“Yet it was our pain that he bore,
our sufferings he endured.
We thought of him as stricken,
struck down by God and afflicted,
But he was pierced for our sins,
crushed for our iniquity.”
— Isaiah 53: 4 – 5
Many people, including me, have wondered why we Christians choose the name “Good Friday” for the day on which our Lord was flogged, mocked, reviled, and crucified, though innocent of any crime. But on thinking more deeply about it, I can’t think of any name that could be more fitting. Here’s my reasoning.
CHRIST IS TRULY GOD.
“All things were made through him, and without him nothing came to be.” – John 1: 3
The unavoidable fact is that Jesus Christ is God’s son, a person of the Trinity, and thus one with the Spirit and the Father. At his baptism in the Jordan, and again in the Transfiguration, the Father proclaims this to be true: “This is my beloved Son.” The first two verses of John’s Gospel declare: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” If Jesus is God, then he is also our Creator, and we have come into existence through him.
HUMANITY IS FALLEN.
“All have gone astray… not one does what is good, not even one.” – Psalm 14: 3
The human race is fallen from God, through nothing but our own fault. We have turned our backs on our Creator, and are all sharers in sinfulness of humanity. Think about the implications of this! We, the work of God’s hand, to whom he gave stewardship of all creation, disrespect his name, break his commandments, do evil in his sight, and corrupt the good things he has made. Why shouldn’t he decide, justly, to destroy us altogether and begin anew? Which brings me to my third point.
CHRIST IS TRUE MAN.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” – 2 Corinthians 5: 21
This is one of the most wonderful mysteries of Christianity. Christ, while remaining true God, became true man as well. The Creator is also the creature, both in one person! And God has brought this about by a unique union of God and humanity: Mary, one of us, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and bore a Son to be the Savior of the world. Amazingly, God was not content to save us by himself, though he easily might have – he willed to give us a part in our own redemption!
So we have in Christ both our Lord as God, and our brother, as man. The stage is set for the greatest action that has ever been, and that ever will be. Christ has one third and final nature to reveal, which is unlike the others yet binds them together:
“BEHOLD, THE LAMB OF GOD.”
We’ve all heard this phrase, but the imagery of a lamb probably doesn’t resonate with us as it did with the first disciples. A lamb was seen as a sacrificial victim – an animal which would be killed ceremonially as a sign to seal a covenant between man and God. In the Old Testament God made covenants with Noah, with Abraham, and with the people of Israel when he gave them the Ten Commandments.
On this day, Jesus becomes the Lamb of God in a new covenant, that will endure forever. And in order that this covenant might be perfect, Jesus marvelously carries out every part: the role of God, on one side, the role of Man, on the other, and the role of Lamb, between the two. Christ’s blood, poured out in his terrible Passion and Crucifixion, makes it possible for us one day to be united with God, as his true children.
Because of this, when we partake in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, we truly receive the flesh and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, and he becomes our brother, sharing in our humanity, while we become his brothers and sisters, sharing in his holiness.
So on this day, Christ who is TRUE GOD, TRUE MAN, and the TRUE LAMB of the covenant, has brought about our redemption, “so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”
Good Friday. A more perfect goodness than this, there could never be.
© Samuel Birrer and Serendipity, 2014.