We call this Good Friday. Think about that — "good." We call it good when we see a man die — and not just die, die brutally. "Good." On this day we contemplate the most famous six hours in the history of the world. We witness through the record in scripture the most talked about execution that has ever happened. On Good Friday, we remember the blood and the brutality of scourge and nail and thorn. And we call it "Good."
That just doesn’t sound right, does it? How can we call this good? In order to do that, we need to realize what is really going on here. That execution outside of Jerusalem 2000 years ago was not just an abomination of justice and the worst case of police brutality ever. This wasn’t just a good man meeting his end for a cause. There was something more.
There was a reason. I know — it doesn’t look like it when you see the innocent rabbi named Jesus hanging from that cross. But there was. It goes beyond some jealous religious leaders. It goes beyond a frightened political puppet. It goes beyond a betraying friend.
You see, this execution, ultimately was God being God, God showing us who he is and what he is all about. Just listen to what Jesus said as he hung dying for my sins. He opened his mouth and sent a cry out over the crowd that declares to all who hear the reason for this dying man’s death: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34)."
They don’t know what they are doing? Of course they know that they are killing a man. Of course they know that this whole thing reeks of injustice. But they did not know — they were killing God, God come down to earth, the God who loves enough to humble himself for our sins, God who cares enough to think only of us as we pound those nails through his flesh. That they did not know.
They didn’t know that this first word they heard echoed back through the long corridors of time, reaching into a garden in the cool of the day, recalling the memory of that fall into sin and the powerful promise, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel." God was now working out that plan conceived in that garden, worked out in a manger, another garden, and on this cross. Here was God calling out for that very forgiveness he was winning.
All of you reading this have memories. Some bless and some burn. Here, under the cross, even as you see him dying for those memories you’d like to forget — hear him banish those memories from the sight of God forever. Hear your Savior pray for you — in his own name. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. His word has power. You are forgiven.
What a good Friday!
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.