This was not simply disappointment. It was gut-wrenching tragedy.
Their hopes, like precious china, lay shattered. Their dreams hung limp on a splintered cross. Glancing over their shoulders in fear with each step, the disciples wondered who would be next. For those who loved Him, darkness smothered Friday like a cold, damp woolen blanket.
And what was that Friday like for Christ?
It began with flogging. Roman soldiers fashioned a leather whip, studded with small rocks and bone. Every blow against Jesus’ back ripped open new strips of skin. His muscles and tendons quickly turned into a mass of quivering, bleeding flesh. Many prisoners died of shock and blood loss long before being nailed to the cross.
After the beating, Jesus dragged his cross to the execution site where soldiers dropped it on the ground and threw Him onto it. The spikes hammered through His wrists and feet tore through exquisitely sensitive nerves. Electrifying pain exploded along His limbs.
As He hung between heaven and earth, breathing became an all-consuming struggle. Gravity pulled inexorably on His diaphragm, forcing Jesus to repeatedly push against His feet and flex His arms just to breathe. Yet, every movement heightened the strain on His ravaged nerves, and each breath forced His back against the splintered wood, reopening the raw wounds.
Every breath, every movement, every moment on the cross inflamed His torture. For Jesus, for His disciples -- for anyone standing at the foot of the cross, Good Friday seemed anything but good.
What, then, is so good about that Friday 2000 years ago?
That Friday proved God’s faithfulness. As early as Genesis 3, the Lord promised the human family a redeemer, someone to set us free from the Serpent’s grasp, someone to take “captivity captive” to Himself: Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” The Lord God said to the serpent . . . And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel (Genesis 3:13-15).
On that Friday, Satan bruised God’s heel. But through Christ's cross, God crushed Satan’s head. The Serpent forever lost the authority to enslave anyone who wants to be free. His power is nullified by the blood of Christ. Listen to the words found in Hebrews 2:14-15: Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
That Friday tore through sin’s impenetrable barrier between us and God. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God and your sins have hid His face from you, so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). But that Friday, God shattered the barrier. He rescued the prisoners. Laying our sins on Christ’s shoulders.
That Friday, the Father threw open the gates of reconciliation between us and Himself: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ . . . not counting [our] trespasses against [Him] . . ." (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
That Friday proved God’s love for us and gave us the hope of eternal life. It is easy to read quickly over John 3:16 and not sense the searing emotions the Father suffered as He watched His Son agonize on that cross. But when we meditate on the Roman scourging, the spikes in His limbs, the flesh wounds -- perhaps we can better understand the personal nature of that verse -- “God so loved me . . that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.”
That Friday clothed us with Christ’s righteousness. The harlot, the thief, the murderer, the adulterer . . . think of it! There is no sin that cannot be cleansed by Christ’s blood. There is no sinner who cannot be made as righteous before God’s eyes as Jesus Himself. Listen to this promise:
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
Finally -- if there can be a final point about Good Friday -- that Friday challenges us to repentance. When the crowds in Jerusalem learned it was their sins that nailed Jesus to the cross, “they were pieced to the heart.” In unison they cried out, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?” St. Peter responded, “Repent,” and three thousand were born into the kingdom (Acts 2:22-41). Later, St. Paul would add: Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
Standing at the foot of Christ’s cross, nothing about Friday looked good. But no one knew Resurrection Sunday was coming . . . and with it, God’s redemptive plan which H conceived before the foundation of the world.
Good Friday? It could not have been any better.
Good Friday? It could not have been any better.