Good Friday is the day we celebrate Jesus’ death on the cross. It is a day of mixed emotions. God himself bleeding and suffering for crimes not his own, but suffering in our place. There is a certain amount of sorrow, but there’s also joy, bubbling up from below. The joy comes because we know the rest of the story. A stone rolled away, a dead man getting up and walking away. The Spirit descending into each of our believing hearts.
This can be a day of contemplation, repentance and peace. It will be that for many followers of Jesus. They’ll rejoice at the end of the special services this week, leaving with a new zest for compassion and love. But some people will go, expecting joy, only to find guilt, shame and condemnation from someone who thinks those things are great motivators.
Yeah, unfortunately they do it for your own good on this, their Guilt Friday. They tell you all that Jesus went through in agonizing detail only to shake their head and wonder out loud why you aren’t better since he went through so much for you. Plenty of well-meaning control freaks will take up their cross to beat you over the head with it. They’ll push you into God’s empty tomb and seal it up so maybe you’ll learn a lesson or two. All in your best interest.
The real story is that our imperfection destroys us. For God to accept us in a state of imperfection would have been far from loving—it was a death sentence. Our sin would only devour us, and God loved us too much to allow that. We couldn’t reach perfection. The weeds had grown up with the wheat and we could pick and pull until eternity and never rid ourselves of our sin. He could have shaken his head and walked away; started over on some other planet. But God so loved us, that he found another way.
The Creator entered his creation. The painter stepped into his painting. The paycheck for our imperfection was death and he cashed it. God wanted love for us, and when we couldn’t muster it, he made a way. He lived the life we couldn’t live, in our place, and died for the sins that would eternally damn us, in our place. “He who knew no sin, became sin…” Then he said, “It is finished.”
And it really is finished. Our sin was laid on him, and his righteousness was offered to us as a gift of love. All so God could love his people. All so he could be our father again. So, when you think about the day we call Good Friday, rejoice. No matter which church service you went to. Remember that fear has to do with punishment, and the punishment is done. You are loved and it is that love that changes us, not fear. Not guilt.