It was a Friday of unimaginable viciousness and cruelty, leading to a horrible death. And yet, the Church has forever named it “good.”
At first, it certainly seems counterintuitive to do so. Referring to such horror as good appears to grant dreadfulness a license. It seems to give a coaxing nod to all that makes for this world’s misery, allowing it a certain measure of liberty to run wild, letting it off the chain to choose and devour its victim.
In a way, there’s an element of truth to these things. I think the Gospel writer, Luke, meant for us to sense it when He recorded the Lord’s words to the ones who’d arrived at Gethsemane to take Him into custody. His words were plain. Before giving Himself over, Jesus said, “Now is your hour and the power of darkness” (22:53). In other words, “You’ve been granted this time. Make the most of it and do your worst.”
We are to know that absolute devilry was let off its chain in those moments. In the truest condition of godforsakeness—the Heavenly Father mysteriously abandoning the Son—absolute ghastliness was granted permission to unleash its most devastating weapons from its cruelest arsenal.
This was the terrible license allowed that unique Friday, a day we call good.
Jesus would have called it good, too. He hints at this during His arrest. When Peter takes his sword to prevent the engagement, Jesus asks him rhetorically, “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:54). He sternly commands Peter to sheath his sword, questioning again rhetorically, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11). Again, this is to say, “Peter, this must happen. If I don’t endure darkness’ fury and drink the cup of wrath owed to those who brought the powers of Sin, Death, and hell into the world, then it will be left to its rightful owners. That’s you and all of humanity. But you cannot meet what’s due. None can endure it. None can defeat it. For your sake, Peter, what’s happening is good. It must be me. It has to be me.”
And so, it was.
Good Friday stands in history’s record as the moment when everything that had every right to consume and destroy everyone for all eternity turned its fullest attention on Jesus. It was a horrific day for the Lord—so horrible that human language can never describe it sufficiently. Knowing this, give the day your attention. Approach it with care. Know that something much deeper is happening to the Lord than what mortal eyes or ears can receive. It isn’t just physical or spiritual cruelty of the worst kind. It’s far more than that. It’s cosmic in proportion and beyond anything anyone could have ever endured.
Embracing this fact with all solemnity, if you feel the need to let out a sigh of relief at some point along the way home from worship, please feel free to do so. Good Friday was a good day for humanity. It was the day the ultimate punishment for Sin was endured, and its eternal price tag was fully met. Jesus did it. He wanted to. Good Friday sees Jesus’ arms stretched on the cross as far apart as they can reach. This is more than His death. It is the image of a world-encompassing embrace from the Divine. He loves you. He gives His life for all.
I mentioned worship a moment ago. Be sure to go. Here at Our Savior in Hartland, Michigan, there will be two services. The first is at 1:00 p.m. This is the Tre Ore service. Tre Ore means “three hours.” It symbolizes the Lord’s three hours of suffering at midday on the cross. The second is the Tenebrae service at 7:00 p.m. Tenebrae means “darkness.” We know the meaning of this title. It’s everything into which the Lord goes for our rescue. These services will lead their visitors into and through the details of the Lord’s work. If you can, immerse yourself in them. I promise you’ll be blessed. You’ll certainly be imbued with a more profound sense of Easter’s acclamation, which, together with the forgiven Church, we’ll sing out two short days later.