If you really think about what took place so long ago at Calvary, it’s a curious thing that we have taken up the habit of calling the day of Jesus’ crucifixion “good.” Of course all kinds of good came from that historic day. Literally, the hope of humanity was fulfilled on the day Jesus lay down his life for us. Without that day, we would be hopeless, hurting people still in search of an answer for our sin condition. Even so, “Good” seems like such an ironic word to describe it. “Fulfillment Friday”… yes, that day fulfilled all kinds of prophecies from the old testament books of Isaiah, Zechariah, and Psalms. “Fighting Friday”… absolutely, Jesus fought for his life until the proper time and fought against Satan and sin on that day as he carried our shortcomings to the cross. “Double-edged” Friday”… why not. Has any day simultaneously ever brought so much joy and so much sorrow before or since? But “Good Friday?” I just don’t know.
The indistinguishable face of Jesus was contorted into an expression that one could only assume betrayed extreme physical and emotional pain. This man, once so powerful and praiseworthy was now helpless, hurting, and gruesome to behold. The crowd had thinned slightly, and the cheers and jeers had died down now, but groups of people still stood around whispering, pointing, and laughing.
Mary stood with her dearest friends near the cross as many of Jesus’ loyal followers looked on in horror from their positions nearby. Their cries of sadness mixed with the rest of the noise as Mary wept. Her sobs, which had been accompanied by an effusion of tears earlier in the day, had turned into a dry lament. The sadness had not departed with the tears. It lingered in her innermost depths, though her tears were no more. Her mouth was dry as she forced a swallow, but the lump in her throat seemed to be permanent now. She couldn’t bear to look at him, but in the same token she couldn’t bear to look away. Her son, her beloved son, her boy was broken and beaten and being hung on display between two depraved criminals as though he was one of them.
But Mary knew better. Her son was truly and literally perfect in every way. His heart was so full of love. Not only did he love the people who followed him and walked with him, but she knew her boy, and the love he felt for those who mocked and hated him was every bit as strong as his love for his friends. She didn’t understand it. She felt so much loathing for the ones who had put him on that tree. In her head, she knew that it was a part of God’s plan, but she couldn’t reconcile her heart with her mind. She wanted to rip the cross down with her bare hands and rescue her son from the excruciating pain and humiliation. She longed to cradle him in her arms and make it all go away, but she couldn’t. She glanced up again, and the shock of his nakedness took her breath away like it had so many times before. His skin hung like ribbons from his back, and the blood from the crude crown of thorns upon his head streamed down his bruised, swollen and distorted face. Why? Why did it have to be this way? She loved him more than she had ever known she could love anyone, and he was being ripped from her arms in the most detestable way imaginable. She would never be able to erase that image of her precious son from her mind. She could hardly bear it.
She looked at the sign Pilate had prepared and hung above his head, “Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.” Many thought it was a mockery, but Mary knew better. He was her son, her King, AND her God. Who else could say as much? Somewhere her body found a fresh store of tears, and they began to flow again. She wanted to be strong for her son, but what good would that do? Suddenly Jesus’ eyes met hers. There he was. Now she recognized him. Even through the swollen and bruised eyelids, those eyes revealed all the love, mercy, strength, and familiarity she had known since Jesus was a child. His tears mingled with the blood as he spoke to her in a weak and yet audible tone,
“Woman. here is your son.” She turned and saw the young man nearby. Jesus’ beloved disciple moved closer to her and put a strong hand on her shoulder. Jesus directed his gaze to him and spoke hoarsely. “Here is your mother.” They clung to one another and began to weep all the more.
Mary wasn’t sure how long they sat there. Mere hours had passed, but it felt like an eternity as she watched her son slowly and agonizingly fading from this life. The sight and stench of Jesus’ sweat and blood mingled with his moaning and with the sounds of taunting and bewailing from the onlookers to torture her senses. She wondered how much more Jesus could take. How much more could she take? Then Jesus’ voice broke through the noise.
“I am thirsty,” he said. Mary’s heart broke. He was thirsty. Her boy needed a drink. Even as her mind raced to find a way to meet his needs, she heard him cry out again, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Her gut wrenched within her. She was frozen in horror.
No! she prayed. Please don’t leave him, God! Don’t make him face this alone. He needs you!
She wanted to call to him. “I’m here, Jesus! I’m here! I’ll NEVER leave you,” but she couldn’t find her voice. As hard as it was to admit, she knew that she wasn’t what he needed right now. He needed his Heavenly Father. Oh, how she wished she could help her Jesus right now. She watched helplessly as they lifted a sponge to his lips and he drank. When they took it away, his words pierced her heart as theirs eyes met one last time.
“It is finished,” he said. He bowed his head, and the labored breathing ceased. The painful moans were silenced even as fresh blood continued to make a trail down his bloodstained body. The earth began to shake violently and large rocks split in two. The sound was deafening. For a moment fear gripped her, but then she realized that all this must happen. How else could the earth react to the death of this mighty son of God. Mary’s heart broke even as it leaped for joy. She cried in sorrow even as she rejoiced. It was finished! It was horrible and terrible, and contemptible, and it was finished.
Good? Not good. Jesus dreaded that day as he asked his Father in heaven if there was another way while he sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. The disciples and Mary mourned that day as they watched the abuse, ridicule, and death of their beloved Jesus. Father God turned his back that day as his one and only son cloaked himself with the sins of all mankind. It was not good. It was bad, very bad, and yet…
He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
That Friday brought us peace.
That Friday brought us healing.
That Friday brought us forgiveness.
It bought us eternal life.
That Friday was the prescription for all of our sicknesses.
It gave us hope for the future and security for our souls.
That Friday was the punishment for our sin that we no longer need to bear.
That Friday reconciled us to our Father in heaven.
It earned us a place at his right hand.
It secured our positions as sons and daughters of God.
That Friday… was a “Good Friday!”
The battles that we face in the physical can be discouraging and feel like defeats. When we are being beaten down and rejected, when we are being persecuted and tested, when when we are being heated up and purified, when we are being poured out and refined… it NEVER feels good. It seldom looks good. It might be accompanied by a whole lot of mourning and tears and confusion, but when we choose to walk in God’s way, no matter where it takes us as Jesus did, then we can be assured of one thing. IT IS GOOD! The battle that we fight, instead of run away from, will bring spiritual results… kingdom results… good results… God results. It might not look good, but just like this day was veiled with a facade of defeat 2,000 years ago, our spiritual triumphs and victories often bear the same disguise. Beneath the battle, beneath the trial, beneath the flesh and blood… the real battle rages, and God NEVER loses when he enters a fight. What looks like a defeat to the world may very well be a formidable victory in the spiritual realm. So don’t let your eyes fool you. If it is God, then it is GOOD, very good! It looks like it’s a “Good Friday” after all. 🙂