Love never fails (1 Cor 13:8). This is true because God is love (1 Jn 4:8). Good Friday is for Christians what Valentine’s Day is for the world. It is the day we commemorate love as we know it. What do Christians know about love? Here is love, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:9).”
Jesus taught His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (Jn 15:13).” This is exactly what Jesus did on the darkest Friday in the history of the world. Therefore, Good Friday is a commemoration of the utmost love: Christ’s love for His bride, the church (Eph 5:25). He loved her and gave Himself for her.
In an evil, fallen world (1 Jn 5:19), which is a mired sea of sin, Christians must receive, enjoy, and share our refuge (Ps 62:8). Without God in the world, there would be no love. In fact, the void of love is one facet of eternal hell. Sin is not only lawless (1 Jn 3:4), but also loveless (Mt 24:12). Sinful man takes from others and gives to himself. Sin abounds, even reigns in the world, and for sinners, it is an apt foretaste of their world to come. Hell is as insatiable as it is unquenchable. Whereas sin takes for itself, love gives itself away. God gives. Christ gives. The Holy Spirit gives. Love is God’s nature, and love gives (Jn 3:16).
The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand (Jn 3:35). In the community of the Triune Godhead, three Persons who are love, love one another. Motivated by love, which is their very nature, each person in the Trinity withholds no good thing from the others. The Trinity is the perfect economic community. Being the source of every good makes it impossible to lose anything, even when everything is given away. They have all things in common, and they share everything in an act of eternal love.
Good Friday is an extension of God’s love outside of the Godhead community. God extends love to the ungodly (Rom 5:6). “Love your enemies,” is God’s talk that has been walked. Paul identifies these recipients as “helpless (Rom 5:6).” Ungodly sinners are slaves to sin (Jn 8:34; Rom 6:1–20). Elsewhere, he describes humanity as, “dead in your trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1).” Sins of the ungodly invite the wrath of God (Rom 1:18; 1 Thess 2:16). There is much more wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10; Rev 19:11–21). So how do God’s love and wrath coexist? How are love and wrath exhibited on the Cross?
Love propitiates sin (1 Jn 4:10). This is the message of the Cross. God is just to pour out His wrath upon wicked sinners, with whom He is angry every day (Ps 7:11). Love was positioned between heaven and earth on Good Friday. Like an elevated lightning rod on a tall building, which draws the bolt of volts and saves the building, so was Jesus on the Cross, attracting God’s wrath to save those under Him. The redirection of wrath from one to another is a substitutionary sacrifice (Lev 14). A soldier may recount a scene from battle, “He took a bullet intended for me.” His testimony would be humble and filled with affection of the one who gave himself. Jesus did this for us, and our affection is for Him.
God desires for all people to know the love of God demonstrated on the Cross of Christ (Mk 16:15; Acts 1:8). This is another reason Jesus was lifted up, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up (Num 21:9; Jn 3:14).” The Israelites had been bitten by snakes in the wilderness. They would die of the poisonous venom, but God made the way of healing for them. Moses lifted up a serpent on a wooden pole, and the people were instructed to look at the serpent. In this way, God would heal them. Christ was lifted up on a wooden pole, and all who look upon Him shall be healed of the venomous poison of sin. Love is antidote for sin (1 Pet 4:8).
In war, men shed the blood of other men. The Man of love shed His own blood for other men in war (Heb 9:22; 1 Pet 1:18–19). When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world, it was an act of war. Heaven sent its finest Son behind enemy lines.
Light entered the darkness, but it was not comprehended (Jn 1:5). The Light of the world was growing brighter (Jn 8:12; 9:5), but the darkness could not put it out. Love came in reconnaissance to save the lost (Lk 19:10). The mission was successful in setting captives free, but it cost the finest Son of heaven His life. Christ died for us (Rom 5:8; 8:34; 2 Cor 5:14; 1 Pet 3:18).
