By Brenton Lehman
Is it not striking that we call the day Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, killed, and buried Good Friday? Perhaps we are used to that moniker, but if we were to step back and consider it for a moment, isn’t the idea of the “good” death of an innocent person strange?
I recently experienced the death of a loved one very close to me. I remember the date and the events surrounding it. I remember the funeral, the burial, and the mourning. And if anyone has ever experienced the death of a loved one, you know what this experience of grief is like. Would we call it “good”?
One of the seemingly common experiences of grief and loss is its universal uniqueness. Everyone’s experience of loss is unique to them—no one has lost your person the way you have. And that uniqueness can make us feel lonely. This experience is universal—anyone who has lost someone has likely felt that same loneliness in their time of loss. Death’s sting really is quite painful, and it is a part of our human experience, and the Bible says its root cause is sin.
Perhaps this is why we can confidently say that Good Friday really is good. It is not that death is good; it is why Jesus died that is good news. Jesus, the Son of God, entered into that universal uniqueness of all our grief and loss. He sees us—He knows what betrayal, rejection, sickness, suffering, and death feel like. God’s compassionate witness to our suffering might be good enough news, but how much better is it that Good Friday is not just an exercise in empathy. It is also the day that all of the sin and death in the world falls on one person, crushes him, and opens the way to life even in the face of death.
It has been said that grief is a gift. The loss that causes grief is not a gift; it is by nature a loss. But grief is God’s gift to us for metabolizing loss so that it can expand our soul, deepen our experience of God, and renew our compassion for those who are hurting in our lives. In this way, grief is a gift. In the same way, Jesus’s crucifixion and death are good. Not to say that His unjust trial and execution were somehow morally good, but rather that in His death, Jesus takes on the death, pain, and collective suffering of the world for our sake. “We are healed by his wounds” (Isaiah 53:5).
Are there wounds that need healing in our lives this Good Friday? Is there sin that needs confession and forgiveness? Let us look to Jesus on the cross, bearing the weight of the wounds, sin, and death of the whole world and hear him say, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
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