Blake talks about why Good Friday is called good, the meaning of the cross, and the sacrifice God made so that we could be reconciled to Him for all eternity.
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Abigail: Hey, y'all. My name is Abigail Newton, and I'm originally from the great state of Kansas. I grew up in a small town on a farm and moved to Dallas this past August to be a part of the Watermark Institute and am currently serving on the college team. I grew up going to church on Sundays but never came to understand the gospel and wasn't discipled in my home. I believed there was a God but didn't know what a personal relationship with God looked like.
Growing up, I perceived my dad to be emotionally absent. Because I didn't find the hope, acceptance, and security God intends for us to have in healthy male relationships at home, I began looking to dating relationships to find love and affirmation, to find worth and value. From the time I was in second grade to my senior year of high school, I had dated around 25 different guys. I sought male affirmation to know that I had value and worth and to receive the love I was desperately longing for.
There was just this hole in my heart that was never being filled, and I thought a guy was the answer. My freshman year of high school, I entered into an abusive relationship for three and a half years and was sexually active all throughout high school. I believed that if I gave myself away emotionally and physically, then I would in return receive the love I was desperately longing for, not knowing that the longing and love I was looking for is only found in Jesus.
Ironically, at the same time, I was invited to a youth group by a friend. There, I began to understand the gospel of true love for the first time. Jesus' love for me compelled him to bear the consequence my sin deserved. It compelled him to give sacrificially for me and not take selfishly from me. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.
While I was dead in my sin, searching to find my identity in men, my worth in their acceptance of me, God sent his only Son to die for me so that by faith alone I can be in the first and only relationship I was created for. I no longer needed to be a slave to my sin. My eyes were opened for the first time, and I saw my need for a Savior.
Relationships had been my idol. I gave every part of myself to them, and worshiping that idol left me damaged and desperate, but worshiping Jesus has brought me freedom and unconditional love. When I was at my lowest point with all the brokenness, hurt, shame, guilt, and embarrassment in my past, I found Jesus at my rock bottom. I put my full trust in him as my Lord and Savior.
Now my life looks completely different. I know that my longings to be loved, to know that I have worth and value are solely met in Christ alone, and today the Lord has redeemed me and is redeeming me, and I have found freedom from my past. I know that my purpose is to know God, to know his absolute perfect love for me, to be a steward of his Word, and to help others know him as well. I am now desperate for the love that Jesus alone gives me.
All along I was right. I did need to be in a relationship to find unconditional love, but that relationship is with Jesus, not any counterfeit this world offers. Psalm 73:25 says, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." My life isn't easier now, but it is full of purpose and contentment, and the only love I desire is the love of Jesus.
Blake Holmes: Maybe you're like me. I remember growing up and asking the question, "What is good about Good Friday? Why do they call it good?" Your answer to that question largely depends upon your understanding of the cross and what it represents. Candidly, for many of us, the cross is no more than just a decoration that is on the wall in our homes or adorns a coffee table. It's a piece of jewelry we wear around our neck with not much thought as to what it represents.
Or maybe it's a symbol on a bumper sticker, claiming that all roads lead to heaven, wrongly, I might add. Or maybe when we look at the cross. As I spoke to an older gentleman last night, it just reminded him of his childhood, going to church on Sunday morning, going to church on Sunday night, returning to church on Wednesday night, going through the motions. It just took him back to a place of sentiment, kind of a boyhood innocence.
Why is it called Good Friday? Again, your answer to that largely depends on how you understand the cross. You see, the cross is not just jewelry. It's not just a decoration. It's not a symbol for a bumper sticker. It's not a trinket. The cross was a form, a means of execution. That's what the cross is. No one during the time in which Jesus lived had a cross around their neck, I assure you.
The cross was a place of execution, and the reason it is called Good Friday is because never before has the justice of God and the love of God so prominently been displayed together. It's when you understand that, when you understand that the cross was a display of the love and the justice of God, then you begin to understand why it's called good. On that Friday, God poured out his wrath and his justice on sin.
