What’s Good About Good Friday?
Good Friday. Fr Edmund Hill preaches on the words of Jesus from the cross.
‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Good Friday, we call this day. What’s good about it? The day Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified; the day the Just One was the victim of a judicial murder, put to death by the cruelest, most shameful mode of execution you could imagine; and on top of that, forsaken by God. What’s good about Good Friday?
Let’s look more closely at that cry from the cross. Jesus’ words come from the beginning of Psalm 22. He is making the psalmist’s words his own; making the feelings of millions who have felt forsaken by God his own. He was making the sufferings of all suffering humanity his own, so that all suffering men, women and children may endow their sufferings, however cruel, hideous, squalid, pointless they are, with the dignity and honour of being the sufferings of the Son of God.
But those are not the only words of Jesus on the cross. He also said to one of the criminals being crucified with him, murderers or rapists perhaps, ‘Cheer up; today, I tell you, you will be with me in Paradise,’ – in Paradise, from which Adam, the first criminal, was evicted at the beginning of the sorry story of human history. He is making himself one with sinners, taking upon himself all the sins, all the wickedness and evil perpetrated by the human race from the beginning to the end of time.
Again, he said: ‘I thirst.’ The writer of the Gospel says he did so to fufil the Scriptures – yet another psalm – and they gave him vinegar to drink. Then finally, having fulfilled the Scriptures, having carried through the divine plan of salvation, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and yielded up his spirit.
His work was complete; all that remained was the reward for it – his rising from the dead two days later on Easter morning. Good Friday: certainly it is good, the necessary prelude to the Lord’s rising from the dead. To do that, he had to die first, had to share our death, so that we might share his resurrection. It is the death of Jesus on the cross that really rolled away the stone from the tomb in which Jesus was laid. Good Friday is the door through which he, and we with him, pass through death to life everlasting.