What makes Good Friday good? For Christians all across the world, this day reminds us that the grace of God in Christ makes Good Friday good. The good news is that when Jesus died on the cross, it was neither simply a terrible act of violence nor just another crucifixion by the Romans; it was a courageous rescue operation that broke our bonds and set us free from the tyranny of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
What has God liberated you from? Do you have and enjoy freedom in Jesus Christ, or are you still in bondage and need to be freed? One of the harshest masters in our culture is the enslaving master of shame. It locks us in an inner prison of the soul and makes sure that we do not tell our secrets. Shame’s slaves are legion: a well-respected mother secretly struggles with alcoholism, afraid to divulge what really keeps her going throughout her day; a much-loved man keeps looking at pornography, with no one suspecting his dark insatiable lust; a woman cannot bring herself to share with anyone that years ago she had an abortion, and barely a day goes by without the guilt raging within her; a family is too ashamed to ask for help, and are wondering how they will pay the bills this month; a couple suffers in agonizing silence, lonely and too scared to speak to anyone in the church for fear that they will be labeled as weak and unspiritual. And on and on the examples can go.
All these people live in the icy grip of shame, which is why they keep up appearances on the outside, but on the inside are hurting and dying a thousand deaths. A load of guilt has kept them hostage. They are ashamed because they feel they have not lived-up to others’ expectations of them. And that sense of not measuring-up has enslaved them.
But here is what makes Good Friday good. This good news, the greatest story of all, of Christ’s crucifixion tells us that Jesus not only bore our guilt, he bore our shame. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3). Because Jesus did not allow himself to be bound by any shame, he freely took our place. He took on the shame that should have been ours – the cruelty, the rejection, the mockery, and the sheer humiliation of shame – he took it all for us. And since Jesus became shame for us, there is no need for us to be ashamed of anything anymore. Our addictions, our failures, and our sinful secrets were crucified on the cross with Jesus. By faith in this substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf we experience real and genuine freedom.
We are all to come to the foot of the cross and find forgiveness, love, and healing in Jesus’ name. Christian author Richard Foster has said: “By living under the cross we can hear the worst possible things about the best possible people without so much as batting an eye. If we live in that reality, we will convey that spirit to others. They know it is safe to come to us.” Good Friday is good because it frees us from our pride and self-centeredness and allows the new community of Jesus-lovers to help others break their bondage to shame and guilt.
Grace is neither just a word, nor simply a nice idea – it is a powerful spiritual reality to be lived and experienced. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of forgiveness. Today is the day to let go of our crushing burdens and tell our secrets in Jesus’ name. Today is the day to rid ourselves of bitterness and the petty nursing of grudges against others. Today is the day to repair that damaged relationship and apologize for being such an obnoxious and stubborn sinner. Today is the day of salvation. Jesus is waiting for you with outstretched arms. See the wounds on his hands and his feet – wounds that heal and bring new life.