On this morning, only a couple thousand of years ago, a man waited below the house of the high priest in Jerusalem.
A prisoner. Surely many prisoners had been housed in that dungeon, dreading the moment they were handed over to Rome for execution. Some may have deserved their fate, some may have been victims of a corrupt system governed more by rule-following and prestige than by their law they claimed to love so dearly.
But this prisoner was different. He was truly innocent, not only in matters of the law, but in all matters. He was the perfect Creator of the universe, captive only to his love for his people and to his promises made from the beginning of time.
But why do we call this day Good Friday? The day our Lord was betrayed by friendship’s kiss cannot be good. The morning after a night of slandering, the morning dawn brought cruelty in the form of beatings, mocking, and a sentence of death can't be good. Those who had followed him and praised his teaching and even watched him raise the dead to life … now scorned him. Disowned him. Left him alone without a single soul willing to stand up for him and risk the same fate. How can it be good that he suffered, and that he suffered alone?
His disciples couldn’t even stay awake to pray with him the night before such an evil, terrible day.
So why in the world would we call this day “good”? What could be good in such tragedy and betrayal? How could we celebrate a day that found humanity at its worst, violently attacking and killing the very being that gave them the breath of life and formed their bodies within their mothers’ wombs?
We call it good because it is our only hope. We call it good because there is no other way, not by sacrifice or self-discipline or scientific exploration or by the pursuit of world peace … THERE IS NO OTHER WAY we could be saved from our sinful souls.
It is a good Friday when I know that cross, meant for shame and torture and death, is a glorious trophy to exchange one day for a crown I don’t deserve. I can call his suffering and death good because he endured every single moment until it was finished … for me. Because he loved me. In my sin and ugliness and weakness and failure, he loved me.
And we can call it good because it wasn’t just one person he loved, but every one of us. His sacrifice was accomplished ONCE FOR ALL. Anyone who will turn from their sin and look to his cross for forgiveness and new life may come and receive freely the abundant gift of eternal life. No questions asked. No qualifications or conditions. The price has been paid. Cursed humanity has been ransomed.
Only come. Receive. Have faith.
And Friday is good only because of one enduring, eternal truth. Friday is good because Sunday is coming. Death didn’t keep him. The grave was forced to give him up. Friday is good because it was the only way we would know that our Savior is strong enough to take on the enemy we could never, ever conquer on our own.
Jesus is alive.