I feel I should write something for Easter but writing about things that are really important to me is so difficult and takes too long. So I’m going to cheat and just copy and paste a sermon that my late husband preached on Good Friday ten years ago. He was American so please forgive the American spelling and calling the M6 a freeway.
What’s good about Good Friday? (sermon for 18 April 2003)
I think that many of you know that my wife is British. She comes from Birmingham and is very proud of her city. If you give her a chance, she’ll tell you that Birmingham has more canals than Venice, which is true. Birmingham lies is at the center of a large network of canals, which were built in the 1700s to transport coal, iron, stone, and other raw materials to its factories, long before railroads were constructed.
In 1972, when the Gravelly Hill Interchange was built, Birmingham also became the center of the freeway system. At the time, it was the largest freeway junction in the country. However, you’ve probably never heard of the Gravelly Hill Interchange, even if you’ve driven through it, because nobody calls it by that name anymore. Soon after its construction, a reporter described it as looking like a bunch of spaghetti that someone had dropped. From then on, everyone started calling it “Spaghetti junction”. The official name didn’t stand a chance — the new name conjured up just the right visual image. Spaghetti Junction sounded appropriate so the new name stuck.
Today, I want to talk about a day that stands at the crossroads of History and which has also undergone a name change — the day that we now call Good Friday. I’m sure that as the disciples witnessed the events of that terrible day, there was not one of them that thought, “This is a good day.” So how is it that the English speaking world now calls it GOOD Friday? I couldn’t find an answer to that question. Some people believe that the word “Good” evolved from the word “God” and that at some stage it was called “God’s Friday.” Others believe that it refers to the good that came from that day. In either case, I think the name persisted and gained acceptance because it seemed appropriate; there IS something Good about Good Friday.
This morning, I want to spend a little time talking about what is good about Good Friday.
Well, it’s good that it’s over, done with, finished, because what happened that day was terrible. Men who didn’t understand what they were doing took Jesus and flogged Him and mocked Him. Then they crucified Him — one of the most cruel and prolonged methods of execution that men have ever devised. The story is so familiar to us that we sometimes don’t feel the full impact of its horror. I’d like to read you an account of how some people in Papua New Guinea reacted when they first understood the crucifixion.
This was written by Neil Anderson, a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators, who translated the New Testament into the language of the Folopa people.
While Neil was working on the translation of the Gospel of Luke into the Folopa language, he took a set of films to the village. These films showed a dramatic portrayal of the Gospel of Luke. Listen to what Neil wrote:
“We showed [the film] in the church building for 24 nights after we had translated Luke. People crowded in and sat on the floor, the men on one side of the room, the women and children on the other, as is their custom.
They were highly intrigued. Since they weren’t familiar with films at all, we had to keep emphasizing that this was a re-enactment of something that happened. The people in the film were not the real people—they were only actors. They were dressed up to look like the people of a long time ago to give a better idea of what it was like.
Every evening we would read that chapter of Scripture in [their language] and then show the film. … It worked pretty well. … They were really impressed … But nothing, nothing, compared with the impact of the crucifixion.
A silence came over the church as the soldiers laid Jesus down on the cross. … But that silence was only the calm before the storm. At the first hammer blow on the nail into Jesus’ hand all the women in the church erupted into an excruciating wail. It made the scene on the film all the more terrible. The men, sitting on their side, tried to keep the women quiet, but they would not stop.
“It’s not real!” [the men] shouted. “That’s not really Jesus!” But they were apparently not convinced. It was as though Jesus was actually dying right there before them.
It was a culturally appropriate response. The whole thing … seemed more eerie and more real with the wailing from the women in the room. It left a lasting effect on [my wife] and me.
It is GOOD that it’s over. John’s Gospel, chapter 19 verse 30 tells us that Jesus ‘said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.’ Hebrew chapter 7 verse 27 tells us that Jesus does not have to keep offering sacrifices over and over again, as the human priests did, “But Jesus did this once for all when he sacrificed himself on the cross.” That terrible sacrifice will never have to be repeated.
And the really good news about Good Friday is that Christ’s death on the cross has put us right with God and given us a fresh start. This is how it is explained in the book of Romans chapter 3 verses 21-25.
But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight—not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scripture long ago. We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.
For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.
That’s why Good Friday is so good for us. The day that brought such shame and pain to our Lord Jesus Christ, brought new life for us who believe in him. He took the punishment for our sins so that we might be put right with God.
I’m an old man and I don’t have too many years left on this earth. That means I’m getting pretty close to going to heaven. And I don’t think I’ve earned this by being a good man. On the contrary, I am all too aware of how far I fall short of God’s standards. No, I’m not good enough to go to heaven and the only reason I’ll get there is that Jesus Christ, who was totally Good and completely without sin, died in my place on that cruel cross, on Good Friday. And He died for you too!
That’s what is good about Good Friday.