I remember sobbing, even though nothing was wrong, despite my pride that would normally keep me from showing such emotion to people I barely knew, being quite unable to explain why, as I listened to the story of the Bridge master and his Son. It was during a women’s retreat nearly twenty-five years ago. The theme of the event was The Cross, and the reader was our assistant pastor. As she came to the ending, she looked at me, surprised at my reaction and asked if I was OK. As the mother of two young sons, I was overwhelmed with grief at the thought of a father needing to sacrifice the life of his little boy in order to save many train passengers from death.
This morning, I was reading a chapter in Randal Earl Denny’s book, In The Shadow of the Cross – Walk with Jesus from the Garden to the Tomb, and right there on page 93, I came upon the allegorical story of the Bridge master and his Son. Taking a deep breath, I dared to read it for the first time since that life-changing retreat. While the story is told without naming the man, an on-line search points to John Griffith, an American drawbridge operator during the 1930s, who found himself in a dreadful moment of decision and action. That moment in his life has illustrated for many, including myself, something of the pain in God’s heart on the day Jesus was crucified.
Tomorrow is Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday, on which the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ is commemorated in the Christian Church. As a child and even into my adult years, I puzzled year after year about how that terrible day could be called good. The joy of Easter was good, but a celebration of the death of Jesus, a man in his early thirties who had done nothing wrong, good?
What makes Good Friday good?
As Randal Earl Denny explains, “As important as His life might be, as valuable as His teachings, and as inspiring as His actions, Jesus’ death was more important. By His death, He carried out God’s plan of reconciliation. On the cross, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21.”
Jesus, God’s only begotten son, willingly came down from Heaven to do his Father’s will. The plan for Jesus to come as a son of man, to teach of God’s Kingdom, exhibit his power through miracles, and give his life as a ransom for many, was put in place before any humans existed. Astounding.
As a man, Jesus was tempted, being offered a worldly kingdom by Satan, being challenged to perform miracles so his enemies would believe in him, finding it necessary to submit to God’s plan in the Garden of Gethsemane. Throughout his life on earth, Jesus prayed and obeyed.
Jesus exhibited amazing self-control and humility as he was betrayed, arrested, tried, abused, and crucified. While on the cross, evil men taunted him, challenging him to come down from the cross if he was the Son of God as he claimed. But Jesus, “for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Salvation Army founder, William Booth, as quoted by Denny declared, “It is because Jesus did not come down from the Cross that we believe in him.” The apostle and gospel writer John explains in his account of the Last Supper, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” John 13:3
Paul emphatically states in his letter to early Christian believers in Colosse, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumsision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Colossians 2:13-15
“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” John 1:10-12
The Good News of Good Friday
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17