It strikes me that if I had to come up with one word to capture the essence of what happened on Good Friday it would be “salvation.”
Think about it, when Joseph learns that Mary, the woman he is engaged to, is pregnant and he is not the father, he decides not to marry her and to secretly send her away to avoid the inevitable shame. But then an angel appears to him and says:
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Clearly Jesus’s mission was established before He is ever born.
However, if you go back 700 years before Jesus’s birth you read in Isaiah 53 that he would be:
“Pierced through for our transgressions . . . crushed for our iniquities . . . and the iniquities of us all would fall upon Him.”
The reason our iniquities were to fall on Him at the cross was so that they would not fall on us. Jesus bore our sins by absorbing God’s wrath on the cross. The wrath that we deserve.
This is the picture of grace. We are sinners, unable to save ourselves, and are saved through extreme and costly measures.
Tim Keller says:
“God’s grace becomes wondrous, endlessly consoling, beautiful, and humbling only when we fully believe, grasp, and remind ourselves that we deserve nothing but condemnation, that we are utterly incapable of saving ourselves, and that God has saved us, despite our sin, at infinite cost to himself. Some people have too high a view of themselves. God’s grace is not stunning because they don’t feel they need it, or at least, not so much. Others do indeed see themselves as failures but, while they may have some notion of an abstract “God of love,” they have little idea of the enormity of Jesus’s sacrifice to purchase them out of debt, slavery, and death. They aren’t lost in wonder, love, and praise at the lengths and depths to which he has gone for us.”
To fully understand this, I offer this parable:
There was a very bright, ambitious young man who upon graduating from business school moved to Silicon Valley to begin his career. He was very creative and quite the entrepreneur. At the age of 28 he left his place of employment to start his own technology firm. His new company grew and flourished and a week before his 35th birthday, he took the company public. At the end of the first day of trading the stock, this young man was officially a billionaire.
Later that night, he experienced a real sadness in that he had no one special to share in this great moment. He appeared to have everything except meaningful relationships. All he had ever done was work. He was married to his business. He realized how lonely he was and that he yearned for a wife and family.
Across town there was a lovely young woman who had worked her way through college, taking out student loans to pay her way. She was an accomplished musician, graduating with honors as a music major. After college she fulfilled her passion by teaching music to underserved youth.
As fate would have it, this lovely young woman and the man in our story, the billionaire, are introduced to one another by a mutual friend at a symphony event. They immediately connect and over time fall in love, and eventually get married.
The moment they become husband and wife, all of his fortune becomes hers. All of his riches come to her because she said yes to him and entered into the covenant relationship of marriage.
Think about it. One person has done everything in order to create this wealth. The spouse gets married and receives this wealth by grace.
This is a picture of God’s grace. We are like the music teacher. As she receives her husband’s monetary wealth, we receive the wealth of God’s grace. We did nothing. Jesus did everything at the cross. When we are united with Him, everything that Christ has done on the cross is true for us. We are credited with His righteousness.
Paul speaks of the great wealth we receive through the grace of God in Ephesians 1:7, 8
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.”
This is the message of Good Friday. Thanks be to God!
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.