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This time of year we hear a lot about Good Friday, but many outside of Christ, and perhaps even many Christians, don’t fully understand what happened 2,000 years ago when Jesus went to the cross. What can possibly be “good” about Jesus being whipped, flogged, beaten, thorns pushed into his skull, his beard plucked, and then nailed to wooden beams to hang until he had no strength to breathe? Believe it or not, when you understand why Jesus endured all of that, you will understand why it was good.
It all boils down this: Jesus paid our debt to God so we could be off the hook.
What do I mean by “debt” and what do we owe God? How did we get into debt in the first place? This story started in the Garden of Eden when the first humans, Adam and Eve, disobeyed a direct command from their Creator and changed the course of human history.
Genesis 2:16-17– The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
Once God declared death would follow disobedience, there was no going back. God couldn’t simply just change His mind and undo His own decree and say, “It’s okay Adam and Eve. I know I said you would die, but I got to thinking about it and I don’t want that. I’ll let you off the hook this one time but don’t do it again.” We have to understand the nature and perfection of God. He is holy and just and once He declares something He can’t change it. He’s not like earthly parents who make threats to their misbehaving children but then never follow through with the punishment when the child breaks the rules. If God did not act on His own decrees, that would make Him a liar. And if God is a liar, then He isn’t God. As a matter of fact, God can’t lie. (Hebrews 6:18). God has the power and the ability to do it, of course, but that would diminish His holiness and perfection.
If you’ve ever watched Disney’s Aladdin, you may recall how Princess Jasmin fell in love with Aladdin, a commoner, but was not allowed to marry him according to royal decree. The Sultan at the end decides that he can just overwrite his own laws and allows his royal princess to marry Aladdin. It made for a great movie, but in reality, God does not work this way. In fact, if He did, He would be less than God. He will never compromise His perfection, holiness, or glory. He is perfectly true in every way and when He says “You shall surely die!” He can’t change that.
The Apostle Paul told us in Romans: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:24) In other words, if you sin, your payment is death. There is just no way around it because it is the law of God. He said it, it is. But here is where Good Friday comes in. God had a plan worked out from before the creation of the universe to fix the mess Adam’s race got into. And what’s even better, God fixed it without ever violating His own law! God worked within His own spoken command and never once diminished His glory or perfection. His plan is what we call the plan of “Redemption” and it’s the most beautiful, brilliant plan you’ve ever seen. So, let me break it down for you.
What Standard Are We Using to Measure Ourselves?
Because humans are sinful, they are separated from God. Only someone as righteous as God can exist in His presence, so it looks like the sons of Adam are doomed. Could any of the sons of Adam ever be as righteous as God and not break any of the commands of God?
There are 2 types of righteousness. One will get you into heaven and the other one won’t.
Rom. 10:3 — For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.
Our Own Righteousness
Perfection is the standard of righteousness that God expects and without that, no one can live in His presence. He can’t contaminate His being with sin. If you are a parent and you try to hug your child who has just been playing in a pig pen, you will get dirty. Similarly, God can’t embrace us or be around us because it would contaminate His being and our sin would make Him dirty.
So, how do we do the impossible and become perfectly righteous in God’s sight? That’s where Jesus comes into the picture. This is where you begin to see just how “good” Good Friday really is!
Romans 8:1-4 – Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
As previously stated, God could not violate His own law of sin and death. Once God told Adam and Eve they would die from disobedience, there was no going back on that. God had to work around it legally or He would violate His perfection and Holiness. God can’t leave sin unpunished.
Ex. 34:6-7– who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…
Because God is holy and demands perfect justice, something or someone has to die to pay the sin debt. In the Old Testament it was the death of animals that served as a way of paying toward that sin debt. It was called atonement. (Lev. 17:11). As long as they made payments to cover their sin, God withheld His wrath and justice. But it had to be the shedding of blood to come up with the right form of payment. Death is the only form of currency God can accept because of what He said to Adam and Eve in the garden.
Jesus came to be the ultimate sacrifice to cover our sins. Jesus shed His own blood to satisfy the justice of God.
Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18-19)
Heb. 9:22 — And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
So, once a man in the flesh, a son of Adam, met the requirements of the law, God could then legally declare us righteous. Just like Adam’s sin made us all sinners, Jesus’ obedience allowed God to grant us eternal life. Because Jesus was innocent and lived a sinless life, His shed blood and death paid the debt off completely, thus allowing God to have a clean slate with us and then deal with us on a grace level. Believe me, you don’t want the justice of God. The payment due date always comes with God and that’s just the way He is. But that’s what makes Him God. He can only forgive your sin debt if either you die to pay for it, or someone else lays down their life in your place. The problem is, if you pay your sin debt, you have to spend an eternity in hell. Since Jesus had no sins of His own to pay for, He was free to pay for the sins of the whole world.
It was going to take a son of Adam to get Adam’s race out of the sin problem. However, this was a major problem because all of the sons of Adam were too weak and sinful. Watch how brilliantly God overcame the seemingly impossible predicament. God, to make it perfectly legal, became a son of Adam! That is Jesus. Jesus is God born as a human, a son of man. In this form, God could then take the sins of the world upon Himself, removing the curse He had placed on mankind.
God needed a second Adam to do what the first one failed to do. That is why Paul called Jesus the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45). A new “Adam” was needed to obey God fully so the curse of death could be removed. Jesus, because He was perfect, fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law. Now God could say to the court in Heaven, “Look! A man, a son of Adam has fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law and now I can restore my life and spirit back to them.”
1 Peter 3:18– For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit
2 Cor. 5:21- He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
God put on Jesus the sins of the world so He could put on us the righteousness of Jesus. How do we receive this righteousness? By Faith.
Eph. 2:8-9– For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Today is Good Friday and hopefully you have a deeper understanding of how that bloody event 2,000 years ago can be for God’s glory and turn out to be something “good.” How will you respond to that? If you haven’t yet come to terms with your sin problem and haven’t gone to the foot of the cross to let the blood of Christ cleanse you, then do it today! Simply believe and put your trust in Christ’s atoning sacrifice. If you want to take that step right now, simply pray this prayer right now.
Father in Heaven, I realize I’m a sinner. I see now how utterly disgusting my sin is to you. I know I need you to save me from this because I don’t have the strength or ability to fix it. I believe in what Jesus did on that cross. I also believe He came out of that tomb alive 3 days later. I believe it and accept it and want to grow in these truths and pursue you the rest of my life. Please, Father, save me from my sins and come into my heart! Give me the new birth into your glorious life. In Jesus’ name. Amen!