Monday, May 9, 2011

Meaning of Good Friday – Part 1

Christians recently commemorated what we call “Good Friday”, the day on which Jesus Christ died on a Roman cross. In these next few posts I’ll explain the Christian understanding of why Jesus came to earth specifically to die and why Christians believe it was in God’s plan for him to do so.

1. Good Friday Downer

Friday was not a good day for Jesus, his mother, and his followers. Things couldn’t have been any worse for them.
●Jesus had been betrayed by one of his disciples, and was arrested.
●After the arrest, a close disciple denied even knowing him, scared for his own life.
●Most of his followers scattered; like Peter they were terrified that they might also be rounded up, arrested, and probably killed.
●Jesus was tried in a kangaroo court on trumped-up charges, mocked, beaten, and turned over to the Romans for execution.
●After a severe beating, he was forced to carry the heavy timber cross-beam to the place of execution, where he hung on a cross under the hot sun.

It was not a good day for Jesus and those who loved him.

2. Easter Sunday Upper

To his distraught disciples, all seemed hopeless. It seemed that Jesus, who had brought back life to the dead, made the blind see, and healed lepers, couldn’t save himself. But then Sunday came, and everything changed! Death had been swallowed up in victory!

What Happened on the Cross

Although his Friday experience was terrible, Jesus was doing God’s will. Jesus wasn’t being punished for anything he did – he was the Lamb of God without sin or blemish. Instead, he was being punished for what we have done – the whole human race from the beginning of time. Although we might not completely understand it, Jesus accomplished much that benefits us while on the cross.

God himself, in the form of Jesus, suffered and died for us, something that is almost beyond belief if you stop to think about it. How could such a terrible event be in God’s plan, and benefit us as well? Fortunately the Bible has a lot to say about why Jesus came to earth, and specifically why he came to die. From our study of the Scriptures we can identify several things that happened on the cross that spiritually changed the world forever. Let’s take a quick look at some of the things that happened on the cross so we can put the events of Good Friday into proper perspective.

1. Redemption

One thing that was accomplished on the cross is called “Redemption.” That means Jesus paid the full debt we owed for all that we’ve done wrong. Why do we owe a debt to God? It’s because God’s perfect justice demands that a penalty for wrongdoing must be paid. God’s justice was satisfied in that the penalty was paid in full on the cross for all of our transgressions. If we look at the dictionary definition of “redeem” it says:

1. To recover property by discharging an obligation. 2. To ransom, free, or rescue by paying a price.

Jesus himself referred to the redemptive aspect of his crucifixion when he said in Matthew 20:28:

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” NRSV

Jesus paid the price and bought us, similar to someone purchasing a slave’s freedom from a master, as we read in 1 Corinthians 7:23:

You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters. NRSV

That’s why Christians call Jesus our Savior and Redeemer.

More on the topic of Jesus’ crucifixion in a future post.

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