Easter is coming. The celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is understandable. What a blessing. He is risen, the promise of redemption to all who believe in Him as the Savior and King of glory. But, before we get to the joy of Easter we should think through another day – Good Friday.
It’s a holiday for many of us. We’re off work, thinking about how to spend a nice time of relaxation and fun. But, historically, it could be considered a terrible day – a day of great physical suffering; there’s a trial, beatings, humiliations, crowds jeering and screaming for blood. It’s a Friday of incredible pain. And yes, a day of death. So what’s so good about “Good Friday?”
Jesus Christ was going to suffer and die – humanly speaking that’s absolutely NOT a good day. But, for another man it was going to be a fantastically wonderful, special, amazing, awesomely great day. Hanging right next to Jesus was a nameless criminal – a man who admittedly deserved to be there – and a man who, in his last moments of life, turned his head and looked into Jesus’ eyes… and became a Christ-follower, a believer, like anyone who turns toward our Lord, he became a Christian.
Each of us is that man! Think about that and Good Friday is indeed a good day!
“And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:41–43
Many years ago, Paul C. Andreas, of Omaha, Nebraska wrote about you and me and the man on the cross next to Jesus. He wrote,
He (the criminal) is alert enough to realize that the middle man (Jesus) shows no hatred for His tormentors. Unlike himself, the Man in the middle seems to be a just person who compassionately prays for His executioners. Either He really is the Son of God or He must be delirious, for who otherwise could pray for such tormentors? The Spirit of God moves on this criminal and, like a drowning man reaching for a straw, he makes a pathetic request.
There was no time to discuss deism, agnosticism, atheism, eternal security, predestination or pre- and post millennialism. There was only time to implore, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
At this request, the middle Man rallies. As blood oozes from the sides of His mouth, with vision dimmed and through eyes partially closed with dried blood caused by a thorny crown, He slowly raises His battered face and gives a reply, “Today you shall be with me in paradise.”
No one knows what passed through the mind of that convict, but we would like to believe that at that instant and, in spite of the nails ripping his tendons, euphoria flooded his spirit. Perhaps it was the first good feeling he had experienced in his entire life. As his heart pulsed its last and his spirit left the body that had been its cage, his soul was instantly transported into the presence of an all-loving God. It was ushered there by the middle Man, who was already dead and whose name is Jesus.
That pardoned criminal would never take Communion or be confirmed or baptized. He would never fast, attend church or sing a hymn. He would never kiss an icon, take a pilgrimage, sing in a choir, practice Lent or have ashes rubbed on his forehead. He would never light a candle, learn a Scripture verse, attend a prayer meeting or sit in a Bible class.
He never had an opportunity to discover his talents, gifts or potential, nor to quote the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostles’ Creed. He never tithed or witnessed to a person, never heard a sermon and never attended a Christian funeral.
By many people’s standards, the man should never have entered paradise because he had no right to it! After all, he performed no good works!
But regardless of what people might think about his worthiness, that criminal went to paradise because he simply asked for mercy. And from Christ, the blessed Son of God, he received unimagined, unearned, undeserved, unexpected, copious and eternal mercy.
Praise be unto God!
I think there was possibly one last thought crossing the mind of that dying, born-again sinner. And it’s a thought that should be on our minds as we approach this fabulous day of Passion Week,
“Friday! The day Jesus died FOR ME! Now that’s a Good Friday!”
Think about it…