Prodigal Son: Will you celebrate Easter Sunday, but miss Good Friday?
Easter is a joyous and happy occasion and, for the faithful will remain so this year— despite the coronavirus. Most will “attend” their church’s services on-line and the family will likely share a Zoom meeting instead of an Easter dinner — but the good news of Christ’s resurrection will still fill every Christian’s heart with gratitude.
Good Friday? Not so much. The passion of Christ is a painful story, so many Christians “skip the funeral, because the wedding is two days away.”
Good Friday worship is critically important — because it is the day Christians come face to face with the cross of Christ — the day God demonstrated his love of mankind exceeded even his love for his Son. The horror of the cross is the Good News.
Many people are unaware of the details of the cross and what Christians believe occurred. Allow me to explain what I believe are the basics.
The first issue, or course, is “Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?”
Because mankind has been sinning against God since forever.
Sinning against God is a mortal crime against his sovereignty — He created us, yet we absolutely refuse to honor Him or follow even the basic the guidance he’s provided. God wants to be with us and wants us to be with Him, but we keep breaking even the most basic of His commandments.
Every single day we commit multiple crimes against God. What happens when there’s a crime? Well, in a perfect justice system, justice must be administered. There’s no getting around it. Only after an appropriate penalty has been paid can the criminals go free.
So, we’re all guilty. We want to be in God’s eternal presence when we die, but we can’t because we’re guilty and covered with sin. We need someone to accept the punishment we deserve … allow justice to be served … and thus wipe us clean of our crimes of sin. Only when we are free from sin can we enter Heaven.
At this point, many people ask, “If God is all-powerful and loves mankind, why doesn’t He simply wipe away our sins?”
There’s a problem: God can do anything, with one exception — He cannot act in a way that is NOT in keeping with His perfect character. As the Rev. Nicky Gumbel once said, “Even God can’t make two-plus-two equal anything but four.”
Therefore, as the perfect administrator of justice, God cannot look the other way. He must pass the sentence on those who have sinned and the appropriate penalty must be administered. Because the Bible explains “the wages of sin is death,” the appropriate sentence is death. In the case of Christianity, that “death” is an eternal separation from God.
Since we can’t stop ourselves from sinning, then a judgment of death must imposed on each of us. But! Fear not! Turns out God is very smart!
Presented with this seemingly impossible situation, God provided the perfect solution: He sent His Only Son to walk the earth — fully man and fully God — and live the one and only sinless life. He was perfect. Innocent. He was the only human to ever walk the earth who could be deemed worthy to be in the presence of God … and thus the only man ever worthy of paying the price for the sins of his “fellow” men.
Jesus’ journey to the Cross is what Good Friday is all about — and it is during that journey that it becomes so very clear that Jesus was both fully God and fully human. The Good Friday service allows us to see that Jesus was, indeed, fully human — because his humanity didn’t want to go through the coming trials. He was going to be betrayed by his friends, mocked by His former followers and tortured to death — and in the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed that God would relieve Him of the coming trial. He prayed so hard that He sweated actual blood.
There was to be no reprieve, so in obedience with His Father’s will, Jesus accepted the cross. And once on the cross, Jesus was separated from His Father. In unimaginable pain and fully betrayed, He could no longer see, hear, or even feel the presence of His Father. He was alone in a way no human has ever been alone, before or since, so alone that even He cried out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”
Throughout it all, He remained focused on doing the Father’s will. Rock solid. Unwavering.
And that unwavering focus on the Father’s will was and is the perfect evidence that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He willingly took the punishment, took our sins onto His shoulders and when he breathed his last he “paid the ransom for our sins.”
No crucifixion means no resurrection … which means no Easter … no Good News.
On Friday, try your best to participate your church’s on-line Good Friday service. It provides you with the real reason to celebrate the arrival of Easter Sunday.