Good Friday is for us, those for whom Christ died. We celebrate the fact that it was for our freedom that Christ came to set us free (Gal 5:1). He loved us and released us from our sins (Rev 1:5). God’s love is universal (Jn 3:16), for He loves people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9). On Good Friday, love traversed a few feet, from one Cross on Calvary’s hill to one other cross (Lk 23:43). Today, love reaches to the utter part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Does God’s love reach out to everyone? Love is an overflowing fountain (Ps 36:9) that spills into rivers of living water (Ezek 47; Jn 4). Love is damned by the levee of sin. Life giving water is appointed at Christ, the Rock (Ps 114:8; 1 Cor 10:4). When the Israelites were without water in the wilderness, they cried out. God had Moses strike the chosen rock and out came sweet water. They pierced His side on Good Friday, and out came blood and water (Jn 19:34). Today, this heavenly water can be tapped from Christ through the water of the Word (Eph 5:26). Whether you are drinking in the Word of God on a daily basis, or not, reveals much about your relationship to true love (Jn 14:15).
Love speaks truth (Eph 4:15). The liar sins and is void of truth. Satan is the father of lies (Jn 8:44), and those who are his children (1 Jn 3:10) have no love for God in them (Jn 5:42). How does one say he loves God when he does not love his neighbor?
No man loves God, until God first loves him (1 Jn 4:19). If God is love (1 Jn 4:8), and God is true (Rom 3:4), then God also demonstrates His love toward us by telling us the truth. Jesus said, “I am…the truth, no man comes to the Father but through Me (Jn 14:6).” It is the truth, Jesus Christ, who sets us free from Satan’s lies (Jn 8:32). We know love by the Spirit of truth (Jn 16:13), who has come to dwell in our hearts (Eph 3:17). The result is that Christians are rooted and ground in love. We walk in the truth (3 Jn 1:4), and we walk in love (Eph 5:2).
The Cross of Calvary is a life-giving tree, an oak of righteousness. Like Aaron’s rod blossoming, Christ’s Cross is adorned with the beautiful Savior (Songs 2:13). From Him is the fragrance of life for those who are being saved (Songs 1:3, 12), and the fragrance of death for those who are perishing (2 Cor 2:15). Mary anointed Jesus with perfume for His death and burial (Jn 12:3), but He anoints us with the oil of gladness, instead of mourning (Is 61:3).
Gethsemane was a garden of temptation much like the Garden of Eden. The choice was love for others, or love for self. Adam chose self, Christ chose others. Near the Garden Tomb is a symbol of utmost love. Lovers flock to the tree of life. They frolic as newborn lambs in the good pasture. Wine is a mocker (Prv 20:1), but Your love is better than wine (Songs 1:2). The crown of life awaits those who love Him (Jas 1:12), and this is how we know love, He laid down His life for us (1 Jn 3:16).
Good Friday must be extended from the garden hill near Jerusalem. Those who have been loved must go into all the world, and proclaim, “Here is love!” “The Lord is my Banner (Ex 17:15),” must be displayed because of truth (Ps 60:4), and His banner over me is love (Songs 2:4). We cannot claim we have loved anyone, unless we have spoken truth in Christ, for grace and truth are realized through Jesus Christ (Jn 1:17). This is love for our neighbors, reflective of our love for God, who first loved us (1 Jn 4:19).
Christians are constrained to love because Jesus died for us (2 Cor 5:14). Paul instructed the Ephesian believers, “and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (Eph 5:2).” Therefore, to love God, to love one another, to love our neighbors, and to love our enemies is the true nature of a Christian. If love gives, then we must lay down our lives for the brethren (1 Jn 3:16b), and suffer for the sake of the elect, as did the apostle Paul (2 Tim 2:10).
Christian, in response to Good Friday, let us consider our lives as living sacrifices unto God (Rom 12:1). Let us love not in word or tongue but in deed and truth (1 Jn 3:18). If we say we love God, see our brother in need, and close our hearts toward him, then how do we say we have the love of God in us (1 Jn 3:17)?
That others might know, “Here is love,” because we have love for one another, just as He said (Jn 13:34–35). In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, and may the Lord cause us to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people (1 Thess 3:12). Thank you, Jesus, for your love for us on the Cross. Love makes Good Friday “good” and every other day, too.
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 26, 2021