In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.
This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” This may seem like an odd verse for Good Friday. We think of this as being a somber day, a day of repentance and reflection upon sin. It is, but we also must remember that we do not mourn as those who have no hope. We certainly do focus on the crucifixion, the ultimate price paid by Our Lord for the sake of sheep who love to wander, people who sin in thought, word, and deed, in ways known and unknown. But we cannot and must not pretend that we don’t know what’s coming. We know the end of the story, and so there certainly is a note of victory, of rejoicing that runs through this day. If you want proof, look in the back hallways or side rooms of churches around Cleveland, and around the world. Lilies are waiting, lined up, waiting to adorn the Altar in praise of Jesus’ resurrection. We know, and so we rejoice.
But we wouldn’t be able to rejoice on Sunday if it wasn’t for today. Psalm 118 is the Psalm of Holy Week. The Psalmist opens with a sentence we know well: “Oh, give thanks unto the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever.” This is the theme of this week, and especially this day. The Lord’s mercy endures forever. He is good. He was not willing that any should perish. So He endured all that the devil could throw at Him from the hands of sinful men. He endured beatings, mockery, and blasphemy, all while bearing the burden of the sin of the world and the righteous wrath of God the Father.
But Jesus knew what was coming. In the Gospels when He discussed His impending crucifixion, Jesus always used the Words of Psalm 118, especially verse 22: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” The builders—the Jewish people, particularly the chief priests, scribes, elders, and Pharisees—rejected Jesus. They knew without a doubt that He truly was the promised Messiah, but they refused to acknowledge it, refuse to believe in Him. They rejected Him, but the One whom they rejected is not cast off, He has become the chief cornerstone, the foundation, the One in whom all things hold together. Jesus, and not just Him but especially His crucifixion, is the foundation of our faith, the event on which we hang all our hopes. We know that today is a good day because of what Jesus has done to win our forgiveness and eternal life.
So we shouldn’t shy away from the crucifixion. We shouldn’t weep for Jesus, wish that things had worked out differently. As the Psalmist reminds us: “This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” As gruesome as it may be, this is what the Father ordained and the Son willingly endured, as we sang during the Passion reading in the hymn “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” in the dialogue between the Father and Jesus: “Go forth, My Son,” the Father said, “And free men from their fear and dread, from guilt and condemnation. The wrath and stripes are hard to bear, but by Your Passion they will share the fruit of Your salvation.” “Yes, Father, yes, most willingly I’ll bear what You command Me. My will conforms to Your decree, I do what You command Me.” Jesus didn’t take the easy way out, but in all things showed you that your salvation means so much to Him that He was willing to give everything, even His very life, to win it, to reconcile you to the Father, to open the mansions of heaven to you.
Because of this, we can stand on Good Friday and sing with the Psalmist: “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Apart from today, there is no such thing as a good day, a day worthy of rejoicing. Without Good Friday Easter wouldn’t happen, we would still be in our sins, and we would be in an aimless moat, a deathward drift from futile birth. Because of Good Friday every day is a good day, no matter how miserable it may be. Even when death claims those we love, we lose our jobs, the diagnosis looks bleak, our family falls apart, or any other bad thing, it is still a good day. Why? Because Jesus has died. He has died for you, forgiven you, opened heaven to you. The worst this world can throw at you is nothing compared to the glories made yours because of Good Friday.
So let us rejoice on this Good Friday. This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it and be glad in every other day that awaits us because we are forgiven. Jesus has died, paid the price your sin demanded, and not only has He wiped your slate clean, but He gives you abundant blessings, grace upon grace. Let us rejoice and be glad in this, in Christ, forever.
The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Sermons from Mount Olive
Mount Olive follows the historic one-year lectionary (series of readings).