April 10; Good Friday; Year A

good friday 19 20Why would we call it "good"?

Today is the day we remember how our Lord, innocent though He was, was put to death by His enemies. Today is the day our Saviour is nailed to the cross because those whom He had come to save rejected Him. Today is the day when His thousands of followers and even His most intimate friends abandoned Him and leaving just four women and a man to accompany Him during this horrible ordeal. Today, the Word of God is silenced on the cross - no farewell speech to encourage or inspire His followers. And yet we Christians call this day “Good Friday” and our Eastern brethren have an even more audacious sounding name for it - the Great Friday.

Why on earth would Christians refer to this Friday as “good”?

It’s called Good Friday because even while powerful men were conspiring to kill the Son of God, God Himself was acting to save the world from itself, once and for all. Even while the world’s authorities were conspiring to perpetrate history’s greatest evil, God was working to bring about history’s greatest good.

Yes, we Christians have not made a great blunder in naming today as Good Friday. It isn’t a misnomer. Far from a mistake, our Lord’s death and sacrifice on the cross is God’s greatest achievement, His most prized trophy.

Today is good because on the cross, our Lord suffered so that we would not have to suffer eternally. Yes, we are not saying that Christians are insulated from suffering because of what Christ did. Christians are no strangers to suffering. It’s part of our DNA. In fact, to be a Christian means to deny ourselves and take up our crosses in imitation of our Lord. But all suffering in this life, no matter how unbearable it may seem, is only temporary. Suffering has a shelf life because of what our Lord did today.

What Christ did is that He “traded places” with us. He lived the sinless life that we should live, and died the death that we deserve to die. He took our guilty record, died for it, and offers us His perfect record in return. That is why Saint Paul declared that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).

Today is also not just a good day but a great day because by His death on the cross, our Lord Jesus reconciled us to the Father. Long before social distancing became the norm, man had already socially distanced himself from God by our sins. It is not God who had distanced Himself from us; it is not God who had abandoned us. It is we who have abandoned Him through sin. Because of our sins, we have alienated ourselves from God and others, but Jesus saves us from our sins in order to mend those relationships. The reconciling powers of Christ will cause all relational barriers to be torn down, including the barriers of ethnicity and nationality (Rev 5:9-10).

Finally because of the cross and the resurrection, we have hope for the future. As you all know, Good Friday is not a stand-alone feast. The story doesn’t just climax and end with Jesus dying on the cross on Good Friday. The real ending is found on Easter when Jesus will burst forth from the tomb, break the shackles and prison of death and rise again so that now we may have new life. With every darkening which seems to come with Good Friday, there is the new dawn of Easter.

Though Christ’s death has defeated the powers of death, suffering and evil, we must still wait for the day when He will return to put all these enemies under His feet. Until then, we must hope and believe that the victory is already His, that death is not the end, that suffering will not have the final say. Mission accomplished. This pandemic or any other calamity, natural or otherwise will have no hold over us. The work of Christ is complete. From the cross, He assures us, “It is accomplished.”

It does seem odd to refer to anybody’s death as “good.” Yet, God’s good plan is often counterintuitive: As Jesus says, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life will find it; “the first shall be the last and the last shall be first” (Mark 10:31). And yes, through the “good” death of God’s Son, humanity can receive new life, abundant life. He has given us eternal life that will never be defeated by any infection, calamity or even death.