Christian Calendar: Good Friday
Growing in Christ
Reflections on the Christian Calendar (introduction)
"He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45
Good Friday - the day Jesus died on the cross for us, a gruesome execution at the hands of evil men, by what stretch of the imagination can that day be seen as good? The question is understandable.
The first clue is that Jesus crucifixion was voluntary. Jesus could have avoided it with ease but he chose not only to give himself as a ransom sacrifice for us but to choose when to do so. Jesus chose the Passover celebration - the remembrance of a miraculous historical event in which God liberated His people from centuries of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12) - to make clear that He was willing to be the lamb slain to set His people free (John 1:29: "See, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world").
It is this amazing voluntary gift, given in suffering and death, that Jesus encouraged us to remember in the breaking of bread and drinking of wine in what the church calls Eucharist (thanksgiving) or Communion. (Matthew 26:26-30; John 13)
But there is more. Who is it who gave himself for us in this way to carry away our sins, set us free and give us eternal life in the renewal of all things? It would have been noble if a good man of remarkable character offered himself in this way. But it wasn't; it was God incarnate who entered the world for this purpose. No mere man, however noble, is of stature or worth equal to carry the sins of the whole world! Only God could do this, and did, in Christ.
In this we see something which changes not only eternity but human history for immense good. Jesus once asked: "What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?" (Matt.16:26) The value of the human soul is immense, immeasurably so. We need only to look at history or around us to see humans don't broadly value others this highly.
Let me put it this way: what is the value of a car or vacation or bottle of water? In principle, it's value is determined by the buyer. If no buyer is available the value remains unknown. In Christ's ransom sacrifice for us, what is the value Jesus put on us? The price of His own life and blood. How much is that? It is immense, immeasurable, unspeakably so, consistent with the value implied by Jesus question "is anything worth more than your soul?" The value God places on us is only a little less than the value of God himself. David writes of God in Psalm 8: "You have made man little lower than God." This is again consistent with Jesus question and the price he paid for us on the cross.
This has transformational consequences at all levels. Good Friday is the basis on which we can love ourselves. We now know our worth. The writer of the Christmas carol "O Holy Night" attempted to capture the joy of discovery of this worth in these words:
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
This has immense social consequences, as well. Materialism, in its various forms (Marxism, secularism), sees individuals, born or yet unborn, as having only the worth those which greater powers are willing to assign to them. The weak, the elderly, the unborn have no inherent value in a materialistic worldview and the 110 million who died at the hand of Marxism in the 20th century are evidence of this. Many other sad examples of the limited value of life can be cited among those who reject Christ's valuation of us on the cross.
But love itself - selfless, placing value on one another, serving the weak - is born of the value God has placed on us as demonstrated on Good Friday. Many supposed "western" values - such as human dignity leading to equality and human rights - while being eroded as the west loses connection with the Gospel, find their roots, historically and philosophically, in the Gospel of Christ centred in the cross of his sacrifice for us on Good Friday.