We all clamor for God to do something about evil, do something about sin in this world, and he has. He has. We serve a God who is holy, perfect, and just. A God who's holy, meaning a God who is without sin, meaning he is perfect in all of his ways, and he's just, so he must execute justice on sin. He cannot simply overlook it, turn a blind eye, pretend like it's not there. He must deal with sin or he no longer remains just.
If you enter into a courtroom and you watch the guilty go free, what do you automatically conclude about the judge? That he's unjust. He must punish sin. He must execute judgment. The problem, gang, is…the Bible is very clear…all of us, every single one of us, have rebelled against God. Romans 3:23, a verse that's familiar to many of us, simply says, "For all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." All of us have.
Had we been there on that day, it would have been our hands that would have nailed Jesus to the cross. We would have shouted, "Crucify him!" We're all guilty of sin. We have done things that are contrary to the will and the way and the purposes of God. Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point is guilty of all, the book of James tells us. The wages, the consequences of our sin, what we have now earned, individually and corporately, is death.
God, in his justice, in his wrath, in his holiness, must judge sin, so we've now been separated from God. We're no longer rightly related to God as we were created to be. He designed us to have fellowship with him and enjoy him, but we rebelled. We sinned. So now we've been separated from him, and now we don't just die a physical death, although that is true, and experience pain and sorrow in this world, but we've died a spiritual death.
We can't just enter into the presence of God. Ephesians 2 goes so far as to say that we were dead in our trespasses and sins. What can a dead man do? The answer is nothing. We offer nothing to God. There's nothing we could do to earn his love. We were dead in our sins. "…in which [we] formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." That is who we were: dead in our sins, sons of disobedience.
It goes on to say we were children of wrath. "Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest." God couldn't just turn a blind eye to sin. The good news is God is not only holy and just and righteous but God is loving and full of grace. We serve a God who desires to have a relationship with us, and he has initiated with us.
When we were dead in our sins, seeking our own way, running from God, children of wrath, sons of disobedience, contributing to the rebellion, screaming, "Crucify him!" the Bible says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were [still] sinners, Christ died for us." While we were still sinners. It doesn't say after we got our lives put back together, when we started on the moral way, when we went back to church.
God recognized that left to ourselves we would remain dead in our sin, but he loves us such that he initiated a relationship with us. He demonstrates his own love for us, that while we were still sinners Christ died for us, bridging the gap between a holy God and a sinful people on the cross. We see the love of God and the justice of God both on display. For those of us who recognize the cross to be more than a decoration or a piece of jewelry, we recognize that that's the bridge. That's why it's called Good Friday.
God instructs us. He says, "Although you may believe that intellectually and know that to be true, that's not enough." Each one of us must make a choice. Each one of us must choose to respond to the offer of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We don't respond by giving more. We don't respond by cleaning up our lives. We don't respond by going to church, reading our Bible more, or do, do, do.
We respond through repentance, by turning from our sin, acknowledging that we have offended a perfect, holy, and righteous God, and confessing our need for a Savior. That Savior is Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man…fully God so as to be without sin and fully man so as to serve as our substitute on that cross. That is why the cross, Jesus Christ, is the only means of salvation, because there's no one who can bridge that gap between a holy, perfect, righteous God and a sinful, rebellious people.
That's why Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through me." There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved. No other name. Not all roads lead to heaven. Don't buy the lie. There's only one way to a right relationship with the God who created you, and it's through his Son. It's through recognizing the significance of the cross, that you nailed him there, that I nailed him there, in our sin and our rebellion.
The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9, one of the greatest passages of Scripture, one of the greatest promises to meditate on today to understand the goodness of Good Friday… It says by grace we have been saved through faith. It's not of our own doing. It's not of ourselves. It's a free gift of God. It is a gift. Not by works, so that no one may boast. That's grace. The means to a right relationship with God is recognizing who he is, how we've fallen short, that we can't make up that gap, but now we simply receive the gift, the gift of God's grace, which simply means his unmerited favor.
