The Good in Good Friday
Rev. David French

There are two things that are made crystal clear on Good Friday. The first is the fact that God takes sin seriously. His wrath toward sinners is real. The sacrificial death of His Son on the cross proves that beyond all doubt. The second is the fact that His love for sinners is also real. The cross of Christ shows the extent of God’s love, the price He is willing to pay to redeem the fallen sons and daughters of Adam. That’s one of the reasons we need Good Friday. I mean, it’s in our nature to underestimate God’s anger and wrath when it comes to our sin. 

Even though the Scriptures are full of evidence and warnings that God hates and punishes sin, both in time and for all eternity, we in our wisdom often take His long-suffering as proof of the opposite. We look around and see how much wickedness seems to go unpunished in the world and in our own lives, and the conclusion that we draw from this is that God must not be all that concerned about sin.

And honestly our culture doesn’t offer much help in that regard. Today, no one really likes to talk about God’s “wrath.” He is a God of love, a love far beyond our understanding, and that is as far as some church bodies and teachers will go. In many pockets of Christianity, people have fashioned for themselves a god that is tame, a god that, at worst, winks at sin and a god that, at best, is disappointed in them when they make bad decisions.

On Good Friday, we can’t look at God as someone who winks at our sin or ignores it. On Good Friday we are forced to face the reality of what God thinks about sin and its consequences. If ever there was proof that God takes sin seriously, it’s there hanging on the cross of Calvary. It was there in the beaten, bloody, bruised, forsaken, and finally lifeless body of His only begotten Son. 

When you, in your mind’s eye, see Christ hanging on the cross, you have no choice but to see what God really thinks of our lying, our lustful thoughts, our covetous desires, our gossip, our lack of fear, love, and trust in Him above all things, our tendency to put the worst construction on everyone’s words and actions, our doubt about God’s love and protection. Need I go on? 

But that doesn’t mean Good Friday is some kind of day to “feel sorry for Jesus.” Remember, Jesus willingly took and drank the cup of suffering … for you. What we see on the cross of Christ is how much God loves sinners. It’s there that our God was pouring out His wrath and anger for our sin on His innocent and holy Son so that you and I would never have to bear His eternal wrath.

But apart from faith, you don’t, nor can you, see that. It’s only by divine revelation, that is as God revealed it through the writings of the prophets and apostles, that you know what was really happening that day. Apart the Scriptures, you and I would be like those who believed Him to be stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God (Isaiah 53:4). Without eyes of faith, you can’t see that Jesus was wounded for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). Apart from His Word, you could not know that in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting (our) trespasses against (us) (2 Corinthians 5:19). That’s why last night, Jesus made known to His disciples the reason for His sacrifice with the words “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins” as He instituted His Holy Supper.

You see, it’s through God’s Word alone that you know and believe that everything that happened on Good Friday was in perfect harmony with God’s will for you. As the Isaiah declared: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10). Every crack of the whip, every jeer, every nail driven into the hands and feet of Jesus had its role in turning God’s anger away from you and me. And as long we remain in Christ, that is as long as we are united to Him by faith, we are safe and secure from God’s all-consuming anger against those who reject His mercy. That’s why we’re taught to turn to Christ when we’re overcome by temptation or by our own our sinful desires. It’s why we’re taught to remember our baptism, the very place where God buried and raised us with Christ. And this is one of the reasons we come to His table.

Every time we share Christ’s body and blood, we receive what Christ purchased on this evening. We receive forgiveness for all our sins, and so, peace with God. This gift of life eternal was purchased for you and me on Calvary. It was then and there that God declared all sin to be paid for and all sinners forgiven through the blood of His Son. 

To be sure there are those who reject His gift of mercy, but from that time on, the forgiveness Christ earned on Good Friday with His body and blood has been and continues to be freely and graciously delivered to you from this altar in, with, and under the simple means of bread and wine, just as He promised. And now that Christ has taken upon Himself the wrath His Father had stored up for you, His Father, by grace through faith in His Son, our heavenly Father now sees you as holy and pure, as His own dear child. And that not because you have shown enough sorrow for your sin, but because Christ has made full atonement for your sins. He has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). 

Today, it’s easy for us to think of God as a loving and compassionate God. In fact, some today are so focused on “God is love” that they forget the cup of divine judgment that swept past them and landed in the lips of Jesus. It’s easy to forget that forgiveness comes with a very high price, but tonight reminds us that we can thank our gracious Lord that, according to His justice, He poured out His cup of wrath against our sin, and Christ freely and willingly in humble obedience drank every drop so that you and I and all who believe will never know it’s bitter taste.

Just think of it. You can wake up and go to work each morning not afraid of what your sins have earned, but confident they’ve been forgiven through the life and death of Christ. You can approach your heavenly Father knowing that, on the day of your baptism, you became His child; and as you made or will make the good confession, you are invited to His table where Christ continues to feed and nurture your faith in His promises. Truly, what happened on this day is the peace beyond all human understanding.

That’s why we call this day “good.” It was good for us that God placed His Son under a curse, good for us that the nails were driven into His flesh, good for us that the spear pierced His side, good for us that blood and water flowed from Him, good for us that He breathed His last, and it’s good for us that by His death He has turned the cup of His Father’s wrath into a cup of blessing to be received by grace through faith in His Son who lived and died for you and for all.

In His holy name, Amen.