Today, Christians around the world observe one of the most solemn days of the faith in what is called Good Friday. The name itself appears self contradictory when you consider that it centers around one of the most shameful and horrible acts in history: the crucifixion of an innocent man.
The day was preceded by sellout and betrayal by one of his disciples. Another close friend denied even knowing him. All other followers simply abandoned him after his rivals orchestrated a sham trial and condemned him to death. Shouts of "crucify" flooded the air and mob rule seemed to win the day.
How could this be a day good for anything?
Just days before, Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the masses laid down palms in the road as they lined the streets and cheered him on. They were expecting a powerful king to deliver them from oppressive Roman rule. What they got was far beyond the teachings of the contemporary religious leaders who were looking for one to restore Israel to its former glory.
The ancient Israelites failed to realize that even their former glory was no utopia. The prophets centuries before pointed to the kind of deliverer they needed and what it would take for that deliverer to free them from the great enemies of sin and death. It would take more than a righteous man to deliver them; It required the sacrifice of God himself. Scandalous.
Good Friday involved suffering, sacrifice, and Jesus' substitutionary atonement for the sins of mankind. Yet, death did not have the final word that day. We seem to have forgotten the value of sacrifice for the benefit of another. Neither do our modern minds have a category for substitutionary atonement. After all, we're told that we're all basically good.
Yet our conscience convicts us when we do wrong. Our straying minds remind us of our mortality. The sadness, pain and brokenness all around tell us that something has gone wrong in this world. What are we to do?
Let the story of Good Friday sink in.
Courage overcame fear, conviction overcame faithlessness and sacrifice won over self-preservation. God himself became man, not to coerce people into obedience, but instead He came to invite people into relationship with Him by the sacrifice he made.
The greatest act of love swallowed up the greatest act of evil in order to reconcile sinners to a holy God. And the great specter of death that hung over mankind like a bad nightmare lost its power with the mighty blow that Christ struck. Out of the ashes of mankind's treachery came a resurrection three days later and with it a turning point in the history of the world. This is the good news of Good Friday.