The gospel, which means “good news,” is the story of stories. It is the ultimate love story, drama, tragedy, and epic all rolled into one. It is the story of an innocent man taking the place of the guilty. It is the story of a man who never sinned, taking the punishment of sinful men and women.
As an innocent man dying for the guilty, Jesus proved himself to be the promised Israelite Messiah, the Savior-King, sent from God to bear God’s wrath against sin and sinners. He also proved himself to be the Son of God who brings sinners back to God. His dying hours on the cross overcame millennia of sin, suffering, and evil. The ancient curse is reversed and the ancient Serpent is defeated.
There are two images in Mark 15:33-39 that show Jesus as our sacrificial Lamb and great Mediator.
First, look at Mark 15:34. Mark writes, “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice…”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This means so much for you and me. Jesus was about to die. With the last bit of strength he had in his dying body, he shouted loudly that God had “forsaken” him. This means that God had abandoned him.
In this moment, the wrath of God was pouring out on Jesus. It was like God the Father turned his back on God the Son. For the first time in eternity, forsakenness existed within the Trinity where only blessing, love, peace, and joy had ever been. As Jesus took his final breaths, the weight of human sin was on his shoulders—your sin and my sin. Jesus took our sin upon himself (2 Cor. 5:21). He was forsaken or abandoned by God so that all who believe in him will never be forsaken or abandoned by God.
Second, look at Mark 15:37-38. Mark writes, “And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” John tells us that loud cry was, “It is finished” (John 19:30). As Jesus breathed his last breath on a hill outside the city of Jerusalem, a curtain in the temple in Jerusalem tore in two pieces.
This curtain separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place in the temple. It was in the Most Holy Place that the presence of God dwelled, and where the high priest would go to make sacrifices for the people. When Jesus died, he offered himself to God as the once for all perfect sacrifice for sin. Through his death, the veil separating the people from the presence of God was forever torn.
A day the Church has celebrated for 2,000 years as “Good Friday” wasn’t initially received as a sign of anything good whatsoever.
For Jesus’ closest followers, the world was ending. Their hope in Jesus was rooted in a misunderstanding of his person and work. Like many of us, they expected Jesus to do things he never intended to do. The disciples craved instant gratification. They wanted immediate liberation. They wanted to see Jesus retake David’s throne and drive out the evil Roman Empire. The disciples had witnessed divine power from Jesus. Surely the one who had power to calm a storm with nothing more than a soft command could escape death. But each step toward Golgotha drained the disciples of every ounce of hope.
For Jesus’ opponents, the world was purged of a dangerous radical. The Roman and Jewish authorities weren’t sure what Jesus would do, but they were sure his authority threatened theirs. His following had ballooned to an uncomfortable level. His death meant the end of a possible uprising.
Jesus’ final words, “It is finished,” resonated with every witness to the execution. In the minds and hearts of everyone on that dreaded hill, it was all over.
But we can look back on that solemn and holy moment on the original Good Friday and see the beauty of the gospel. Jesus was crushed. He was forsaken. He was defeated. He was executed. His disciples mourned. His enemies rejoiced. But through his defeated, Jesus conquered. Through his death, he gave life. Through his forsakenness, Jesus made the way for enemies of God to be children of God.
The day Jesus died is called Good because of what he accomplished in death. Humanity and the entire created order find redemption in the King who bled and died on a hill outside Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Christians can celebrate today because Jesus endured what we deserve. By faith in this crucified King, we receive the life, peace, hope, joy, and blessing we don’t deserve. Oh, how good is Good Friday for those covered by the blood of Christ!
Mathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.