Our culture takes great pains in avoiding the realities of death and dying. Though the West has largely embraced the culture of death through abortion, euthanasia, and human degradation, it is often veiled, concealed, or tucked away in pockets of society where we dare not go. Instead, we indulge in counterfeit representations of death as a form of entertainment and cheap thrills, but avoid the realities of nursing homes, hospitals, and funerals where death is either immanent, or, its consequence is too painful to bear.
The Gospel constantly draws attention to the certain penalty of death. On Good Friday, Jesus was beaten, flogged, ripped and ultimately hung on a hill in humiliation “at the place of the skull” called, Golgotha. Though innocent, he was presumed guilty by his accusers. It doesn’t seem right that we call it “good.”
His death on a cross was necessary; without it, there would be no forgiveness of sin. This is the real meaning of Good Friday.
Good Friday exists to remind of the consequence of sin
2020 has raised the level of fear and many of us are contemplating our own mortality, while praying God’s mercy and healing on friends and loved ones through this COVID-19 pandemic.
Why is this happening? The Bible gives us clear answers for why death is so unsettling, yet certain.
Before pandemics, viruses, cancer or violent wars and bloodshed, God created a world with no sin or death in it. In Genesis 1, God made a beautiful cosmos filled with brilliant stars, distant planets and living creatures. The jewel of his creation was mankind, male and female, made in in his image (Gen 1:27). God gave Adam and Eve dominion over everything (Gen 1:28-31), a palatial garden fit for a king (Gen 2:8-9), and a command for living in right relationship with Him (Gen 2:15-17).
The problem came when Adam and Eve took their eyes off of God (Gen 3:1), listened to a serpent rather than the voice of God (v. 4), broke God’s promise (v. 5), and brought the just consequence of sin. Their sin meant death was certain.
At their greatest moment of despair Adam and Eve, chose to hide themselves in their condemnation rather than meet God face-to-face. They chose the scant covering of fig leaves to hide their sin (v. 7).
Good Friday exists because we cannot fix our brokenness.
Adam and Eve were quickly confronted with the living God. “Who told you that you were naked?” (v. 11). God’s question cutS right to the heart of their shame. They were only embarrassed of their nakedness because they were guilty.
Fig leaves were man’s answer for a debt they could not pay.
We all know what happened next. God did exactly what He had promised and forced Adam and Eve to leave the garden (v. 23), He cursed all of creation (v. 14). and He made it so that Adam and Eve would die, but not that day. God offered an animal up as a sacrifice to cover their nakedness (v. 21). This is the first example of bloodshed as an atonement for sin.
But hope entered the picture, when God made a promise to Eve, that through her seed the serpent would be crushed and sin would be defeated (Gen 3:15). The first promise of Easter.
Good Friday exists because bloodshed was necessary
Throughout the Old Testament there was a sacrificial system put in place to teach Israel and the world that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) and without bloodshed there is no forgiveness of sin (Heb 9:22). These sacrifices were just a shadow of the true sacrifice to come. For thousands of years sacrifice was repeated over and over again, but the bloodstained alter in an earthly tabernacle could not fully satisfy the demands of the law before a Holy and Living God.
This is the point of Good Friday. All these sacrifices were pointing to the ultimate sacrifice, the Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the whole world (Jn 1:29).
Jesus said in Mark 10:45, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus sinless life and death served as an all-sufficient payment for sin. He was the only true substitute for our sin. His penal substitutionary atonement made the Gospel of forgiveness not only possible, but certain. Jesus took our sin upon himself and we by faith receive the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).
Good Friday exists to make Forgiveness certain.
Just like Adam and Eve, we cannot fix our brokenness and we cannot rely upon ourselves to cover our sin. Jesus Christ paid a penalty of debt we could not pay. He suffered hell on a cross, so that we wouldn’t have to.
Only Christ could be the true, perfect sacrifice, yet without faith and repentance these are historic facts with bearing on our lives. Forgiveness is only certain when we embrace the Gospel by faith, repent of our sin and walk in obedience to Christ.
John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). He also says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn 5:13).
Good Friday is only good because of God alone. You cannot atone for your sin. You cannot fix your brokenness. God has given you hope. He has made a way for you. This Easter behold the Lamb of God, who was slain for you. Trust in him for the forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
Ryan Helfenbein is the Vice President of Communications and Public Engagement at Liberty University and Executive Director of the Falkirk Center for Faith & Liberty.