday? Because without an honest appraisal of our own lostness and hopelessness, we can never taste the absolute wonder of His grace and His love. If all was fair and just in the world, the cross would have been for me. But in this case God’s mercy trumped fairness, and I go free.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” — 2 Corinthians 5:21
The scandal of Christianity is not that God demands holiness and purity from us. It is not that He must be Lord of our money and our sexuality and our time. It’s not that He calls us to sacrifice and lay down our lives. It’s not even that He will one day judge the world, no matter how harsh that idea seems from our vantage point. The true scandal of Christ is the cross. The true scandal has always been grace. It is that God made Him to be sin for you and me. That wasn’t fair. The biggest injustice ever carried out. It is that we become, shockingly, the righteousness of God. The unfairness of Christianity is that I have been declared not guilty and have been welcomed into the very family of God, set free to enjoy all the benefits of such ridiculously unwarranted favor. The scandal is that it was Jesus hanging on that cross and not me and you.
On Good Friday we remember the beautiful unfairness of God. We mourn deeply the fact that our sin did this to Jesus. We receive the offered exchange, because what else can we do? And so we repent. Genuinely, thoughtfully, and sacrificially. And we humbly take our place among the holy and the eternal. Clean. Free. Without guilt. No shame. And we celebrate - yes, on this day shrouded in darkness, we celebrate - that we are loved this much.