On Good Friday each year, Christians remember the most glorious sacrifice and the most horrific murder that ever occurred in human history. Why do we refer to the Friday after Thanksgiving as “Black Friday” and the Friday before Easter “Good Friday”? Should they be reversed? It’s the day set aside on the calendar to remember the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of his people and the heinous murder of God’s Son. Why would we celebrate that day as a good day? Many people flow through Good Friday as if it’s a normal day and they give little to no recognization for the significance of what happened on the day Jesus died. Others celebrate it from a heart of worship. Still others mock the day—calling it cosmic child abuse. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins writes the following:
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. 
Is God guilty of abusing his Son on the cross? According to Isaiah 53, “It pleased the LORD (YHWH) to crush him (Jesus)” (Is. 53:10). Some have stated that the Father was “well pleased” with his Son at the baptism (Matt. 3:17), and then he was vengeful with his Son on the cross. How should we reconcile such statements? Why was Good Friday a good day? How can the death of Jesus be considered a good thing? Is it cosmic child abuse worthy of laughter or substitutionary sacrifice worthy of worship?
Good Friday Was Good Because God Is Good
The entire scene of the cross is filled with brutality, blood, insult, shame, and death. That does not exactly sound like a good day, but it was. When we look at Good Friday and all of the events that transpired on that day through the lens of human self-preservation and humane concepts—it’s a horrible day. When we view the events of Good Friday through the lens of God’s justice—things are put into perspective. Just the statement, “God is good” is often thrown around so casually that people fail to get the point. By the goodness of God, we don’t mean God gives us good things like a cosmic grandfather figure. God is good and because God is good—he must punish sinners for their guilt. This is demanded by the justice of God.
Far too often, God is misrepresented by the Christian community as a cosmic bellhop or a loving grandfather in the sky who showers all people with salvation regardless of their sin. Still others misrepresent God as a vengeful and hate-filled cosmic being who is always looking to zap people with judgment. God is neither of those caricatures. When we see God issuing love and grace to guilty sinners—it’s based on God’s ability to love which is not disconnected from his necessity to judge. Grace is offered on the basis of his satisfaction. The only way God can offer grace is by the fulfillment of his justice. However, if God judges sinners—he is good. If God saves sinners and spares them from wrath—God is good.
God would not be good if he merely bypassed the demands of justice and allowed guilty sinners to sneak in the backdoor of heaven. Such underhanded deals are common in this world of sin, but the moment that God offered such a corrupt deal to a guilty sinner is the moment that he would cease to be good. The holy justice of God is pure and righteous and it requires that all sinners will be justly judged for their sins. Therefore, as God is punishing his Son on the cross, we must remember that he was not punishing him for his sin. Instead, Jesus became a substitute and was being punished for the sins of God’s people (every person who would be the recipient of grace through Jesus Christ—every one of God’s elect past, present, and future).
According to 1 Peter 2:24, Jesus took on himself the sins of his people (Matt. 1:21) in order that they would receive the righteousness of God. There was a great exchange that took place. The sins of his people were placed upon him and he suffered immensely for them while his righteousness was imputed to the account of the sinners—freely received by faith. According to Stephen Nichols, ‘The word imputation comes directly from the Latin. It is an accounting term; it means “to apply to one’s account.’ Expenses are debited and income is credited. The old King James word is ‘reckon.'”  The apostle Paul provides the plain truth of this doctrine in his letter to the church at Corinth as he states, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Good Friday Was Good Because God Was Satisfied
All through the Genesis account of creation, we see the phrase repeated, “it was good.” God was satisfied with his creation—but when sin entered the world (Rom. 5:12)—it was not good. God was angry with his creation. The demands of God’s holy law demonstrated the need for God to be satisfied. On the eve of the final plague, God promised to judge every home and take the life of their firstborn if the blood of the lamb was not on the doorposts. The death angel would visit each home—including the home of Pharaoh. God demanded that each year on the Day of Atonement that the blood of the lamb would be offered and the blood would be sprinkled on the mercy seat. All of this blood was necessary and it likewise was a foreshadowing of the perfect Lamb of God who would one day come and take away the sins of his people throughout the world (John 1:29).
When Isaiah prophesied of the birth of the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6), he was not merely thinking of peace between animals so that the lion would lie down with the lamb. He was looking beyond to a greater peace—one that would reconcile sinful man with holy God. As Charles Wesley would write so eloquently in his hymn, “Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” From birth, all of us are under the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18). We have all sinned against God and we are all born into sin as we’re connected to Adam (Ps. 51:5). As a result of our sin, we’re considered the enemies of God. It’s by the death of Jesus on the cross as our substitute that we are no longer the enemies of God—but now we’re reconciled to him. Paul articulated this truth in his letter to the church at Rome as he wrote, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10).
