As a child, I vividly remember thinking it was so odd that it was called “Good Friday.” There seemed to be nothing good about it – it was the day that Jesus died. The Jesus I had been taught about my whole life, that I loved, sometimes feared, but always thought of as loving, kind, and gentle. So, to celebrate his death as “good” always seemed off to me, even when my parents went to great lengths to explain to me the “why”, just as I do with our own children.
I think it takes a bit of aging to truly understand what is so good about Good Friday. It takes years of sinfulness to realize that you are the miserable offender that makes Good Friday so important. It takes living in darkness to need the light so desperately. Once you have sunk to the bottom and seen how mucked up your soul is without salvation, you begin to understand the beautiful goodness of what tomorrow symbolizes. It’s the epitome of good. It’s the only good in this world and there is nothing we have done to deserve it.
One of my most very favorite stories in the entire Bible is the story found in Luke 29:39-43. Jesus has been hung on the cross and he is placed between two criminals who are also under Roman punishment. I think that this portion of scripture can often be overlooked in the grand story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, but it should never be forgotten. After all, Isaiah 55:11, reminds us that His words will not return void, which means that each printed word found in the scriptures is for a specific purpose.
There’s a reason that the story of the two criminals is shared.
Even as a young person (but especially as an adult, with many years and mistakes under my belt) I deeply feel the generosity and grace that Jesus showered down while hanging on the cross. He was not only feeling the deep, long, searing pain having a crown of thorns shoved on his head and his body completely marred, but he was also feeling the weight of all the sins of the world. His death was so much more immense than any one human has ever felt. And even still…
The first criminal basically dared him to take himself down – to save himself and the others hanging! He said what every other doubting Roman or Jew at the time was thinking, which makes me believe he must honestly not have believed that Jesus was the Son of God because I shudder to think of someone speaking with such gall if they knew Him to be just that. He was all but begging for physical salvation, not understanding that Jesus was dying so that we have soul salvation – one that will save us not from just death on this earth but from eternal separation from Him.
The second criminal (and I wish I was able to truly watch his reaction) responded back with a swift rebuke, “this man has done nothing wrong” and then says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And this is the part that breaks my heart every single time I read or hear this scripture:
Jesus replies, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Our Savior suffered an agonizing death. For you. For YOU. This fairytale idea that we can all live good lives of moral “good-enoughness” and somehow weasel our way into the favor of the maker of heaven and earth is so far removed from reality, but it is often what people seem to believe. The whitewashing of the crucifixion and resurrection has allowed its holiness to be substituted for bunnies and eggs and baskets but the truth is this…
Thousands of years ago, a man hung on a cross with nails pounded into his hands and feet. He had all the sins that had been, that was, and that would ever be, put on him by the Heavenly Father. He was alone and broken and breathed His last. Every iniquity was felt by His spirit and He felt the weight of your sin and mine. Specifically.
He died for us. And he died for that criminal. He died so we wouldn’t have to.
Even though we are the ones that should be hanging right next to Him.
All of humanity was given a chance. The work and promise and beautiful redemption plan played out in the form of a young man giving His life between two hardened criminals.
I can’t think of anything that could possibly be more good.