A high school senior in our area died this morning from a horrible motorcycle accident last night. His family and friends are in deep grief right now, and they will mourn to some extent for the rest of their lives.
A man in our town with no health insurance just broke his hand and needs a complicated surgery to get three pins in his bones. His wife and children depend on his income to survive.
An old friend recently got a shocking diagnosis for a kind of cancer that often defies successful treatment. His family watches and prays, not knowing what the coming weeks will bring.
Life is not only devastating sometimes, it can be deadly, too. That’s why we need to worship, as worship meets death with life. Especially today—Good Friday 2022 A.D.
We learn in Psalm 22:3 that God inhabits the praise of his people—a comforting truth from a Davidic composition often associated with the cross since Jesus cited its opening line during his crucifixion. Jesus knows firsthand that life can be as tough as nails. He’s no stranger to the ravages of this world. He knows what it means to be in pain.
In his book The Cross of Christ, John Stott (1921-2011) writes, “I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” In similar fashion, Edward Shillito (1872-1948) wrote in his poem “Jesus of the Scars”:
The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
Good Friday worship offers a unique spiritual experience for Christian believers around the world. In many communities of faith, it weaves together three vital strands of reflection that aim to deepen our gratitude and devotion to Christ for all he has done for us.
First, Good Friday worship is part historical reconstruction. We remember the words, actions, faith, and promises of Jesus as he suffered in Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate and the religious leaders of the first century.
Second, Good Friday worship is part biblical-theological exposition. We consider what it means that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and why the cross was God’s chosen instrument of redemption for the world.
Third, Good Friday worship is part spiritual lamentation. We gather to confess and renounce the sins we commit—all of which necessitated the cross—finding hope in the great truth Jesus himself declared: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Good Friday is the second movement of the historic Triduum—the three great days—in which the church gathers to remember the passion (i.e., the sufferings) of Christ. The tradition at our church is to gather in a bare sanctuary, stripped of all its symbols but the cross. We read the Scriptures, pray silently, worship a cappella, hear a “message of the cross,” and depart in silence, responding in faith and obedience to the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts and minds.
Why do we call it “Good” Friday? Because Jesus said, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). The Apostle Paul wrote, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). The Apostle Peter wrote, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Pet 3:18).
The cross, then, is good news for humanity. A great transaction took place there that God the Father accepted. He planned it, authorized it, carried it out, and honored it. That transaction is simply this: God treated Jesus as we deserved so that he could treat us as Jesus deserved. As the old hymn by Phillip Bliss (1838-1876) puts it:
Bearing shame and mocking rude,
In my place condemned he stood.
Or as Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) wrote in his famous hymn “It Is Well with My Soul”:
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
Jesus tasted death for all. Therefore, all can live again.
That is why Good Friday is truly good.