How Can Good Friday Be Called Good?

In our journey toward Easter, the celebration, the fun, the joy in celebrating the Resurrection of Christ, so often we can miss the weight of a day like today…the impact of Christ’s death on what we refer to as Good Friday.

In the first century, as this day happened, it was anything but good. Christ would suffer one of the more gruesome deaths, be ridiculed as a criminal, be treated as less than human, be beaten, and left to die a painful death. And as horrible as this was, it was by no means a surprise. The prophet Isaiah had spoken of this very event thousands of years before.  His words are recorded in Isaiah 53:4-5…

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities…”

Christ willingly endured this pain and took this journey toward death, to take what was bad and make it good. He hung upon that cross, moment by moment, pushing himself up time and time again to grasp another quick breath of air, prolonging the inevitable…his eventual death upon that wretched tree.

And the moment would come as Christ breathed his last…the Messiah, the One that claimed to be the very Son of God would no longer have life in his lungs. His physical body hung their limp, no longer possessing the energy and vibrance that characterized Christ’s life on earth. This moment was one of amazing sorrow for his followers…they had put their hopes, their dreams, their desires into his hands, and now he was gone.

Things had been so different with Christ.  He wasn’t like the other religious leaders…he spoke with such authority, he displayed the power of God with such grace. But now he was gone.

Life had become so full, freedom had become so real because of Christ, but now his followers wondered if their lives would drift helplessly back to the way they once were?  It was a tragic moment of sorrow, of questions, of uncertainty. The moment Christ breathed his last was anything but good.

But the cross wasn’t the end that some had suspected, it was simply the beginning. Only hours after Jesus would die upon that wretched cross, the gospel writer, Matthew gives us a glimpse at what would be done with Christ’s now, lifeless body. We read this account in Matthew 27:57-61…

“As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.”

Joseph was not only a wealthy man, but he was a man of great influence as a member of the Jewish ruling body, the Sanhedrin. We read elsewhere that Joseph was joined by Nicodemus, who was also a follower of Christ and member of the Religious Leadership. These two men would proceed to wrap their arms around Christ’s lifeless body, lifting him from the cross that had taken his life, and with such love and care, they took him to the tomb owned by Joseph.  They had to move quickly as dusk was approaching, which would mark the beginning of the Sabbath, a day which no one was permitted to work.

They soon gently laid his body into the recently carved tomb, and wrapped his body in linens placing a mixture of burial spices, myrrh and aloes, upon his body. Standing back in this solemn and lonely grave, they would be the only ones to see the true finality of Christ’s death. He was now wrapped in burial cloths and placed within that tomb…this was the final statement of his death. His body no longer carried life, but was now clothed completely in death. Joseph and Nicodemus would slowly walk from the tomb, sealing it with a boulder…a giant, unmovable stone, further solidifying the death, the loss, the disappointment of Christ’s death.

This was a sad day for the thousands of followers that had watched Christ heal the sick, had heard him teach throughout the country sides, had experienced his compassion as he looked upon the hurting children of that region…their hopes of a new Israel, of a reformed faith, would seemingly die with this man known as Jesus.

For us on the other side of this moment, we forget the pain that Christ’s followers endured for the few days he would lay in that grave.  But every tear that was shed, every sorrowful and reminiscent conversation that would be had, would make what Christ was about to do even that much more powerful.

The Apostle Paul would later write in one of his letters to the church in Rome about a core characteristic of God that was at work in this moment, but was definitely not visible when Joseph and Nicodemus would look upon Christ’s body wrapped in that robe of death.

Paul wrote about how God so often takes what is clearly bad, and somehow transforms it into something overwhelmingly good. For Paul, it may have been a farfetched statement, but it wasn’t simply his words, it was a description of what God had already done and would continue to do.

And these words were not simply for the First Century, but  they ring true for our lives today. You see, we have all had moments when we’ve experienced the final blow of life’s circumstances.

  • When we’ve lost our job, and our family’s only source of income is gone.
  • When that significant other we have loved and were convinced would spend the rest of our lives with, walks out on you.
  • When the words of those closest to you become like daggers cutting straight to your heart.

These are the moments when hope can be lost, when the future can be dim, when everything around us is screaming that our dreams are over.  That the very idea of dreaming and hoping is simply the work of child-like naivety.

These are the moments when life can be described as anything but good. And into moments like these, into moments like Christ’s followers experienced on that dark Friday, Paul’s words become a shining beacon of hope piercing the darkness.

Here’s what Paul would say in regards to what is seemingly hopeless and lost in Romans 8:28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

How can today ever be called good? How can a day be called good when the Savior of the world was murdered by the malicious envy of the religious elite? How can the moment when death has wrapped its tentacles around Christ’s body be called good? It can be called good because it wasn’t the end.

In all things God is working for the good. In your life, that pink slip is not the end. In your family, that devastating news is not the end. In your relationships, that helpless moment is not the end. In your finances, that empty moment of despair is not the end.

You see, the same cloth that was wrapped around Christ’s body would only days later lay beneath his feet as he walked out of that empty tomb, conquering sin, death, and the very grave that held him.

The linen that Joseph and Nicodemus would wrap around Christ’s body may have represented the finality of Christ’s death, but it would only further magnify the impossibility of Christ’s comeback.

Whatever situation or circumstance you might find yourself in today…you may call it bad… you might call it unlucky… you might call it depressing, but the good news is God gets the last word…what you might see as bad or unfortunate, God is working…God is redeeming…in spite of your circumstances God is still working all things. And on a day that we now know as “Good Friday” take heart in the midst of your pain, your sorrow, your struggles, because Good Friday represents the redemption that God can bring even into the most impossible of situations.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

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