Traditionally, Good Friday is the day when we stop and consider the crucifixion; consider what we have done to Jesus; consider our sin in light of His perfect sinlessness. And it is right to look at it this way. It is right to mourn and deeply contemplate that it is our sin that led to the crucifixion and His death. Simply said, we killed Jesus. But, don’t overlook the fact that His death was an achievement beyond all measure. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was not a tragedy; it was an achievement! The culmination of an eternal plan established before the foundation of the world, and which was repeatedly prophesied and explained in the Scriptures. We see this in so many different places in the Bible. Maybe most familiar to all of you is in Paul’s succinct description of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3 where he says, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures“. We see it also in Paul’s opening statements in his letter to the Galatians where he says that Jesus “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4).
But, to me two of the clearest verses on the crucifixion being a plan of God the Father and in complete agreement with His sovereignty are, first, in Acts 2:23, where Peter in his first sermon on the day of Pentecost in addressing the crowd says, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” And then two chapters later, when Peter and John came back from the Sanhedrin, having been told that they are to no longer spread the gospel, they return to the rest of the disciples and in their prayer for more boldness to proclaim the gospel they say, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (Acts 4:27-28).
I don’t think it can get any clearer than this. Jesus’ crucifixion was not some tragedy. God wasn’t taken off guard by these horrific deeds against His Son. No, the crucifixion was an achievement, a plan made in the eternal counsels of God, executed exactly according to His eternal design. Every detail meticulously planned and orchestrated. And through this, God is saying “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 49:10-11)
No, the crucifixion was an achievement, and it is God’s ultimate display of love for us. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). God didn’t wait until we got our act together, but He sent us Jesus to die for us while we were yet sinners, because He loved us. Therefore, to genuinely say “Jesus died for me” you must also say “I have no strength to save myself. I am ungodly. I am a sinner.” Jesus died to save and transform these. It is love given to the undeserving, to those without strength, to the ungodly, to sinners, to us. This emphasizes the fact that the reasons for God’s love are found in Him, not in us. It would be easy to see the cross as demonstrating the indifference of God, a God who let the innocent Jesus be taken by wicked men, tortured, and crucified while He did nothing… Unless there is a sense in which the Father and Christ are one, it is not the love of God that the cross shows. But the Father and Christ are one, and it is the love of God. The work of Jesus on the cross for us is God’s ultimate proof of His love for you. The demonstration of God’s love isn’t so much in that Jesus died, but in whom Jesus died for – undeserving sinners and rebels against Him. Sinners and rebels like you and me. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16a)
No, it wasn’t the nails that held Jesus to that cross. It was His love for us! When Jesus cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34), when He had taken upon Himself all the sins of the whole world, past, present, and future (including yours and mine) and was no longer one with the Father or Spirit, it was out of love for us! And even in that moment of utter pain, condemnation, and separation, He expresses His love for us by praying for us to the Father, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 22:34)
No, it wasn’t the nails that held Jesus to that cross. It was His love for you and me! The cross is an invitation of love. An invitation that says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). An invitation that says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37).
So, let us say “Yes” to this beautiful invitation of love. Oh, Lord, “Let your mercy come to me, that I may live” (Psalm 119:77), “Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise” (Psalm 119:41). “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Psalm 95:6) “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool!” (Psalm 132:7)