For those who are outside of the Christian faith, observing Christians and the worship services held on this day, which is passionately referred to as "Good Friday," it must seem strange that we would celebrate the suffering and death of our beloved leader, teacher and Lord Jesus Christ.
Other spiritual leaders have died for their causes and while they are remembered, their death is not the focus of celebration, but is more often seen as a tragedy and a setback for their movement. However, for the followers of Jesus Christ, His death is the first of two critical points at which He accomplishes His ministry on earth and therefore He confidently said, "It is finished!" as He bowed His head in death knowing that death could not hold Him and that he would rise on the third day.
So just what brought Jesus to this point? Jesus was motivated by an overwhelming response of obedience to his Father, the almighty God and His love for us, all the people of the world whom He had created. Jesus was no ordinary man. He was God incarnate - that is God himself.
He had willingly surrendered His position of authority in the heavens and took on the form and being of a man for the sole purpose of restoring the perfect relationship between God and His created world. Jesus knew that this relationship could only be restored by one sinless human being who would have to take upon himself the punishment of God, which should have been poured out on God's rebellious, corrupt and disobedient creation.
Jesus knew that no other human being could withstand God's wrath and punishment because they all had become corrupted. The only hope for restoring the relationship was for God himself to come into our world as a man and live a sin free life. But there is more, this sin-free man would have to take all of the wrath and punishment of God upon himself - even though he did not deserve it - and die for sins which he did not commit, so that the curse of death would be destroyed and eternal life with God would once again be restored.
Jesus knew this was his calling. He also knew that he had to bear this burden for the sake of all people. As a man he suffered pain in every way that we do. He felt emotions - love, joy, peace, as well as the pain of rejection. He was misunderstood. He was followed for many of the wrong reasons. But he knew his calling - and that calling was to take upon himself the punishment that we deserved. That's right, we deserved to die because of our inability to live with out breaking God's commandments. Death was and still is the punishment God required of all people who break His commandments. Jesus willingly took our place (yours and mine) by allowing himself to be put to death for our sin. He did this because He loves us, you and me. He died for you and me to spare us from the punishment of God. His death in our place is His gift to us. Specifically, His death paid in full the punishment you deserved for your sin and rebellion against God. Because He paid this price in full with His death - you are now free from God's punishment - you are free to receive from Jesus the forgiveness of your sins - you are free to live a new life with Him.
This is the way God chose to destroy death and restore his relationship with his creation. Jesus, God's son, the only one who had never sinned, died the death of a criminal, after he was brutally beaten by His own creation and rejected by those who claimed to be the spiritual leaders of the day. It was a horrible end to his life, a gut wrenching tragedy in the eyes of his closest followers, a sad day in the life of the world, but it was necessary, it was planned and it was not the end, but only the beginning. The very moment Jesus died the power of death was destroyed. Death is still our enemy, but it is a defeated enemy. What had been started in the Garden of Eden by the deception of Adam and Eve was now brought full circle. Satan with all of his cunning and lies, played into the hand of God, as he was instrumental in turning the people into a mob that called for Jesus to be crucified. Satan's rejoicing over Jesus' death was short lived, for Jesus Christ's death was the very event that defeated Satan. In that defining moment, Satan who had tempted Adam and Eve to rebel against God was stripped of his power.
This was the day we now celebrate as "Good Friday." Like our celebrations of historical battles, this day was the day Satan was defeated by the death of Jesus Christ. It was also the day in which God, through Jesus Christ, paid the price for the sins of the world and made it possible for all to come into his presence through faith in Jesus Christ. This is a day that I cherish because God through Jesus Christ revealed His love for me. Jesus died in my place. He took the punishment I deserved and paid the price for my sin. Jesus not only died for me but He died for you also. He died so you would have your sins forgiven. He died so you would be able to have the freedom to live in His love and forgiveness. He died to give you a new life. This was a day that God had planned and it was delivered and fulfilled by the obedience of Jesus Christ, God's very own Son, the Savior of the world.
On Sunday we will once again celebrate Easter. Christians celebrate Easter because death could not hold our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Through faith in Him and the forgiveness of sins, which we have received through Jesus' death on the cross, we all have that promise of eternal life - death will not be able to hold us.
We celebrate our resurrection on Easter because we know that a day is coming when we too will rise from the grave to spend eternity with God in His heavenly home. We look forward to that day with great anticipation and for this reason, we sing praises and rejoice with the sounds of trumpets and clashing symbols in many of our worship services on Easter Sunday morning.
So today is Good Friday, a day to celebrate Jesus Christ's passionate death upon the cross in payment for our sins and on Sunday we will celebrate Christ's resurrection from the grave. However, these celebrations pale in comparison to the celebration we will have on that final Easter Sunday when we will be with Christ in all of His glory. And that hope gives us the courage and strength to face each new day while still here on this side of eternity.
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