Good Friday is a very weird day in the Christian calendar. It is a day where we simultaneously mourn and rejoice. We mourn because of the death of an innocent man in our place. And we rejoice because of the death of that innocent man in our place. The reality is, of course, that sin does not win. But on that day, as the sun descended upon the Son deceased, one could be forgiven for thinking that the mission of the Messiah had failed and the redemption of mankind was yet to be achieved.
It definitely looked like Good Friday was the day in which sin triumphed finally over its adversary. The very Son of God, made flesh, had come, had revealed the majesty of the Father, had given sight to the blind, voice to the mute, strength to the weak, had bound Satan, had exorcised, healed, and proclaimed the arrival of the kingdom. And still, still, His own people rejected Him, mocked Him, spat upon Him, and, when given the choice, revelled in saving the life of a murderous zealot rather than the one who styled Himself 'King of the Jews.' If ever it sounded, if ever it looked, like sin had won, Good Friday was it.
Sin exulted in its triumph. Satan watched as the laboured breathing on Jesus' frame slowed until finally it stopped. His head dropped. Blood stopped flowing. With glee in his eyes and a smirk across his face, he watched, jubilant, as the centurion raised his spear and pushed it into Jesus' chest. Water and blood flowed forth, but no moan of pain burst from Jesus' lips. Because this was the moment of Satan's triumph and Jesus, who had invaded his realm, cast his demons out, undid his cruel curses of sickness, this Jesus was finally dead. This was indeed a good Friday for Satan and for sin.
This is all correct and true. On Good Friday, the popular healer, the religious activist, the charismatic teacher, the controversial preacher, the confident blasphemer, met his match. There was no apocalyptic, angelic battle. There was no last minute rescue effort from heaven. Jesus was left to hang on the cross, surrounded by criminals, gentiles, scorners, and grievers. And He died the most horrendous of deaths. Alone at the last.
He was weighed down by the Sin of the rebellious, which had finally achieved the dethroning of God (or so it thought). Where those at the tower of Babel had failed in reaching up to throw God down, He Himself had descended to earth and been cut down by the rebellious humanity, of which I would be one. He bore the sins of collective humanity. He knew each and every sin that I have ever committed. And you too. He was made to be Sin. And yet, more horrifying than all of that, was that He was experiencing the eternal wrath of God for that sin.
Sin was triumphant. God was defeated. The Son was dead.
And this is why, we mourn. It was a death that He didn't deserve. It was a death that He shouldn't have died. Not in the sense of it was too soon, or He was so young, or even in that it wasn't right. He shouldn't have died that death because it was unjust! He was absolutely sinless. He was the righteous ruler, the sovereign Lord, over His own people. This wasn't simply injustice; it was regicide. It was deicide! He came to His own, and they knew Him not, and they killed Him. The death of a sinner was experienced by the only one who had never tasted sin. If humanity can sink to these depths, there is no cesspit of sinful depravity to which we will not descend. There is nothing worse than this.
But, for all the appearances of defeat, Good Friday wasn't the day that sin triumphed. It was heaven's D-Day.
And this is why we rejoice. Because Satan didn't triumph. Though the cost was great (there is no greater sacrifice than the Son of God) it was the final assault on the domain of darkness and the realm of rebellious mankind. Just as the Nazis caused great suffering on D-Day, the cost was worth it, and the victory secured by those brave men on the beaches of Normandy. Likewise, though the cost was beyond comprehension, Jesus freely and willingly offered up His life, in order to rescue and redeem and resurrect His people. We rejoice because we who were dead, enslaved by sin, hidden in hell's hoary grip, were rescued by Heaven's champion.
Sin triumphed? If so, it was a Pyrrhic victory. More was lost to sin, to Satan, to Hell, on that day than any day before or since. It was a battle not worth fighting. It cost Satan his kingdom just as surely as it secured Christ His.
The implications of this reality are huge. For Christians. For unrepentant. For the saints of old and the saints to come. For Satan. For the cosmos. For everyone and everything in all of creation. But, on Good Friday, these implications remain to be discovered. There is no shout of glee or exultation as the sun descends over that horrific scene on Golgotha's hillside. Mary weeps, surrounded by John's fisherman's arms. The bodies are removed. The crowds begin to disperse. The soldiers take their winnings and prepare to change guard.
And as creation watches, horrified at what the image-bearers, the regents of YHWH, have done to the Son of the Owner of the Vineyard, we are left with the fearful thought that maybe, just maybe, this was the day that sin has triumphed.
Creation holds its breath. The disciples try to comprehend. The Pharisees and Priests celebrate. Pilate relaxes.
Good Friday may well appear to be the day that sin triumphed, where darkness cast out the light, where evil vanquished the holy. And, so, Good Friday ends. The scent of defeat lingering in the arid air.
But Easter is coming.