Sermon for Good Friday evening, preached on March 30, 2018, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.
The seasons & days of the church year are aptly named. They describe the events remembered that day or summarize and overall theme of the season. Advent is the season in which we look forward to Christ’s advent, His coming bon on Christmas Day & on the Last Day. Epiphany, which means the revelation of truth, is the season when the truth of Jesus’ identity is revealed. On Palm Sunday we remember Jesus entering Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna” & the waving of palm branches. Maundy Thursday gets its name from the Latin word for mandate, in reference to Jesus’ words, “A new commandment [or mandate] I give to you, that you love another: just as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34). These names all fit, but the name we give today is a bit ironic. We call today good, Good Friday, but I’m certain none of Jesus’ disciples thought today was good when it happened.
There are many ways to define the word good. There are many things that we call good, but ultimately what we call good boils down to personal tastes & preferences. However, there are a few things that are almost universally understood as being not good: like suffering & death. When you get right down to it, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who’d say suffering & death are completely good.
Jesus’ suffering & death mark Good Friday. Every year, on this day, we gather together & we hear from Scripture all of the suffering & non-good, that Jesus endured as He made His way to the cross. Immediately we hear about Judas’ betrayal of Christ. For just 30 pieces of silver, one of Jesus’ disciples handed Him over to His enemies. Who could call this good?!? Then we hear about another disciple who betrayed Jesus. Peter 3 times denied knowing our Lord. Who could call this good?!? We hear of the sham trial held for the sole purpose of getting a death sentence. Who could call this good?!? Barabbas, a robber & murder, was released while Jesus, innocent of all wrong, was put in chains. Who could call this good?!? Christ was beaten & flogged by Roman soldiers, who took pleasure in it. Mockingly they gave Him His own crown of thorns that pierced His brow. They clothed Him in purple & worshipped Him in jest before they stripped Him naked & beat Him some more. Who could call this good?!? The crowd shouted for His crucifixion & Christ was forced to carry the instrument of His death. Who could call this good?!? Soldiers gambled for His cloths. Who could call this good?!? Jesus’ mother stood at the foot of the cross and watched her son die. Who could call this good?!? His burial was a rush job & He was laid to rest in a borrowed tomb. Who could call this good?!? No one. No one could call this good.
None of Jesus’ followers could’ve watched all of this & called it good. Their Lord, their Teacher, their Master was dead. The Man who they believed would restore the kingdom of Israel was gone. With eyes filled with tears, with hearts filled with uncertainty & fear, they could see nothing good, & on the surface, neither can we.
Hearing all of this, imagining everything Jesus went through, we have a hard time calling it good. We come to worship today specifically to hear about Jesus’ death, & we think it’s a funeral. But Good Friday isn’t a funeral for Christ. It’s a day of repentance and restrained joy.
Good Friday is a day of repentance over our sin. We recognize our sin & its great cost. The wages of sin is death, & death is never a good thing. Death wasn’t the plan. You and I weren’t meant to die, but that’s what we deserve because of our sin. The death of the cross should be ours, but Christ paid it in your place. This is good. God calls this good. This is the Good News of the Gospel by which you are saved.
The only reason we can call today good is because Jesus’ death on the cross brings the exact opposite. It brings life & joy. This is what God promises us, & this is what we believe. This is what we confess every week in the Creed. Jesus Christ has redeemed me, a lost & condemned person, purchased & won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood & with His innocent suffering & death, that I may be His own & live under Him in His kingdom & serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, & blessedness. This is good. This is what Good Friday is about. It’s about our Savior who exchanged His life for yours. It’s about the forgiveness of sins you receive because Jesus died for you. It’s about the everlasting life you receive in Him. All of this is truly good. All of this brings us joy, joy that’s there even on days when there appears to be no good.
It can be hard for us to call today good. Hearing about Jesus’ suffering, remembering that today is the day He died on the cross for our sin, we can’t see good. But today is a good day because God has called it good. He gives to you good through the cross of Christ. Because He died, you’re forgiven. Because He gave up His life you have life. This is good, & with faith, we call it good! In Jesus’ name...Amen.