You have to wonder what’s so good about it anyway. For it was on this day, long before the sun had even arisen, that Jesus found Himself hauled before a kangaroo court that had already convicted Him, despite being unable to come up with any even false evidence that they could actually use against him.
Likewise, it was on this day that his accusers were so anxious to be rid of Jesus that they couldn’t even wait for the Roman governor to finish his breakfast before they hauled their prisoner over to the place where Pilate was staying, making one wild accusation after another against their fellow Jew to the Gentile representative of the occupying foreign power.
And though Pilate seemed singularly unconvinced about their charges, he was an astute enough politician to know when it’s better to go along with the crowd which had clearly been whipped into frenzy by the Jewish authorities. And so the governor allowed some whipping of his own, ordering his soldiers to strip the prisoner of every last vestige of His humanity and dignity.
Then when even that wasn’t enough to satisfy the blood thirst of the accusers of Jesus, Pilate finally gave in and ordered that the prisoner be executed. They dragged Him through the streets of Jerusalem to get to a hillside just outside the city walls, conscripting a passer-by named Simon on the way to help carry the wooden beam that was to be His final pulpit, and then Jesus Himself was hoisted up on that splinter-filled saber where He hung for three hours as His life was literally being poured out.
The crowds came by, hurling their taunts and insults. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself.” “He trusts in God, so let God rescue him now if He wants him.” And all the while the life spirit of Jesus continued to be siphoned out, not only from the physical excruciation of crucifixion, but from the sheer agony of abandonment as well.
“My God, my God,” He called out, somehow remembering even in the fog of His frailty the ancient words of the psalmist, “why have you forsaken me?”
Until at last it was finished and He gave up His spirit.
But it was at that precise moment that something rather incredible happened, as well. For as the gospel account tells us, not only was the curtain in the Temple torn in two from top to bottom, but the earth shook, the rocks split, and the nearby tombs broke open, releasing many holy people who had died to come out and be raised to life once more.
No wonder a Roman guard who was standing nearby, though clearly terrified, understood what all of the religious and political authorities in Jerusalem had failed to grasp: “Surely this was the Son of God.”
And because He was, that’s what was good about this day. For on a bleak hillside long ago and far away, this day became “God’s Friday,” an unparalleled hinge point in history when the tide began to turn and in the meanest of circumstances, hope found a crevice from which to creep back into our lives.
Today is a time for remembering just what Christ did so long ago and why it matters. So let the reality of the events of this day become intensely personal for you once more. Do not allow these hours to go by without stopping to offer a prayer of fervent thanksgiving for the gift of your salvation. Go to the cross at least sometime this day and contemplate what really happened there.
For as bad as it was, it was a Good Friday for us indeed.