We’re all familiar with the phrase: “T.G.I.F—Thank God it’s Friday!” It’s what gets many of us through the week, just knowing that Friday comes.
Today is Good Friday. On this day, Christians around the world remember the suffering and death of an innocent man who was more than a man: He was God in the flesh. That flesh was broken that day in the most gruesome of deaths. He was publicly humiliated, spat upon, mocked. His only remaining possession—the clothes off his back—were raffled off among carousing soldiers.
What could possibly be good about this?
As legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say…here’s the rest of the story:
When Jesus Christ drew His last breath on the cross, the earth literally shook and all kinds of unusual events occurred. The Gospel of Matthew tells it this way: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;…”
Setting aside the fact that dead people rose up out of their graves and began walking around (which had to have been frightening for eyewitnesses), put your focus on the veil in the temple. The Bible is very specific in saying that it was torn “from top to bottom”.
That veil or curtain is what separated the main part of the Jewish temple from the Most Holy Place, where only the High Priest was allowed to enter, and even then he could only go once a year to make a sacrifice for himself and his family. No one else could go there. Also, this veil was no cheap piece of linen. It was a heavy, hand-made creation woven tightly by highly-skilled artisans.
No human being could tear such a curtain in that way, so the Bible would lead us to believe that only God Himself could have done it. I used to think God was upset at what had just been done to His only Son.
But that’s not why the veil was torn. As with so many things (like rainbows, for instance), God was using a visual symbol for all to see that now, with Jesus’ mission accomplished, anyone could go straight into the presence of God—not just the High Priest, and not just once a year—anyone at any time.
God was throwing open the doors of His heart for those people—and us today—to draw near to Him through the sacrifice represented by the torn flesh of Jesus. Just before He died, Jesus felt abandoned, not just by His friends and followers, but by His Father. It was the first time He had ever known the feeling of separation from His Father when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” It was at that moment that he was taking on every sin that human beings had ever or would ever commit…and so, being Who He is, the Father turned away from the Son and the sin that was on Him because of us.
It’s hard to believe that the Creator of the universe would care so much for us that He would devise such a plan for our salvation. But He did. He did it for Peter and John…his mother Mary…and for Judas His betrayer…for me and you…George Washington and Adolf Hitler…the guy who cut you off in traffic this morning and the lady in front of you tonight at the grocery store with too many items in the express line. He died for Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner and Ted Cruz…and for the militant Islamists responsible for killing 147 Christians yesterday at a college in Kenya. One sacrifice, one time for all people—the “whosoever will” the Bible so often talks about.
What is it that puts the “good” in Good Friday? It’s this: Jesus could have changed His situation at any minute on the way to The Cross, but He didn’t because of His love for people and His desire to be in a relationship with all of us…and He would have done it had there only been one of us to save.
So TGIGF: Thank God it’s Good Friday!