Gospel Centered Worship

Easter is only a few days away, but before that comes Good Friday – the day that churches around the world gather to remember Jesus’ crucifixion, death and burial. The day is called Good Friday because the death and suffering of Jesus, as horrific as it was, is the apex of God’s plan for saving his people from their sins. What man meant for evil, God intended for good.

We cannot have Easter without Good Friday, and “we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19) if Good Friday is not followed by Easter. The two days are inextricably intertwined. With the resurgence of Good Friday services among evangelical churches in recent years, I thought it would be helpful to explain how Good Friday better prepares us for Easter.

1. It causes us to pause and reflect on Christ’s sacrifice.

Thinking about pain and suffering makes us uncomfortable as Westerners. We live in a fast paced, comfort-seeking culture that self-medicates through busyness and entertainment. It can be tempting to jump past the horror of Good Friday and only focus on the joy of Easter morning.

Instead, Good Friday helps us to slow down and give actual thought to the pain and suffering that Jesus went through in our place. It creates space for us to process and take to heart that it should have been us hanging on the cross.

2. It helps our hearts to feel the seriousness of our sin.

In the Psalms, King David writes, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Later in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes in the book of Romans, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). In other words: we were born into sin, we cannot save ourselves, and we deserve death.

While, as Christians, we stand redeemed in Christ, we still struggle daily with sin on this side of heaven. Our hearts can become numb to how ghastly and displeasing our sin is to God in his holiness, and it is sobering to remember that Jesus bore the full wrath of God (1 Peter 2:24) as he hung there on the cross. Good Friday helps our hearts to feel again the weightiness of our need for a Savior.

3. It reminds us, that as Christians, we don’t suffer alone.

God promises that we will experience trials and suffering in this life. 1 Peter 4:12 goes so far as to tell us, “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Good Friday helps to remind us that when we do walk through those fiery trials, we don’t walk alone – Jesus the true and only innocent sufferer has gone before us.

In the garden of Gethsemane we see that Jesus was laden with sorrow (Matthew 26:38), trouble (Matthew 26:37), agony (Luke 22:44), and distress (Mark 14:33). Isaiah 53:3 says “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” What comfort to be able to turn to our God when we walk through trials, knowing that he has gone before us carrying our sin and shame.

4. It proclaims the good news of forgiveness.

As somber as Good Friday is, it ends with the victory cry, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Sin has been paid for and redemption has been accomplished. Love and justice meet at the cross, as Jesus gives his life for us and takes the punishment that we deserve.

Colossians 2:13-14 says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” This is the proclamation of Good Friday: we stand forgiven in Jesus Christ.

5. It makes Easter all the more sweet and joyous.

In the end, Easter would not be what it is, were it not for the dark night of Good Friday and the haunting silence of Saturday. Good Friday sets the stage for Easter to be the powerful and joyous day that it should be. It is the first act of a two-part drama that ends with rejoicing and celebration on Sunday morning when the tears and sorrow of that night are erased as we gaze upon the empty tomb. As the angels said to the women, “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6).

by Calvin Hemphill

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