Friday, April 18, 2014

What is "Good" about Good Friday?

Good Friday - what could possibly be "good" in connection with a crucifixion? The Son of God - unjustly condemned as a criminal and put to death by way of one of the most horrific, torturous, and gruesome practices probably in the history of mankind. But while the practice of crucifixion itself is horrifying, the eternal effects of Jesus' death are where an unbelievable amount of "good" can be found.

Over the course of this week, I've been trying to think through the "weight" of the upcoming Easter weekend. It's truly a great celebration in the life of a believer, and it's always the Sunday to look forward to in the life of a church. But to sit & try to think through what really took try to sort through the implications & ramifications of the events of that weekend so long's something we really can't even wrap our minds around. To contemplate the enormity of what was accomplished by our suffering Savior on the cross of Calvary is an overwhelming exercise of the human mind. But I wanted to at least make an attempt to look at what was fulfilled for those of us who have placed our faith in Christ when Jesus said "It is finished." By no means is this an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will at least be a good framework for understanding.

Substitution:  First and foremost, the death of Jesus was in our place. It was the death we all deserve...but our sinful state was so depraved that we aren't even worthy to pay the penalty for our own sin. So in God's love, He sent a substitute - the God-Man. Because sin has been committed by man, only another human could be our substitute (the debt alone is mankind's). But it had to be a sinless, spotless sacrifice - so this substitute also had to be fully God in order to be the perfect sacrifice. God sent Himself to meet His own demands to be the substitute for our sin. "Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me?" (1 Timothy 2:5; Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

Propitiation:  Christ's substitution brought about propitiation. Because of our sin, we were under the wrath of a holy God. God, being just and righteous, cannot overlook or excuse sin. Sin demands a payment, and "the wages of sin is death." But in the death of Jesus as the sinless sacrifice on our behalf, God literally poured out His wrath as He punished & cursed His Son for our sin. So again, in His love, God Himself provided the means by which His own wrath would be appeased. "And on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied." (1 John 2:2, 4:10; Hebrews 2:17; Romans 3:25; Isaiah 53:11)

Atonement:  Closely connected to 'propitiation,' atonement means to cover, or to satisfy. In the Jewish sacrificial system, the Day of Atonement took place only once a year (Leviticus 16). That was the only day the high priest could enter the holy of holies of the tabernacle or the temple to make atonement on behalf of the people of Israel. There were a lot of specific requirements (almost all of them involving blood - Hebrews 9:22) that went along with this ritual in order for God to be satisfied with the sacrifice, and for the sins of the people to be atoned for (or forgiven). However, on the cross Jesus presented Himself - and His own shed blood - as the once and for all sacrifice. The one-time, sufficient payment for all sins - past, present, and future. "Jesus paid it all - all to Him I owe. My sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow." (Hebrews 10:11-18).

Reconciliation:  The satisfaction of God's wrath & the atonement for sin is the prerequisite to our reconciliation. Our sin created a chasm between us and our Creator. The relationship & perfect fellowship originally established in the garden of Eden was broken with the original sin of Adam and the perpetual sin of mankind. The death of Christ removed that barrier between God and man, and brought restoration to that relationship. Never is it mentioned that God is reconciled to us - rather, we were the ones at enmity with God, and we alone were in need of being reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Romans 5:10)

Redemption:  We were slaves to sin, and slaves to the law (which only magnifies our sin & offers no way of escape). The substitutionary death of Jesus purchased us from the very slavery of sin & death. He paid our ransom with His very blood. "Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb! Redeemed through His infinite mercy; His child, and forever, I am." (Ephesians 1:7; Galatians 3:13-14)

Justification:  This is the legal declaration based solely on what was accomplished by Jesus, in our place, on the cross. It is nothing we can work for or earn. The very moment we place our faith in Christ's work on our behalf, His payment for sin is applied to us personally, and all of our sins - past, present, and future - are forgiven. We are not "innocent" - we are pardoned. Positionally, God no longer looks at us as a sinner, but instead sees us through the righteousness of His own Son. The divine exchange made possible by the blood of Jesus - He took our sin & gave us His righteousness. A one-time act that has an eternal effect. "Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free. For God, the Just, is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me!" (Romans 5:1, 3:24-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

As I mentioned before - in no way is this any kind of an exhaustive list, but all of these glorious truths were made possible & accomplished at the very moment Jesus victoriously proclaimed, "It is finished!" This is the "good" in Good Friday - that what needed to be done, and what we could never do on our own, was perfectly carried out for us. But perhaps the BEST thing about Good Friday, is that Sunday is just around the corner! When Jesus cried, "It is finished," the payment had been made & He knew the funds were sufficient. But when He rose from the dead 3 days later, the check was cleared and sin, death, and hell were defeated forever!

His resurrection ultimately sealed the fate of death itself (1 Corinthians 15:26). It sealed our inheritance, and it gave us a guaranteed hope of new life in Him, and eternal life with Him (Ephesians 2:4-9; Colossians 3:3-4; 1 Peter 1:3-5). The weight of Easter weekend, then, is so much that the very focal point of all human history is centered on a bloody cross and an empty tomb. It is the basis for not only our salvation, but for any and all forward movement in this life. "It is finished" is a cry that echoes on through eternity and brings victory, freedom, and hope to all who repent and believe in His Name (Acts 4:12; Acts 16:31). It is the banner under which the believer lives his life, and it will be the basis of our unending praise throughout eternity. May our minds and hearts be saturated this Easter weekend with these great truths of what Jesus has accomplished on our behalf!

"Man of Sorrows" what a name for the Son of God who came;
Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Guilty, vile and helpless we, Spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full atonement! Can it be? Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die, "It is finished," was His cry;
Now in heaven exalted high: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

When He comes our glorious King, all His ransomed home to bring;
Then anew this song we'll sing: Hallelujah, what a Savior!

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