The Triumph of Good Friday
March 30, 2018
We have just heard the Passion of Lord. Hearing it makes us very aware that there is no other day like today. It is a day that is the greatest tragedy. God became a human being and submitted Himself to suffer unjustly. The way He was treated is cruel. That people put Him to death is wrong.
We should never forget, though, what we just sang in the Hymn of the Day, that Good Friday was the Glorious Battle. Good Friday is, to be sure, a triumph. When God first promised He would send the Savior He said that the serpent would bruise His heel but that He would crush the serpent’s head. The Old Testament reading, which includes some of the most brutal details of the suffering of our Lord, most certainly ends on a note of triumph, of victory. The Epistle reading likewise speaks of the death of Christ as victory over sin and death.
And what can we say about the Gospel reading for Good Friday, the very Passion of our Lord? Though it is likewise painful to hear, it most certainly rings out with a note of triumph, of victory. It is finished! Christ cried out from the cross that His suffering and death was finished. His payment for the sin of the world, now accomplished. This is victory. It is triumph.
When you look at the wars that have been waged throughout history, it is difficult to come to terms with the devastation they have wrought, with the loss of life, and the pain it leaves in its wake. But whenever the forces of good wage war against the forces of evil and the forces of good triumph, it is indeed a triumph. The loss of life is the greatest sacrifice.
This ultimately is what happened on Good Friday. The glorious battle. The war waged against Satan. The ultimate sacrifice in our Lord giving up His life. It speaks to the irony of the name for this day, Good Friday.
And though we should never forget that this day is indeed Good Friday—it is indeed a victory, a triumph—we never ought to forget the terrible cost of good Friday. Just as we remember in this life those who have sacrificed their lives for us we also remember that the victory Christ won for us came at the cost of His life.
Jesus wasn’t the victim of cruel circumstances. He was the willing Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. As we hear in the Epistle reading, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus willingly suffered at the hands of men. But the suffering of Christ on the cross was the suffering of what God laid on Him. He made Him to be sin who knew no sin. As we see in the prophecy of our Old Testament reading, it was the will of God to crush Him.
No wrongful death compares with this. No amount of explanation can come to terms with this will of God, to crush His only-begotten Son. To lay on Him the iniquity of us all.
Anyone who knows grief knows that you can’t control it. You can’t make yourself feel what you don’t feel and you don’t know what you’re going to feel at any given moment. We simply cannot comprehend the grief of our God who placed upon His own Son the punishment we rightly should endure. He crushed His Son, pouring out His wrath upon Him.
This wasn’t just a job needing to get done. This was the very love of God for those He created. Asking of His Son to endure this on our behalf was pain beyond what we can imagine. But it is also love beyond what we can imagine. It is in fact the greatest triumph. The greatest sacrifice was made so that you and I can live and not endure what we rightfully should in hell for all eternity.
The triumph of Good Friday isn’t a cheerfulness that ignores the great cost. But it is a true joy that sees that Jesus endured what He did so that we can live forever with Him. There was no other way. But He didn’t suffer as He did simply because there was no other way. He did it purely because His love is greater than we can imagine. He would do anything for us, including give Himself over to sin and punishment and being crushed by God.
Our Lord being crucified was a tragedy, as all war is. But He shows how this is the greatest triumph when He says, It is finished! Nothing else needs to be done. Salvation was accomplished in His suffering and death. His resurrection establishes it.
What is not finished is His continuing to love you and forgive you. What is still being accomplished is His sustaining you in faith through your Baptism and in your hearing the Gospel and in your partaking of His body and blood in His sacred Supper.
And finally, when your last hour comes, the triumph of Good Friday will give way to the eternal celebration of the Lamb on His throne in heaven, the one who suffered and died, for you. Amen.