In many ways, it’s hard to think of what this day represents as GOOD. An innocent man was executed in a most torturous way while onlookers scoffed and gambled for his few earthly goods. So why do we, after two millennia, still remember this event? Unfortunately, a lot of people have been tortured to death–this is not a pleasant world we live in. But this death was different because the man’s life was different. His life had been remarkable since it began. Stories had circulated about a so-called virgin birth, angels talking to shepherds, and a star that did not obey normal pathways across the sky. It was all very strange and people shook their heads, and then, for the most part, there was silence.
Thirty-some years later, he reappeared, walking along the Sea of Galilee, talking to fisherman and to anyone who would listen about the Kingdom of God. Most of you know the rest of the story (though not everyone in this country does, I’ve discovered). The man was Jesus. He spoke of God as his father, performed ‘real, live’ miracles one-on-one and in front of crowds. And loved people who never expected to be loved. But he also ruffled feathers, especially among the religious elite, because he just wouldn’t do things the way they wanted him to. He was funny, that way…
His own people, the Jews, rejected him, so he did something that riled them even more–he turned to those gentile dogs. (That would be most of us). He offered love, forgiveness, purpose. And eternal life! Which is why you can’t just say Jesus was a good guy, who, like good guys before and since, have made the wrong people mad and died because of it. Jesus called himself the Son of God; He said he could forgive sin; He performed miracles, and He promised his followers an eternal home in heaven after their part in the earth-story is over.
As CS Lewis points out, there’s only three ways to adequately account for the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. #1 The guy was a liar and cheat. A master at playing the crowds and sleight of hand. #2 He was off his rocker. I mean, what kind of person goes around telling crowds that he’s God? Or, #3 He was exactly who he said he was. Jesus Christ was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord and God. The evidence, both then and now, is strongly in favor of Option #3. People for 2000 years have believed his claims and have based their lives on his.
He didn’t die on that cross to pay for his own sins (he had none) but for ours. Your slate can still be wiped clean, because he is still not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
And that’s why this Friday is good.