CS Lewis, author from the mid-20th century wrote this: “There is a kind of happiness and wonder that makes you serious. It is too good to waste on jokes.”  Today is Good Friday, but Why Call it Good? 

It had been three and a half years since the disciples had first heard Jesus calling them saying, “Come, Follow Me.”  The journey had taken them from deserted country-sides, now to the biggest city in that entire region of the world for the biggest festival of the year. 

It was evening on Thursday night and Jesus gathered with His disciples to celebrate the Passover.  This was a meal of remembrance to celebrate how God brought out the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt back in the days of Moses.  During and after this meal Jesus was teaching his disciples about who they are to be and how they are to live together. But woven through it all is the constant refrain of Jesus talking about his death. 

After Supper, Jesus and his disciples walked across a valley and over to a Garden outside the city walls, the Garden of Gethsemane.  It is here where Jesus became, as the Bible puts it, “sorrowful even unto death.”  His sweat was great drops of blood.  The Gospel writer Matthew records for us the agonizing conversation between God the Father and Jesus, who is God the Son.  Jesus is pleading with the Father that this Cup might pass from him.  The cup is a metaphor used throughout the Bible to refer to the wrath of God.  Jesus then submits himself to the will of the Father, accepting the cup of wrath. 

How can this be right or good?  Jesus is God wrapped in flesh.  He is the only one in whom there is no wrong.  Every other person who has ever walked the planet has committed crimes against their Maker, including you and me!  Just look around at society, it doesn’t take much convincing that people are messed up.  In fact, most all of us don’t even live up to the standard we set for ourselves, much less God’s standard for how we are to live.  Each one of us by nature and by choice have rebelled against our Maker and thus deserve judgement.  The cup of God’s wrath is our cup to drink. 

Jesus is perfect.  He is the only one who did not deserve punishment from God, but yet he is the one who agrees to take and drink the cup.  How can this be good?

Our first parents betrayed God in the Garden of Eden by eating the forbidden fruit.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, God is again betrayed, this time by the kiss of Judas Iscariot.  He was one of the inner 12.  He had slipped away during dinner and now had come back with a mob from the religious leaders to arrest Jesus. 

Here we see the King of Kings, who at His word could command legions of angels to come in battle array and decimate any military force the world has ever known.  Yet, Jesus quietly submits to being captured.  Where is the good in this? 

He then is hauled in before a secret nighttime meeting of the religious leaders there in Jerusalem, where a mockery of a trial and a sham of justice is put on display.  People were put up as witnesses to accuse Jesus of wrong and yet even their accusations did not agree.  It is not until Jesus confesses Himself to be the very Son of God, at which they should have bowed down in worship, but rather they rose up in condemnation.  This cannot be good!  This was a corrupt, self-righteous, and self-serving circle of power who often placed burdens on others to serve their own comforts. 

They did not have authority to execute Jesus.  This could only be handed down by the Romans.  So, subjecting Jesus to the abuse of their guards, they then carried Jesus in before Pontius Pilate. 

Through a further travesty of justice, Pilate ultimately puts Jesus up before the crowd in Jerusalem.  Reading the story, you would expect the crowd to overwhelmingly support Jesus, after all, just a few days before they were shouting his praises as he rode into the city.  But not only did they choose to release a murderer, Barabbas, instead of Jesus, provoked by the religious leaders they shouted in chorus for Jesus’ death.  “Crucify him! Crucify!  Crucify!”  There is no good here! 

Jesus, the perfect one, who came to heal the lame and the sick and give sight to the blind, to feed the hungry and give hope to the broken, the one who confronted and exposed hypocrisy and corruption, and the one who welcomed children to come near to him that he might bless them.  This Jesus is the one who was betrayed, wrongly convicted, and sentenced to death. 

Roman crucifixion is one of the more horrific forms of execution the world has known.  Prior to the cross, Jesus was beaten ruthlessly 39 times.   He was mocked, spit upon, his beard ripped out, a crown woven of thorn branches was jammed onto his head.  After all of this he was handed a large wooden cross to drag to Golgotha, the place of the skull.  This was a hill of suffering and execution outside of the city. 

There he was nailed to the cross and lifted up for all to see.  Jesus hung there for six hours until he breathed his last. 

We remember this day as Good Friday.  Why in the world would we ever call it good? 

Why call it Good?  The Bible, in the Gospel of John, records that Jesus said, “It is finished” and then breathed his last.  What is the “it” in this statement?  He’s not referring to himself; you don’t refer to yourself as “it”.  So, he must be referring to his mission, his task, what he came to earth to do in the first place. 

So why did Jesus come?  What was His mission? 

In John 12:27, As Jesus walked into Jerusalem not even a week earlier, Jesus said, “For this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.”

In John 18:37 Jesus answered, “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.”

The Apostle John writes in 1 John 3:8, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”

The Gospel writer Luke gives this from the lips of Jesus in Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to Timothy summarizes it this way in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

The Gospel of Mark records Jesus say in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Famously we hear the words of Jesus from John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him”

Again, Jesus says in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

In Jesus’s prayer in the Garden that Thursday night of his betrayal, he prays in John 17:4, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”

Jesus came to accomplish God’s eternal plan to rescue a people for himself!  This plan destroys the reign of the devil, brings glory to God, and rescue and salvation for people.  Jesus came and did what no one else could ever do.  Our attempts at doing good will never outweigh our wrongs.  Jesus is perfect and so perfectly fulfilled the plan of God. 

When Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” from the cross, the payment for sin was accomplished. 

The Goodness of Good Friday is seen profoundly in the reason why Jesus willingly went to the cross and died. 

2 Corinthians 5:21 states, “For our sake [God] made {Jesus] to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus is your substitute.  He died for you, in your place.  You deserved the cup of wrath that he drank.  He deserved the eternal rewards of heaven which he was given to you.  God put your sins on Jesus and punished them in him on the cross.  You are called to trust him.  To believe.  Stop trying to earn God’s approval and recognize that his love has already been shown to you in the fact that he sent Jesus to take your punishment and give you forgiveness and eternal life. 

Jesus was not a victim of circumstance or corruption.  He willingly laid down his life.  No, it was not right that he died, but we are made right because he died.  This is how great God’s love is for you!  Are you trusting Him?  Have you turned from your vain pursuit of trying to earn God’s acceptance and believed the promise of Jesus? 

Here is a key diagnostic question for you to ask yourself: if you were to die tonight and God were to ask you, “why should I let you into my heaven?” what would you say? 

If your answer has anything to do with your record or performance, you are not trusting in Jesus.  Mercy and grace are free to you because Jesus bought your forgiveness with his blood at the cross where the love of God was poured out for you.  Stop trying to earn God’s acceptance, rather experience God’s love and believe in what Jesus has finished for you!

Can you see the Goodness of Good Friday?  If this is the first time Good Friday has made sense to you, turn from your sin and trust in Jesus finished work on the cross. 

Good Friday brings a happiness and wonder that is too deep to be wasted on humor.  Rather is a whole bodied joy that calls each of us to the love of God in Jesus Christ!