Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What's so Good about Friday?

I've heard the question asked more than once: "If Jesus died on Friday, why do we call it Good Friday?"

It's an important question. It's a question that demands an answer.

Here's the truth: Jesus' death is a good thing. It seems counterintuitive -- or perhaps blasphemous. It seems like something a person who hates Jesus would say. But the Bible is clear that Jesus dying on the cross is a reason to celebrate. 

Isaiah is sometimes called the "Fifth Gospel," due to its numerous accounts of the life of Christ. The strange thing about Isaiah, though, is that it was written over 700 years before Jesus was born. If you're a skeptic, just check out the Dead Sea Scrolls, which feature a full copy of the book of Isaiah dated to about 150 B.C.

Nowhere in the book of Isaiah is the life of Christ spoken of clearer than in chapter 53. This section, beginning at the end of chapter 52, tells of the coming Messiah's role in God's redemptive plan. 

He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
Isaiah 53:5-6

This is of course, referring to the coming One who would take away the sins of the world. It was due to passages like this that the world was waiting for a Man like Jesus. God had made it clear that mankind was in need of a Savior, that they needed God Himself -- as pure and spotless as He is -- to rescue them. 

Romans 3 speaks to the reason why man needs saving.

For all have sinned
and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3:23

You see, God's plan was in the works a long time ago. His plan to send His one and only Son to die had been decided in eternity past. He knew the sinful, evil nature of man's heart before man was ever created. He knew before the foundation of the earth, "All of us like sheep have gone astray," as Isaiah said under the direction of the Holy Spirit. It was no surprise to the all-knowing God that evil was in the world and that the heart of men rebelled. God knew.

But God, being rich in mercy, 
because of His great love with which He loved us,  
even when we were dead in our transgressions, 
made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 
and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him 
in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 
so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace 
in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:4-7

In order for sinful men and women to be restored to God, there has to be a Mediator. There must be One to join the two sides together since God is perfectly holy and cannot even look upon sin. Thus, God sent the perfect Christ, the Man Jesus, to stand in the gap and take upon Himself the sins of the world. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that Jesus Himself became sin (though He never sinned) for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

That's called imputation, "The Great Exchange," as Martin Luther said it. God takes our sin and grants us His righteousness the instant we believe in Christ. 

And it's all a part of God's grand design. Not long after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter told this to the Jewish leaders: "[Jesus], delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death," (Acts 2:23). 

Jesus' death was a part of the predetermined plan of God!

It is only because Jesus died that men and women can be counted as worthy in God's eyes. He is the perfect One who became all of our rebellion that we might be made acceptable to God. 

But that's not the end of the story.

Back to Isaiah 53, it was foretold that Jesus would be raised to life after His death.   

But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

Isaiah 53:10

Not only would the Messiah die by the Father's good pleasure, but it says here that "[Christ] will see His offspring, [God] will prolong His days." What an awesome promise. Peter makes this plain in his conversation with the Jewish leaders noted above. 

But God raised Him up again, 
putting an end to the agony of death, 
since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
Acts 2:24

It could not be any sweeter. 

In mercy, God wants to forgive men.

In grace, God makes it possible for men to be forgiven.

And in love, God pursues men and tells them what He has done on their behalf.

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