When Jesus died on the cross, Charles Spurgeon said, “It became midnight at midday.” It was a dark day as God died in human flesh. The death of the second Person of the Trinity was a horrible act of rebellion and human depravity. It resembled the act of Satan seeking to dethrone God from the beginning. It had all of the marks of evil and twisted human depravity—yet at the same time what man intended for evil—God intended for good. It was on that very day when the heads of the homes in Jerusalem were slaughtering their lamb for Passover that Jesus was dying on the cross to be the propitiation for the sins of his people (1 John 2:1-2). The reason that Good Friday was good is because God was satisfied with the death of his Son in the place of guilty sinners.
Nothing that you do can impress or please God. The very best that you can offer God is human effort stained by sin. You need something greater. The only way that sinners can be reconciled to God and find peace with God is through the substitutionary death of Jesus and the righteousness of God that is received by faith. Will you come to God today by faith trusting that the death of Jesus on the cross was a good thing? Mark Dever explains:
God’s answer for your guilt is not to explain it away by circumstances that have victimized you, but to call you to own your sins fully and to entrust them all to Jesus Christ by faith. Jesus Christ is our substitute. He has taken our penalty. 
- Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (London: Bantam Press, 2006), 51
- Stephen Nichols, “The Doctrine of Imputation: The Ligonier Statement on Christology” [accessed 3-28-18]
- Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence, It Is Well, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 57.
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why Jesus is so hated in our culture? We must remember, hating Jesus has always been a popular position by many different cultures. In fact, any society that rejects God ultimately rejects Jesus. This has been the case from the beginning of time.
As we read through the Bible, we see three main reasons why the people of Jesus’ day hated him. That same hatred continues to compound from generation to generation.
Jesus Confronted Empty Religion
One glance at the twenty third chapter of Matthew’s Gospel will reveal the polemical style of Jesus’ ministry. While Jesus was not always polemical in his approach to preaching and teaching, he certainly did confront the empty religiosity of the scribes and Pharisees. On one chapter alone (Matthew 23), Jesus is recorded as having used the “woe to you” bombshell seven times. In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus said:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
It was John Calvin who said, “a pastor needs two voices, one for gathering the sheep and the other for driving away wolves and thieves.”  Jesus certainly possessed both voices. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus called his sheep to him and they heard his voice clearly. As the Prophet greater than Moses, Jesus spoke with authority and defended the truth of God’s Word from the hypocrisy of the legalists and false teachers of his day. For that, Jesus was hated.
Jesus Loved the Outcasts
The religious leaders of the day hated Jesus. He did not spend time with them nor did Jesus show them honor as they were accustomed to receiving from the community at large. Instead, Jesus spent time with the outcasts, the poor, the lowly, the sick, the needy, and the helpless. Consider the fact that Jesus called a group of disciples together from the fishing industry and tax collection. Those people were looked down upon greatly—yet Jesus called them to himself and after discipling them—he sent them out on a mission. Their mission turned the world upside down.
According to Matthew 11:19, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” The religious establishment did not know what to do with Jesus—he broke their categories and confounded their minds. Since the rabbinical society was the highest ranking class in the Jewish society—for Jesus to be a powerful teacher and to associate with the lowly and sinful was taboo. While it was considered out of bounds by cultural standards, Jesus literally exemplified how the Church of Jesus should engage all classes of society. For that, Jesus was hated.
Jesus Forgave Sinners
Out of all of Jesus’ miracles including turning water into wine, walking on water, feeding the 5,000, raising Lazarus from the dead, causing the lame to walk, the dumb to speak, and the deaf to hear—the greatest miracle was when Jesus revealed his power and authority to forgive sin.
Luke, in his Gospel, records a story about Jesus healing a paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus on his bed. Because the crowd was so dense, the friends took the man onto the roof and took apart the roof and lowered the man in before the presence of Jesus. Sitting around on the peripheral were scribes and Pharisees watching the whole scene unfold. When Jesus saw their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Your sins are forgiven.” Immediately, the scribes and Pharisees protested. They said, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone? (Luke 5:21)” As everyone was intently watching the whole drama-filled scene unfold, Jesus responded to the religious leaders.
Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins—he said to the man who was paralyzed—’I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.’ And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God (Luke 5:22-25).
Jesus was hated for many things, but at the heart of the religious community was an intense hatred for Jesus’ authority to forgive sins—an authority that transcended their own and it caused jealousy. They didn’t believe Jesus looked like the promised Messiah. And when Jesus taught, he did so with authority—unlike the scribes (Mark 1:22). The reason Jesus was eventually nailed to a Roman cross was based on a fundamental rejection and hatred of Jesus’ divine authority.
When Jesus died, they thought their problem was finally gone. When they heard news of the resurrection, they were greatly troubled. Their only response was to lie.
While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day (Matthew 28:11-15).