"…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…" But you have to choose. Why is it called Good Friday? It's hard for the world to understand what could be good about Good Friday when all they see when they look at the cross is a decoration, but for those of us who believe, it's more than a decoration. It's more than a piece of jewelry. It's where the love and justice of God met on our behalf.
What is so good about Good Friday? It's there that Jesus was sacrificed. Jesus paid the penalty of our sin on our behalf. First Peter 2:24 says it like this: "…and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." At the cross, Jesus was sacrificed and paid the penalty for our sins. Why is it Good Friday? It's because there Jesus satisfied the wrath of God.
The Bible uses a term called propitiation. It's a temple term, a religious term to show that the wrath of God was satisfied in the only one who was perfect and the only one who could offer himself in such a way as to satisfy the wrath of a holy, perfect God. First John 4:10 says, "In this is love, not that we loved God…" We didn't love God. "…but that He loved us…" He initiated with us. "…and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the satisfaction] for our sins."
Why is it called Good Friday? Because it is Jesus who redeems us. Jesus freed us from the bondage of sin. We who were dead in our sins, in our trespasses… Ephesians 1:7 says, "In Him [in Jesus Christ, the God-man] we have redemption…" We've been freed. "…through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight…"
Why is it Good Friday? Because it's at the cross that we are reconciled with God. We are no longer enemies of God but now have the opportunity to be called children of God, adopted into the family of God. We now have peace with God. Colossians 1:21-22 says, "And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach…"
It's called Good Friday because it's the place of sacrifice, propitiation, redemption, and reconciliation. Let me see if I can illustrate this in a very simple way. The reason it's called Good Friday is because each of us has sinned against God. I have lied and deceived others. I've been filled with pride and envy and materialism. The list is long. Quite simply, the easiest way to illustrate what Jesus did for us on the cross is he took our place.
The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God…" Jesus, the perfect, spotless Lamb of God, the very Son of God, who was without sin, served as my substitute and died the death I deserved. So what happens is his righteousness is credited to my account.
When you understand that, you understand why it's called Good Friday. No longer will my sins be counted against me, but instead, when God the Father looks at me, he sees the righteous, finished work of Christ on the cross. Your name could be there. When you understand that, you know why it's called Good Friday. Let me pray for us.
Lord, for many of us, we are familiar with what I just shared. We've heard these truths maybe so many times we've been inoculated to the truth. I pray you would awaken our hearts, that we would see that it's more than just intellectual assent, Lord, but it's trusting in the grace you offer to us that changes lives and where hope is found.
Father, we pause on Friday to recognize what happened, and we give you thanks. We know Easter is coming, Lord. We know Sunday is coming. We know there's resurrection. Paul tells us without the resurrection our faith is in vain. So, Lord, help us to recognize the weight of our sin, our need for repentance, and how the cross is the place where the justice and love of God met. In Christ's name, amen.
We are now going to quietly reflect on what I just shared with you. Jesus gives us a very tangible means of remembering what happened on that cross. He did it in such a clear, simple way. Christians, since the time Jesus was in the upper room, throughout the world, throughout centuries, have all gathered around the Table and taken the bread, which represents the body of Christ which was broken for us, and they've taken the juice, which represents the blood of Christ, and they've shared in that together, corporately, as a reminder of what Christ has done for us.
It's a time for us to look back on what happened on that Good Friday, what motivated Christ. It's a time for us to examine ourselves presently. Who do we believe Jesus Christ is? What do we believe the cross represents? Do we believe that it is called good? It's a time for us to reflect on our relationship with him, and then it is also a time of anticipation, because Christ tells us we are to take of this in anticipation of his return.
If you don't know the Lord Jesus Christ as your one and only Savior, it wouldn't make sense for you to come and eat at the family table. I would simply ask that you would consider what has been shared with you today. Just be still. But if you do know him, I would invite you to come. There are tables up front. There are tables in the back. Just very quietly, as you're ready…
We're going to sing a song that's going to allow you to have time to reflect. Come grab the bread and the juice. Please don't take it yet. Let's just be still and ask God to search our hearts and reflect on why this Friday is called good.