Good Friday and Jesus’s Last Words
Tomorrow, April 14, 2017, is Good Friday. For anyone who doesn’t know, Good Friday is the day on which Jesus was crucified. Now if you know anything about the horrors of crucifixion, you know how odd it is that Christians refer to this day as Good Friday. Christians believe that Jesus was God in flesh, God walking around us, God eating our food, God breathing the same oxygen we breathe. Later in his life, the apostle John was so shocked by this truth that he wrote concerning Jesus: “That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and touched with our hands.” John couldn’t get over the fact that He literally saw, touched, and knew the Word of life Himself on a first-name basis! How on earth is it good that Jesus, the God-man, God in flesh, suffered a gruesome, sanguinary death?
Good Friday is good because of what Christ did for you and for me on that day. By hanging on the cross, He took my place and your place, your kid’s place and your mom’s place. That should have been me, and it should have been you being tortured to death. Thankfully, God’s love for us is not a passive or ambivalent love; His love is a love that leads to action. As odd it sounds, Good Friday is good because it is the day on which Christ took our punishment.
What Jesus did on Good Friday guides our lives and is the ultimate source of our identity, His work on the cross grounds the way we view the world and relate to others. It’s impossible to convey just how significant Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection are for the committed Christian. If you were to demolish every other doctrine which Christians believe, you would change Christianity, perhaps drastically; however, you would not destroy it. For, Christianity’s ultimate claim is the crucifixion and resurrection. Destroy these, and you destroy Christianity.
One thing that we don’t talk about enough is one of the final things Jesus said while hanging from the cross by nails (think rail-road spikes) through his wrists and ankles. Matthew and Mark both record that Jesus cried out in a loud voice; John, ever the theologian, gives us a little more detail. He says that what Jesus said in this loud voice was, “it is finished.” Now this phrase is bursting with theological value and is begging to be the text for an Easter sermon. You could write entire books just on what Jesus meant in this phrase! This phrase is one of those phrases that is deep yet shallow—easy to understand, but impossible to comprehend.
A nuance that we rarely discuss in this phrase, one four-syllable word in Greek, comes from the tense of this verb. Without boring you with the grammar involved, suffice it to say that the verb tense is called the perfect tense. We don’t have an exact parallel for this in English. This verb tense’s beauty is its unique ability to describe an action that is completed, but whose effects are felt in the present. So, for example, Donald Trump’s election as the forty-fifth President of the United States is a done deal, yet we are still experiencing the effects of that election and will be for at least a few more years.
What Jesus meant by this and what John was trying to tell us is that Jesus’s work on the cross is completely finished. Death has been defeated, sin has been dealt a fatal setback, the conquest has been completed. It is done, it is finished. There is nothing more to add to Christ’s salvific work. You can’t add to it, defeat it, or change it. But, and this is significant, its effects are still with us in the present.
Every time a person comes to know Christ, they’re experiencing the direct consequences of Christ’s completed actions. Every time a believer grows in holiness, they’re experiencing the direct effects of Christ’s finished work. Every time a nonbeliever shuns Christ, they’re setting themselves up to deal with the ramifications of rejecting Christ’s work. When you go to church on Easter in a few days, you’ll be celebrating the lasting effects of Christ’s work.
Notes & Sources
1 John 1.1, NIV.
Matthew 27.50 and Mark 15.37.
Images courtesy of Motion Worship. http://www.motionworship.com/