From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matthew 27:45-50)
Over two thousand years ago, Jesus was beaten, mocked, scourged, and then nailed to a wooden cross on which He would die. Today, those who are followers of Jesus remember this event on the day we call Good Friday. But what is so “good” about a day on which our Lord and Savior suffered in this manner? What could possibly be good about a slow, torturous death such as crucifixion?
Jesus was sent into this world for a purpose. And that purpose was to redeem the world. Jesus came to pay a price that we could not pay, to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind, for your sins and mine. In Romans 3:23, the apostle Paul wrote, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Later, in that same letter (Romans 5:12), Paul tells us, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” All sinned. Not one, not some. All. Not one of us is exempt. We have all sinned and, as Paul says in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death.” That is the penalty for sin and that’s what Jesus came to pay.
Matthew 27:45 tells us that, on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, darkness came over the land of Israel for three hours, from noon until three in the afternoon. Jesus had hung on the cross from about nine in the morning until noon and had spoken at least three times during that time before the darkness fell. But when the darkness fell, Jesus was silent. When the darkness lifted, Jesus spoke again, crying out loudly, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It was while darkness fell over the land that Jesus was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). As He hung on that cross, he took upon His shoulders the sins of the entire world, redeeming us from the curse of our sins (Galatians 3:13). And it was at that moment, that Jesus felt forsaken by God. Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Our sin separated us from God and at that moment, Jesus felt that separation.
It was because of that separation from God caused by sin that man could no longer stand in the presence of God. And that is why, in the Temple, there was a curtain that separated God’s people from the place of God’s presence, the holy of holies. But look at what happened to that curtain when Jesus gave up His life on the cross. Matthew 27: 51 tells us that, “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The curtain that stood between man and the presence of God was removed. It was completely torn in two. And look at how it tore: from top to bottom. From heaven to earth. Through the death of Jesus, God removed that which stood between us and His presence, our sin.
And so, we call today “Good” Friday because on this day, Jesus fulfilled His purpose, He gave His life so that we could be set free from the chains of our sin and the penalty of that sin. He made a way where there was no way and restored the relationship between us and our God. As we saw earlier, Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. But that same verse goes on to say, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus paid the price so that each one of us can enjoy eternal life in the presence of the Father. And that’s what’s “good” about “Good” Friday!
Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.