preached on Good Friday 2018 at Holy Cross Anglican Church in Baton Rouge
Please pray with me.
May my heart’s affection, my mind’s attention, and my soul’s submission be to you, O Lord, my Savior and my Redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God is good. All he proclaims as good is indeed good. In Genesis chapter one we read that God made the light on the first day of creation, and he called it good (v. 4). On the third day of creation he made the dry land appear, and he called it earth, and he called it good (v. 10). And still on the third day he brought forth vegetation and seed and fruit, and he called it good (v. 12). On the fourth day God made the sun and the moon, and he separated the light and the darkness, and he called it good (v. 18). On the fifth day of creation God created all the creatures of the seas and creatures of the air, and he said it was good (v. 21). On the sixth day God filled the earth with life and said it was good (v. 25), and still on the sixth day he brought forth man and woman and once he beheld everything he had made, he called it very good (v.31). In the beginning it was good, because God had brought all things into being, and in their perfect fellowship with God he did not see a living, breathing art project; God saw his work, he saw himself, his great glory, and upon seeing that, he pronounced it as good. In the beginning is the unmarred craftsmanship of God in all creation, and it was very good.
Please turn in your Bible with me to Hebrews 10:19 (give them time to turn there). I would like to read again for us a portion of today’s passage, Hebrews 10:19-25 (read it).
Today is Good Friday, and if we consider what we remember, commemorate, and praise this very day, we should ask ourselves why the Church has called this day Good Friday. Consider it for a moment. What is portrayed in the Stations of the Cross? Betrayal. Agony. Scorn. Mockery. Abandonment. Slander. Blasphemy. Death. Burial. Darkness. The crucified God. How are these then good?
Today in our church calendar, we call this Good Friday, because all we consider of our Triune God on this day is indeed good; for all he did and is doing, we could even say this day is very good. This is the paradox of Good Friday. This is easily the darkest day in history. It is darker than if the Allies would have lost D-Day. It is darker than Hiroshima. It is darker than the 20th century, with its record bloodshed. Good Friday is darker than all the abortions in history put together. It is darker than all the martyrdoms combined. On this day, we say God was crucified. God died. God was buried. Many theologians and poets have called this the paradox of the cross. It doesn’t appear to make sense, but a closer look reveals God’s great and holy sensibilities. G.K. Chesterton provides for us one of the best and most accurate descriptions of beauty and complexities of Good Friday, and I ask your patient consideration as we read this extended passage from his book The Everlasting Man.
“…In that scene [on Good Friday] were symbolically gathered all the human forces that have been vaguely sketched in this story. As kings and philosophers and the popular element had been symbolically present at [Jesus’] birth, so they were more practically concerned in his death…All the great groups that stood about the Cross represent in one way or another the great historical truth of the time; that the world could not save itself. Man could do no more. Rome and Jerusalem and Athens and everything else were going down like a sea turned into a slow cataract. Externally indeed the ancient world was still at its strongest; it is always at that moment that the inmost weakness begins…It was emphatically the strength of the world that was turned to weakness and the wisdom of the world that was turned to folly.
In this story of Good Friday it is the best things in the world that are at their worst. That is what really shows us the world at its worst. It was, for instance, the priests of a true monotheism [Judaism] and the soldiers of an international civilization [Rome]…Man could do no more. Even the practical had become the impracticable. Standing between the pillars of his own judgement-seat, a Roman [Pilate] had washed his hands of the world…The mob went along with the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the philosophers and the moralists. It went along with the imperial magistrates and the sacred priests, the scribes and the soldiers, that the one universal human spirit might suffer a universal condemnation; that there might be one deep, unanimous chorus of approval and harmony when Man was rejected of men…
…They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body. There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulture and guarded by the authority of the Caesars. For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried. It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead.
On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener, God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.
This day is good, because the greatest death in history has brought forth the most life. This day is good, because his good suffering brings our redemptive healing. This day is good because it was for this good work God sent his only begotten son. The Church is the bride of Christ, the redeemed and new creation of God. And therefore, the work set before but neglected by Adam has been fulfilled and completed in Christ, and in so much as we are in Christ, they are now, this side of Christ they are ours to do, together, as the body of Christ.
Only in Christ are we made new. Only in the sinless birth, life, ministry, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and session of Christ are we made new. Only in Christ is the earth redeemed. Only in Christ will marriages, families, children, cities, and civilizations be reconciled to God. And so we look today on the passion narrative like we look upon God’s creation in Genesis: in Christ, though the scene is one of agony and suffering, God is redeeming the world by the second Adam, bringing us into fellowship with the Father. We call this Good Friday because we indeed are seeing, as we do at the end of every creation day in Genesis, the good handiwork of our good God.
And all this goodness—the sacrifice, the forgiveness, the reconciliation, the joy, the power, the glory, and the faithfulness of our Triune God—is here at this very table. Prepare yourself to come, to be a new creation in Christ.
"Good Friday" by George Herbert
O My chief good,
How shall I measure out thy blood?
How shall I count what thee befell,
And each grief tell?
Shall I thy woes
Number according to thy foes?
Or, since one star shw’d thy first breath,
Shall all thy death?
Or shall each leaf,
Which falls in Autumn, score a grief?
Or can not leaves, but fruit, be sign
Of the true vine?
Then let each hour
Of my whole life one grief devour;
That thy distress through all may run,
And be my sun.
Or rather let
My several sins their sorrows get;
That as each beast his cure doth know,
Each sin may so.
Since blood is fittest, Lord, to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloody fight;
My heart hath store, write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sin:
That when sin spies so many foes,
Thy whips, thy nails, thy wounds, thy woes,
All come to lodge there, sin may say,
No room for me, and fly away.
Sin being gone, oh fill the place,
And keep possession with thy grace;
Lest sin take courage and return,
And all the writings blot or burn.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.