“Why do we call today Good Friday?” Many people have asked that question. Why do we call today Good Friday? What’s good about it? It was a bad day. Jesus died. He died like a criminal. His own people had Him killed. Gentiles killed Him totally clueless about what they were doing. It was so bad the sun quit shining for 3 hours. Why do we call today Good Friday?
What’s so good about it? God died. The wages of sin is death, but He committed no sin, no deceit was found in His mouth. The Jews couldn’t come up with good witnesses when they tried Him. Then they trumped up charges that proved quite unconvincing to Pilate. He knew Jesus was innocent. Herod couldn’t convict Him of anything either. He didn’t deserve to die. Yet there He was on Good Friday, nailed to a cross, the worst execution ever devised by wicked men.
What’s so good about it? We use black, not black-tie black, but mourner’s black. We have sorrow when our loved ones die, great sorrow when death comes to those closest to us suddenly. How much more our sorrow might be to truly see God actually dead. The Immortal Son of God die? That must be the end of it for us! The Father must be outraged! What can possibly go right for sinful man now? Sin brings death, and there’s no greater sin than killing God! Shouldn’t we all be punished for what those people who represented us did?
Even if it weren’t for that great sin all mankind should be found guilty of – even if it weren’t for that we should be punished. When was the last time you examined yourself according to the Ten Commandments? Dr. Luther tells us to do that in the 5th Chief Part of his Small Catechism. The Church gives us Lent as a good time to do this. What do we find when we do?
We find we have a very hard time keeping God’s commandments. We realize we didn’t fear, love, or trust God when we were born, because we didn’t know Him until we were baptized. This lack of fear, love, and trust in Him is washed away but he’s still swimming. He comes out to play every time you sin. He’s playing every time you curse or swear, every time you don’t pray to God when you should, every time you don’t praise or thank Him like you ought. He’s playing every time you think God’s Word is less important than whatever else you have going on in life or the distractions that pop up in this building. He’s playing every time a child disobeys his mommy, every time you prefer mocking a boss, governor, or president to praying for him. He’s playing every time we get angry at others, every time a child gets in a fight, every time we are mean and unkind and don’t forgive. He’s playing every time we wonder if God’s definition for marriage is correct, every time we don’t control our urges, every time we enjoy the dirty. He’s at play every time we try to get something that isn’t ours and every time we don’t help somebody else. He’s at play every time we lie about somebody, every time we gossip or like to hear and believe things that are patently wrong about others. He’s at work every time we get jealous, envious, greedy, and encourage people to act out on their bad desires.
Did anything sound familiar? At least one should have, and probably a lot more. The fact is we have broken every single commandment God gave many times throughout our lives. We are sinners and we deserve to be punished. The bad child gets a spanking, time-out (I knew it as “the naughty chair”), no TV. The adult gets fines and jail time. The sinner gets death: temporal death, spiritual death, eternal death. We lose this life, we should go to hell, and at the end body and soul should live there forever. Today is Good Friday. You see Jesus hanging on a Cross. But you don’t see what’s happening to Him. You don’t see hell doing its utter worst. You don’t see Him suffering for every sin ever committed by you, each person here tonight, every person you’ve ever seen, every person who will ever live. You don’t see Him bearing in His holy Body all the sins of the world. Your physical eyes can’t see that. But faith believes it. Faith knows it because it hears Him say, “Father, forgive them; Today thou shalt be with me in paradise; It is finished!; Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.”
Faith knows what He’s doing there. Our brains could never make it up. We could never dream of somebody dying for all our sins. We’d make up ways to salvation that involve working on it, getting enough good done to at least just slip in. That’s what the religions of this world do: they give ways to get back on a deity’s good side so hopefully he’ll be nice. But Christianity doesn’t do that. When you ask for a ladder to get into heaven, it shows you a crucifix. When you ask for something to do, it says: “All done already.” When you ask to meet Him, it gives you a Bible, leads you to a font, and finally shows you paten and chalice.
There is no other way out of hell. There is no other way out of death. The only path to heaven is the crucifix. The only thing to do to get there is nothing but trust Jesus. The only way to meet Him is to hear His Word and receive His Sacraments. That’s what tells you why He’s up there on that Cross. That’s what delivers Him to you. That’s what gets His Blood on you and your children. That’s what puts you in that Man hanging dead on The Cross Who will rise from the dead. And if you’re in Him you must rise too.
Why do we call today Good Friday? What’s so good about a Man hanging dead on a Cross? That’s God there. He’s not there because some people hated Him with a passion. He’s there because He had a passion for your salvation, a passion that led to His holy Passion, His Suffering and Death. He’s there because He loves you and hates your sin and death. He’s there because He wants to rip you out of the devil’s jaws. He’s there because He wants you to live forever. He’s there because He wants to forgive your sins. He’s there for us men and for our salvation. He’s there for you!
So Good Friday is good. It’s good because it’s God’s Friday. It’s the Friday He triumphed over sin and death. It’s the day He went down into death to break it open to break us out of it. It’s the Friday He suffered hell to give you paradise. It’s the day He paid 200% the price we owed for sin. It’s like a good jailbreak orchestrated by God or God as the sheriff who finally catches the wanted man fleeing with his booty and his captives. Think of it as the greatest story ever told that’s true.
Jesus Christ our God died for you. He died and your sins are forgiven. He died and your death is dead – you will rise. He died and hell can’t touch you. He forgives you. Your sins are completely forgiven, nailed to His Cross, buried in His tomb. Believe it. Trust it. Then that forgiveness is yours. Come to the rail in faith, and there you will get what He won for you. For this same Jesus you have seen hanging on The Cross is risen from the dead. He is not in the grave any longer. The Father loves The Son and has ratified what He did for you. He loves you. Your sins are forgiven. You will die, but now, O Christian, your death is like His. You will be with Him in paradise. You will stand with Him at the resurrection.