Posted on March 29th, 2013
God made the world out of love. God gave the world to man as a gift of love. God loved man, and wanted to bestow everything delicious, everything delightful, everything filled with joy and wonder and beauty on the first man and his beloved wife. One thing alone He didn’t want man to have, one thing alone He didn’t want man to know: evil.
Still as little children, the first man and woman reached up to a tree and in so doing slapped God in the face. Our first parents weren’t merely taking fruit, they were spitting on God, declaring they knew better.
Have you ever not listened to your parents, because you thought you knew better, thought that your way would make you happier, thought that what your parents were telling you would bring unpleasantness?
I know you have, because I’ve seen you run the other way when your mother says “Come here.” She has a plan, a plan for your good, but instead you run the other way.
Usually that’s a small sin, but when you keep running the other way, keep refusing to listen, it leads to disaster, ruin.
Your parents want you to live, and not die. They want you to be healthy and not sick. They want you to be educated, and not ignorant. They don’t mind if you’re silly, but they don’t want you to be a fool.
But ever since our first parents ran the other way, ever since they—by grasping the fruit forbidden—slapped the Father in the face, our race, our human race has become more and more foolish. We have kept on running, kept on cursing God, kept on slapping His benevolent hand away.
Every sinful act, from the Tower of Babel, to Pharaoh’s slave-built pyramids, to Aaron’s golden calf, to Absalom’s rebellion have all been the human race’s ongoing slap in God’s face.
Then at last, they have Him in the flesh: Jesus, the incarnate God. And they have God trapped on a tree, the tree of the cross. Once brought to ruin by a tree, the sons and daughters of Adam now again confront God and His Word by means of a tree.
For three years Jesus had walked openly among them, healing the sick, feeding the poor, cleansing the lepers, giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the mute. Jesus made the crippled to walk, He caused the paralyzed to run and jump. He came to the people who had been discarded—the unpopular, the stinky, the wretched, the person nobody wanted to play with or sit next to—all these He embraced, He loved, He showed the kindness and mercy of God. And even the dead He raised back to life: a little girl He gave back to her father, a young man He gave back to his sobbing mother, a grown man Lazarus He called forth from the tomb and restored to his grieving sisters Mary and Martha.
Surely for all this, the world will rejoice, yes? Surely at this the world will repent, and come to its senses, saying, “For thousands of years we have wandered in this cemetery, this world of bones and ashes, but now, let us rejoice and be glad, for the God who made us still loves us” – that is what all will say, right?
But we see the answer. Having God on a tree, they slap Him again. And again and again. They laugh at Him, crown Him not with jewels but thorns, and spit on Him.
How patient can God be? Will He not now finally say, “I’ve had enough!”? “Away with these people. Let them die, let them go to Hell, let them rot forever in Sheol, let them be desolate and forsaken, let this entire miserable race vanish and become extinct!”
But instead God the Son, our Lord Jesus, takes our side. He takes every crack of the whip, every slice of skin and skull chipped away by the thorns; He takes every drop of spittle and slap on the cheek, every splinter from the wood and bruise from the blows of fists, every hammer-blow on the spikes and the thrust of the spear – taking all this into Himself He takes our side and pleads like our lawyer to the Judge: “Father, forgive them.” He takes every one of your sins, every time you ran away and did not listen to your mother, every time you stomped and screamed and did not listen to your father, every unkind word to your sister, every bit of selfishness and stubbornness, our Lord Jesus takes all of that into Himself and says to the Father on your behalf, “Father, forgive them.”
We call this Friday “Good” because that’s exactly what the Father does: He forgives us. We could call it “Crucifixion Friday” or “Death Friday,” and that would make sense. But this Friday of sorrow and solemnity is nevertheless Good, because God the Father answers the prayer of the Son and says, “Yes. I will forgive.”
God forgives. God loves. God shows mercy. Still. Even after everything you and I have done. That is why this Friday is supremely Good.∗