Summary: Good Friday is a problem. First, there is the name. We call it good. No one called it good then. Then there’s what happened. They killed Jesus.
Day by Day with Jesus Series
It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Good Friday is a problem. First, there is the name. We call it good. No one called it good then.
Then there’s what happened. They killed Jesus. Everything had looked so different on Palm Sunday. The crowds cheered. Even Monday and Tuesday were very different from Friday. Jesus took charge. He cleared the temple and confounded his adversaries. Even the events of Wednesday and Thursday have their share of good times and warm feelings. Jesus and his friends share a family Passover together. Everything changed on Friday. Good Friday is a problem.
The big problem is the cross. Many people like the teachings of Jesus. His miracles astound and attract. Everyone likes the stories of his good deeds and loving example. That’s part of the Christian message. But it’s not the heart of it. “We preach Christ and him crucified,” the Bible declares. “We glory in the cross,” we sing. Good Friday is the day of the cross!
For the last several weeks, we have been working our way day by day through the events of Jesus’ last week. The Bible recognizes the importance of these events. Matthew devotes eight of his twenty-eight chapters to the last week of Jesus’ thirty-three year life. Mark, six of sixteen chapters; Luke, six of twenty-four. John uses almost half of his gospel to tell the story of the last seven days of Jesus’ life. If we don’t grasp the importance of Holy Week, we don’t understand Jesus. As much as we might wish otherwise, we can’t have Holy Week without Good Friday. Unless you struggle with the problem of Good Friday, you won’t appreciate the victory of Easter Sunday.
Today I invite you to consider Good Friday through the lens of a classic line from what might well be one of our times most famous sermons. Tony Campolo is a short, round, bald, fast-talking, Italian-American, seventy-one year old sociology professor at Eastern College in Philadelphia. Time Magazine listed him as one of America’s great preachers. You may remember his name as one of former President Clinton’s spiritual advisors. His fame as a preacher is due in large measure to this one sermon. Campolo says his sermon was inspired by one he heard from the preacher of the African-American church he attends when not traveling. In Campolo’s sermon, he insists that we will never understand Good Friday unless you remember what happens next. Campolo calls his sermon, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!” I’ve never heard his sermon. I’ve read pieces of it. Here’s the idea:
Friday was a long day. It actually started the night before. One event led non-stop into the other. After the meal in the upper room, Jesus and his men went to a secluded spot on the Mt. of Olives. Jesus prayed late into the night. His men tried to join him, but the late hour and the hectic schedule over took them. They fell asleep. Suddenly in the middle of the night, probably in the wee hours of the morning, the disciples awoke to shouts and the clanging steel of swords and shields. At first, they probably thought it was a dream. It wasn’t!
The next few hours were a whirl of activity. Soldiers arrested Jesus. They hauled him before the Jewish high priest. Before sun up, a special called meeting of the Jewish council interrogated him. Witnessed said they had heard Jesus blaspheme the name of God and the Holy Temple. In fact, they said, he threatened to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. All of the charges were false. In fact, the witnesses had been paid to offer their testimony. All of that was beside the point because the whole early morning, secret trial process was illegal from start to finish. But Jesus never protested. He didn’t strike back. He didn’t talk back. “Like a lamb before the shearer and sheep before the slaughter,” he didn’t say a word. There was nothing good about the way Friday started.
I’ll bet you’ve had some days like that. You woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Everything seems to go wrong. The whole world seems out to get you. You’ve been lied to and lied about. Maybe it was at work or even at home. You get blamed The fact that you tried to do what was right didn’t seem to matter. Somebody still accused you.
Once when our kids were little, Rose walked in on our three-year-old son sitting in a pile of unrolled toilet paper with his hands still on the roll. “How many times have I told you not to play with that?” she scolded. She sent Tony to his room and told him not to come out until she called him. As she proceeded to clean up the mess, she noticed something strange. The roll looked like it had been unrolled even further, but someone had tried to roll it back up. Sure enough, when Rose went to ask Tony about it, he explained that his two-year-old sister was actually the culprit. He had been trying to fix what she had done. Rose gave him a big hug and said, “I’m sorry I blamed you.” He looked up with big innocent three year old eyes and said, “That’s OK, mom, I forgive you!”