Welcome to Good Friday! We call it good because it’s good for us, for all of humanity. But, that dark Friday back in the day was a really bad day for Jesus.
It probably wouldn’t take much for us to feel a bit weepy today as we give some thought and prayer to Jesus’ passion. If we think on this matter some, today will most certainly bring a few lump-in-the-throat moments.
Speaking of which, I am drawn to a verse of Scripture from Matthew’s account of the crucifixion. We are told that around 3:00 on that fateful afternoon, that first Good Friday, Jesus shouted out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me (Matthew 27:46b NIV).”
Note that he was, quoting King David from Psalm 22:1a. David goes on to say, “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning (Psalm 22:1b NIV).”
While King David too may have felt alienation, I am convinced that no living mortal has ever felt the depth of utter abandonment as did Christ on that cross. I think I can make the case that Jesus fought to occupy the lowest rung on the angst ladder and kept it all for himself.
The intensity of his suffering feels scandalous and disgraceful to me. It seems utterly undignified that the Son of God would be in such despair.
Again, I can make the case that no one in human history suffered such utter and complete separation from God than Christ.
Well, actually the apostle Paul made the case for me:
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8 NIV)!”
Jesus, who is God, loved us to death! He still does!
Years ago, I heard Billy Graham make the statement that hell is separation from God. I thought about that for a while and then decided that he was right! Can you imagine a deeper hell than being totally cut off from God?
The word hell is of Old English derivation when means to be penned up. A hel(d) was a livestock pen.
My thinking is that while on that cross, when he made that statement of abandonment, it was because he occupied the lowest recesses of that forbidden place. I believe this was required of Jesus.
I believe it was Jesus’ mission to actually become the lowest point in the universe. Jesus literally went through hell for us.
Years ago in seminary, I was taught by a wise old theologian that Christ’s death is like a fishnet. For a fishnet to be effective, it must be lowered beneath the fish.
If the net is beneath all the fish, then all the fish will be raised with the net. No fish will be left behind!
Christ had to fall beneath us in order to grasp us as he arose. In the case of Jesus, a rising tide really does float all boats.
To put a finer point on things, nothing can place us beyond Christ’s grasp (Romans 8:39)! There can be no sorrow, pain, guilt, shame, indiscretion, or failure that places us beyond Jesus’ personal experience or his ability to reach us.
The prophet Isaiah chimed in too:
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely, he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:3-5 KJV).
And, this explains a lot.
For example, it explains how a fellow like Horatio Spafford, who lost four daughters in a tragic shipwreck, can pass over the very spot where his daughters were drowned and calmly write:
When peace, like a river attendeth my way.
When sorrows like sea-billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffer, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
(It Is Well With My Soul, The United Methodist Hymnal, #377, vss 1 & 2)
And for crying out loud, Spafford’s family was heading overseas by ship to attend a Dwight Moody revival in England when the ship sank. He was to join them later on. This tale is almost too gruesome to believe!
But even so, you and I can boldly sing that hymn too because through Christ, nothing in the universe is the end of the story, not even the greatest daggers that Satan can throw!
That man of sorrows, that man acquainted with grief has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.
Another old hymn has begun to play in my head:
In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o’er the wrecks of time;
All the light of sacred story,
Gathers round its head sublime.
When the woes of life o’er-take me,
Hopes deceive and fears annoy,
Never shall the cross forsake me.
Lo! It glows with peace and joy!
(In the Cross of Christ I Glory, John Bowring, The United Methodist Hymnal, #295 vss 1 & 2, 1825.)
So, today is Good Friday. Good for us! Bad for Jesus!
But, what a savior! And, more good news is that nothing will stop him from bringing us safely home!
As I said, it wouldn’t take much to become a little weepy as we think this over and pray about it. Once we were lost, but now we are found, blind but now we see.
Some thoughts to consider on a Good Friday!