The world continues to find Jesus’ authority troubling. They continue to spread and believe lies about Jesus ignorant of the reality of what will happen before the throne of God in the near future.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).
As a boy, every Saturday morning was devoted to cartoons. I recall watching the cartoons and movies that presented a superhero capable of mighty feats. Every show seemed to have a plot centered around people in distress and the superhero would sweep in and save the day. I remember watching the original Superman movie as a boy and being overwhelmed with his strength and ability to fly. I can still hear the line, “This looks like a job for Superman.” I also remember growing up watching He-Man and The Incredible Hulk. Unlike He-Man, the Hulk busted out of his clothing and turned green. It was exciting as a boy to use my imagination and explore these superhero characters and their “super” powers.
On the weekends, I would often spend the night with my grandfather (Pawpaw). I remember sitting on his couch at night and being board out of my mind as he watched a different type of superhero named John Wayne. I found myself board because this cowboy rode a horse, and I couldn’t identify with him. He was not as strong as Superman and he had no ability to fly. John Wayne needed a gun, but Superman was always faster than a speeding bullet and could catch a bullet out of mid-air. To me – John Wayne was a weakling in comparison to Superman.
In our modern culture today, we have hundreds of superheros in cartoons and movies. It seems that they come in every shape, color, and size. Some come with capes and cars, but others come with lasers and lightening. Spiderman comes with a unique ability to spin webs and travel across entire cities by swinging on his web. Batman comes with a cape and his signature car – the Batmobile. Superman can fly, has x-ray vision, and is capable of massive brute strength. The Incredibles is about an entire family of superheros with unique superpowers – including brute strength and super speed. Our society is saturated with a love for superheros for a reason. We sense the need to have a “good-guy” who can overcome the bad in our world. We like it when the “good guy” comes and defeats the villain. Although our world is largely pagan and refuses to acknowledge sin, even the writers in Hollywood sense the struggle between good and evil that plagues our world.
How does Jesus size up to the modern day superheros? Are we as adults more captivated by the characters of Jack Bauer, Jason Borune, Ethan Hunt, Spiderman, Batman, James Bond, or John Wayne than we are Jesus – the Christ of God? Do we find ourselves board to tears as we read Scripture? Are we lacking interest in the gospel of Jesus Christ but seriously devoted to the screen characters of a movie or television show? If so, we must consider the power and sovereignty of Jesus Christ.
Jesus came without a cape and He didn’t fly. Jesus walked dusty roads and rode the back of donkeys rather than racing into town in a supercar. Jesus did not spin webs or have x-ray vision. As a King, Jesus was poor and had no house to call His own. Jesus didn’t use fancy swords to fight His enemies. Jesus didn’t have a superhero suit that he wore under His robe. Jesus appeared normal and humble, yet He was sovereign God in human flesh.
Consider the following texts of Scripture:
- Jesus created the world – Colossians 1
- Jesus is Ruler over all things and all people – Ephesians 1:19-23
- Jesus rules over nature – Matthew 21:19-20; Matthew 8:26-27; John 2
- Jesus can walk on water – Matthew 14:28-29
- Jesus has power over disease – Luke 7:1-10
- Jesus has the power to raise the dead – John 11:1-44
- Jesus has the power to heal blindness – John 9
- Jesus defeated death by His resurrection – Revelation 1:18; 1 Corinthians 15; John 2:19-22
- Jesus has the power to forgive sins – John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13; Matthew 11:28; Mark 2:10
As we read the Bible, we see a powerful story of love, sacrifice, and salvation. What greater story of salvation and the defeat of an evil super power exists than the gospel of Jesus Christ? Paul explained to us that the Greeks viewed the gospel as utter foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:17-25). What King would surrender to win? What King would die to liberate His people? What King of any royal class would humble himself to the Roman cross – without a fight? As I was thinking through the humility of the gospel, I realized that in all of the humility we must not lose sight of God’s sovereign power. Jesus spoke of laying down His life by saying, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:18).
As we read holy Scripture, we should see the power and sovereignty of God on display in Jesus. We should be captivated by the gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that far outweigh the superheros of modern society. John Piper once said, “Being infinite, God is inexhaustibly interesting. It is therefore impossible that God be boring.” What could be more exciting than a man claiming to be God? The answer: A man claiming to be God and it being validated as factual! Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” The resurrection proved His statement to be true and trustworthy. As parents we should labor to teach our children to be mesmerized by the power of Jesus in ways that make modern superheros appear as weaklings. The gospel doesn’t need to be exaggerated or intensified. The gospel has enough power and potency on its own. Jesus is worthy of our attention and focus – and who is there in Hollywood that should captivate our minds more than the One who created all things?
May God cause us to be overwhelmed with the gospel – the story of redemption – the story of love – the story of salvation – the story of grace!
Pastor Josh Buice