The Good Friday celebration presents some challenges. First, is it good? While it is not pleasant, it is good that Jesus was willing to suffer on Calvary’s cross; a sacrificial Shepherd giving Himself for lost sheep.
Jesus said that there would be three days and three nights between His death and His resurrection (Matthew 12:40). Consequently, Friday presents a mathematical impossibility. However, while I believe it was Dark Wednesday, Friday is the statutory holiday so it works for me.
Celebration…can we celebrate that an innocent man, facing trumped up charges, false witnesses and a series of kangaroo courts was condemned to die? Well, Christians do not celebrate the tragic and torturous nature of the event. We recognize the awfulness of what happened to our Leader, but we do celebrate the awesomeness of why He suffered and what He accomplished on that cross. In addition, the cross is the gateway to the resurrection.
I appreciate what the late British theologian, John Stott wrote. He stated, “I could never believe in God, if it were not for the cross…In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who is immune to it?…in imagination I have turned to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, multi-dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in godforsaken darkness. He laid aside His immunity to pain…our sufferings become more manageable in light of His.”
On a less theological and perhaps more personal note, there were two others crucified with Jesus that day. Luke 23:33 explains, “The soldiers came to the place called the Skull. They nailed Jesus to a cross. They also nailed two criminals to crosses, one on each side of Jesus.” So, there were three crosses and I have labeled each of them.
The first, Jesus’ cross, is the cross of redemption and it is appropriate that it be positioned centrally. Jesus should always be given a central place.
The second is the cross of rejection. Many in the crowd were mocking Jesus and this thief joined right in with the insults and taunted Jesus saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and save us!” There is no record of Jesus responding to his sarcasm and rejection.
The third is the cross of reception. The second thief, as he observed Jesus, found his thoughts shifting to righteousness and his heart turning toward God. He rebuked the other thief and asked Jesus to remember him. Jesus, without hesitation replied, “This day, you will be with me in paradise.”
Why did one thief reject Jesus and the other receive Him? Someone once said that the same sun that melts the snow hardens the clay. May I suggest that you let the Son melt your heart this Easter season?