There is much we celebrate about today that is ironic. I remember as a child wondering why this Friday in which Jesus died is known as “Good Friday.” It certainly seemed like a very BAD Friday when he died. So bad that darkness covered the earth prematurely and Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” The Trinitarian Godhead is mysteriously wounded … so that we could be healed from our sins. And so it becomes our Good Friday.
There’s also the irony of the “righteous” religious leaders who crucified the only truly innocent man who ever lived. Pilate himself affirmed Jesus’ innocence, yet succumbed to the political pressure exerted by the “righteous” Pharisees who demanded that Jesus be killed. When Jesus is taken to Pilate’s house, John includes this ironic sentence about these leaders: “They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.” WHAT?!! They wanted to be “clean” and “pure” enough to eat the Passover, but in so doing they crucified the Passover Lamb of God himself.
And then there’s the way that Jesus is taunted while he is being crucified that he “save himself.”
So also the chief priests, with the scribes and the elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”
Yet if Jesus had saved himself the painful agony of the crucifixion, bearing the wrath of God on behalf of us sinners, none of us would be saved. Jesus would not truly be King if he had come down from the cross. We would have no one to believe in for true salvation.
Good Friday is a day of truly hidden glory. The glory of the King of Kings dying the death of a criminal so his subjects could be in relationship with him. Hidden behind the taunts of the “righteous leaders” who needed his salvation more than any others (and still do!). A bad, horrible day of mourning and weeping and darkness that will turn good for all who believe upon him.
“What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered/Was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression/But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior/’Tis I deserve thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor/Assist me with Thy grace.”
(from the hymn “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”)