Roy Exum: What's 'Good' About It?

Friday, April 19, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

For the biggest part of my life (a real long time) I refused to acknowledge what is “good” about Good Friday. Today, in literally every country on earth, it is ‘Good Friday’ and, nope, nothing is “good” about killing my Jesus. Forget that it is the most singular display of His love for me, and I push all of the human race aside, to stand completely alone, and feel Jesus’ eyes on nobody else but me. This is about what Jesus did for me.

It’s unfathomable, particularly for a man who has struck out in the ability to believe anybody anywhere could ever love a person as sorry as I am. I can’t get my arms around the notion that anyone would voluntarily, and completely cognizant, die the most horrible death in the greatest murder the world has ever known just for me. But He did.

For years I have tried hard to imagine a better way for Jesus to assure me and those I hold most dear a life in eternity.  But as I have surveyed all of the wretches, the thugs, and the most twisted of all the world’s criminals, I have wondered how the most blessed can be lumped with the most vile as Jesus promises each and all, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

Far worse, I have wondered about the absolutely finest, most wonderful and saintly who ever walked, be it Mother Theresa or Helen Keller or Albert Schweitzer, and tried to think of one sin in their life that could match the depravity of Adolph Hitler, the sinister cruelty of Saddam Hussein, or the worst of the world’s scum who gleefully starred in those ISIS horrifying videos. For me sin should come in degrees, but in my Christ’s eyes I am taught all sin is the same. Then again, Christ assures us He can forgive any of them.

Some years ago a preacher named John Watts, of the First Protestant Community Church in Fort Lauderdale, gave a sermon on “What’s ‘Good’ About It?” Rev. Watts explains how the greatest miracle of all time happened far better than I can. So, in the hope you too have wondered, or even better if you never have, here’s a great answer about what is good about this Holy Day:

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Today is the day that most of Christianity celebrates or remembers in some way as "Good Friday." It is the day we remember as the day when Jesus was nailed to that old rugged cross about which we sing -- there to bleed and die for "the sins of the world." When we read the Bible's account of the crucifixion and the brutal events leading up to it; when we see a film such as Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ," we must pause to ask ourselves, "What's so GOOD about such a day as that?"

The answer is that it this day is not good because of what was done TO Jesus, but we see this day as good because of what He willingly, deliberately and lovingly ALLOWED to be done -- what He gave Himself to as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

The depravity of mankind, the nature of man to sin, is at both the most unpopular of the Christian doctrines and also the most empirically verifiable. We have within us a basic sense of our desperate condition. We are aware, or are often reminded, that we are not quite what we were intended to be. Something went wrong, something we want to see made right, but somehow find ourselves incapable of restoring.

Ralph Wood, professor of theology and literature at Baylor University, once asked a group of seminary students to compare two scenes. First is an astute, post graduate college student who insists that sin and the fall of man are myths invented by superstitious people. Second is a young pagan in a remote jungle somewhere whom you find in a clearing sacrificing a chicken on a makeshift altar. "Which man is closer to understanding the truth about his own true nature?" he asked.

The students debated and discussed the issue for a time but ultimately agreed that the pagan boy, however primitively, understood something the other did not. There is a need in our lives for atonement. There is a need for sacrifice.

For generations it is recorded in the Old Testament how the Israelites labored to follow laws that were meant to atone for their sin and restore them to a right standing in the presence of God. "And you shall provide a lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering to the LORD daily; morning by morning you shall provide it" (Ezekiel 46:13).

The language of sacrifice and offering was found throughout Near Eastern culture. But the blood of Israel's sacrifices was not like the blood shed by those attempting to appease and approach the gods they feared and followed. The prophets sent throughout Israel's history were forever insisting that God wanted more than the empty performance of sacrifice.

He desired the offerings to exemplify the heart of a worshiper, one yearning to be in the presence of Him who created us, drawing nearer through the blood of a spotless lamb.

When Scriptures speak of Christ as the Lamb of God, it is easy to see the symbolism. Each time we read of the lamb or the lion in Scripture, it is easy to move through the text with an instantaneous recognition: The lamb is Christ. The lion is Christ. But Oxford scholar John Lennox reminds us that these passages tell us not only who it is, but what it is.

It's Christ as the lamb, the spotless lamb who died in my place. The description moves well beyond symbolism. He is the Lamb whose blood atones my depravity, the Lamb who moves me forever into the presence of God. "For God so loved the world the He GAVE His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

God provided His own lamb of sacrifice to bring us to Himself. And that Lamb gave Himself for us on Good Friday.

When John describes his vision of heaven in the book of Revelation, the Lamb is found in the center of a singing multitude. "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders" (Rev. 5:6).

Asks Lennox, "But how can a slain lamb stand?" On this Good Friday, it is an image that challenges our hearts and minds. The Lamb who bore my sins, forever bears the scars of my atonement, even as he stands ... alive forevermore, in Heaven.

As the Lamb, Christ has met, fulfilled and satisfied a need we could not. He has become the sacrifice we could not give. He is the Lamb who was slain so that we could bow and sing in the presence of God. There is a hymn that declares the glory of Christ, the only one who is worthy:

Behold the Lamb of God!

Into the sacred flood

Of Thy most precious blood

My soul I cast:

Wash me and make me clean within,

And keep me pure from every sin,

Till this life be past.

Behold the Lamb of God! The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Cornerstone, the Shepherd, our Advocate has bowed to death and overcome. The Slain Lamb stands.

That's what is GOOD about Good Friday.

* * *

“What is good about Good Friday? Why isn't it called Bad Friday? Because out of the appallingly bad came what was inexpressibly good. And the good trumps the bad, because though the bad was temporary, the good is eternal.” -- Randy Alcorn

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“Unless there is a Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday.” -- Fulton J. Sheen

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“Good Friday and Easter free us to think about other things far beyond our own personal fate, about the ultimate meaning of all life, suffering, and events; and we lay hold of a great hope.” -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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“God did not bear the cross only 1900 years ago, but he bears it today, and he dies and is resurrected from day to day. It would be poor comfort to the world if it had to depend upon a historical God who died 2000 years ago. Do not then preach the God of history, but show Him as He lives today through you.” -- Mahatma Gandhi

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“Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone but in every leaf in springtime.” -- Martin Luther

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“2,000 years ago one man got nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be if everyone was nice to each other for a change.” -- Douglas Adams

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“Christ has not only SPOKEN TO US by his life but has also SPOKEN FOR US by his death.” -- Soren Kierkegaard

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“The lesson of Good Friday is to never lose hope -- Or at least give it 48 hours.” -- Robert Breault

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“No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.” -- William Penn

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