“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
As a young kid, long before I really understood who Jesus is, I always wondered why they called today “Good” Friday. It seemed ironic to me that the day Jesus was killed is the day Christians call good. It always seems more fitting to me to call Easter Sunday, good Sunday instead. Why not call the day He rose from the dead “good?” Why not give a negative name to the day He died?
When I became a Christian at 19, while the Gospel had been explained to me, I still did not quite grasp what was so good about His death. Christians celebrated the execution of a innocent man on what would be a modern day electric chair. I knew His resurrection and Christ defeating the grave was good. I just didn't understand why we needed Him to die the way He did.
Some time soon after I became a Christian I was handed a book by John Piper titled “50 Reasons Jesus Came To Die.” It's a short devotional that details 50 “good” reasons Jesus needed to die and how that was a good thing. I would highly recommend the book. After reading it, two really important things stuck with me:
1. Christ's death was the fulfillment of hundreds of Old Testament prophecies, and the final conclusion of a Messianic promise. Since the time of Abraham, God's people had been looking for the Messiah. There were literally dozens of Messianic figures who looked like they might be the Messiah, but only failed in the end.
- Moses led his people out of Egypt and then ultimately failed them in his sin against God in the desert that would keep him from the promised land.
- Joseph tried to save God's people by bringing them into Egypt and save them from famine, but ultimately just led them into slavery.
- Pick any one of the judges who got appointed to save the oppressed, downtrodden people of God and you'll see their ultimate failure in the end.
- David, titled “a man after God's own heart,” had everything in line to bring God's kingdom to ultimate power, and instead sinned against God by sleeping with Bathsheba and killing her husband.
Every single Messianic figure who enters the Biblical story ultimately fails to save God's people. They were always unsuccessful because of their ingrained sinfulness. Yet they always point us to the true Messiah to come. Christ comes as the only perfect human, perfectly free of sin, who would save God's people from their own depravity. However, his only viable route to pull that off was to die the death mankind deserved.
Prophecy after prophecy declared that the Messiah would come the way Christ did. Isaiah 53 clearly details that the Messiah would suffer and die for His people that wanted nothing to do with Him. Why is Christ's death ultimately “good?” Because it fulfilled every prophecy ever written about Him, the prophecies people had been waiting for Him to fulfill for thousands of years. Christ ended their waiting.
2. It's good that Jesus died because our death couldn't heal the sin problem in this world. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve sinned against the holy, perfect God. That sin wrecked their lives, their relationships, and every single life and relationship following them. Their sin created in man a depravity that could not be filled outside of the work of God. Prior to Jesus, every death that occurred was deserved and a direct result of the ingrained sin in our lives. Without sin there is no death, and one day when sin is no more, there will be no death. (Revelation 22) Our sin condemns us.
Romans 3:23 details very clearly that we all have fallen short of the glory of God and there's not a thing we can do to change that status. Our sin carried a punishment and that punishment is death. Therefore, God's “good” gift to us was to send the ONLY perfect human to die the ONLY innocent death as the ONLY way to reconcile our debt to the perfect holy God we have rebelled against. Philippians 2:7–8 details that the most humble act in history was Christ moving from perfect glory to take on human form in order that He might die for a people who only desired to hang him on a cross. Stuart Townsend in his wildly popular song “How Deep the Father's Love for Us,” concludes his song with these words:
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.
That's why today is good: Christ had to die for people who couldn't fix their sin problem so that they could gain relationship with the holy Father again. Without His death we would still be looking for a perfect Savior to pay our ransom. Christ has died. In three days we celebrate that death and that sin could not hold him, and our God could never be conquered by the grave.