Friday, March 21, 2008

'It is finished' - John 19:30

Why is Good Friday called that? What makes it so good? Tonight we come to the cross, having looked at John's account of the passion every night this week. We ascend to Calvary mount, to Golgotha, that place of the skull to behold the cross of Christ.

To some, Good Friday was a great day. The Jewish chief priests and elders had a good day. Their rival, that troublemaker, Jesus, was out of the way. they had persuaded, or pressured, Pilate into crucifying him.

The soldiers had a good day. After all, it was work as usual, crucifying another few Jewish peasants. Just what they deserved. There was a bonus though. That mysterious one they called the King of the Jews had some items of clothing, which the soldiers divided among them [fulfilling Scripture as they did so]. One lucky soldier even got the seamless robe.

Pilate might even have felt like he had a good day. Having been bullied by the Jews into crucifying Jesus, he won a minor victory against them after they complained about the sign on the cross. It was the custom, you see, to erect a sign over the crucified to proclaim their misdeeds, to discourage anyone else from getting involved in similar antisocial behaviours. The Jews complained because Pilate had written 'Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.' They preferred 'this man said he was the king of the Jews.' But Pilate won, refusing to change the script, saying 'what I have written, I have written.' The sign proclaimed, in three languages - the languages of the worlds of religion, wisdom and empire the kingship of Christ.

For the followers of Jesus, though, it was a bad day. Most had fled before the day came to pass, but still the women followed closely, and the beloved disciple (John). Their Master, Rabbi, Teacher, Friend, had been tried and shown to be without fault, yet was cruelly crucified. Their hopes of seeing David's kingdom restored had come to nothing. Jesus was dying on a cross. It was a bad day.

So why do we call it Good Friday? What is so good about Jesus dying on the cross? Well, think about the words in the title - 'It is finished.' This was not the cry of anguished desperation, of resignation. This was not the cry of defeat.

Rather, as Jesus cries out 'It is finished' he declares his victory. He proclaims that the suffering due to us for our sins has been endured, paid for, finished.

Recently I was out for a meal with the family, and it came time to pay. I went up to the till, gave over the money, and do you know what they did with the bill? The guy took it, and impaled it on a nail. When the bill went on the nail, it showed that it was paid. Completed. No more needs to be done. The bill is satisfied. No more claim over me. No debt outstanding. Finished.

Good Friday is called Good Friday, because Jesus died in our place, taking the punishment due for our sins, paying the debt that we could not pay, and it is finished!

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