Why Good Friday is Good (John 12:23)
By Todd Miles—
“And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’”
Growing up, I always wondered why we called Good Friday, “Good.” After all, the historical events that this day commemorates do not exactly constitute humanity’s finest hour. It was on this day that sinful humanity killed the perfect Son of God, and did it in the most deplorable and humiliating public fashion available at the time. So wretched and seemingly hopeless was humanity’s condition that when faced with One who was one of us, but so not like us; when faced with the One who could and would redeem us and lead us to God, we lashed out with murderous intent and nailed him to a Roman cross. No, by any measure available, this did not seem to be humanity’s finest hour. But it was God’s greatest hour. And it was a good hour for humanity. John’s Gospel makes this clear when he writes of the inauguration of the Passion Week in John 12. Here are four points that Jesus teaches us with his statement “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” We would do well to remember them as we contemplate the events of Good Friday.
Good Friday Demonstrates the Sovereignty of God
Even as the political temperature continued to rise and Jesus’ disciples feared for their lives, Jesus was resolute: “My hour has not yet come” (e.g., 7:30; 8:20; 11:16). Mobs formed and groups in authority schemed, but Jesus knew his destiny and his courage in the face of hostile opposition was testimony to his faith in the One who held and commanded that destiny. But when Greeks came seeking Jesus (7:20-21), he knew that his appointed hour had come – and it had come at the precise time of God’s choosing. The events of John 18-19 that chronicle the farcical trial and horrifying crucifixion may seem to tell a story of chaos reigning, of darkness drowning the light, and everything that is good spinning hopelessly out of control. But Jesus prepared us to think better. Though Satan appeared to get the upper hand, Jesus warned us that this hour would not be what it seemed: “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (7:31). Later the apostles understood this. Peter would preach in that first Pentecost sermon, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23; cf. 4:27-28). God was not reacting, making lemonade out of the lemons that we offered up. As mysterious as it seems, this was his plan from the beginning. Good Friday is good because it demonstrated that even when the worst possible atrocity in all of human history occurred, the Triune God was sovereign, completely in control.
Good Friday Demonstrates that God’s Heart Is for the Nations
The death and resurrection of Christ constitute the hinge on which all of redemptive history, and therefore human history, turns. God had spoken promises to Israel, telling of his purposes and plans to redeem Israel. From the initial promise to send one who would crush the head of the deceiver (Gen 3:15), to the promise to Abraham of a name and a nation (Gen 12:2), to the promise of a New Covenant ushering in the age of the Spirit (Ezek 36:24-27), all hinged upon the events of the Passion Week. Isn’t it remarkable that the event that initiated this most significant movement of God’s redemptive purposes was a group of Gentiles seeking after Jesus (John 12:21)? In one sense this is hardly surprising given that Abraham was promised that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him (Gen 12:3) and Isaiah foresaw a day when the nations would inquire of the “Root of Jesse,” who would “stand as a signal for the peoples” (Isa 11:10). Good Friday tells us that the nations always figured prominently in God’s plans. Good Friday is good, because all, both Jew and Gentile alike, would be drawn to our Savior Jesus when he was lifted up (John 12:31).
Good Friday Demonstrates the Glory of God
In a great reversal of sensibilities, Jesus saw his ignominious death as the hour of his glorification. Whereas many of those witnessing the crucifixion would mock or hide their faces (cf. Isa 53:3), Jesus knew that the resurrection, by way of the crucifixion, was the path to highest exaltation, the means by which the name that is above every name would be bestowed (Phil 2:8-11). What occasioned grief and despair at the time, is sung of in heaven in glorious and fantastic praise. “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5:9-10). Good Friday is good because it brought great glory to our God and King Jesus, the ruler of the nations.
Good Friday Celebrates the Redemption of Humanity
It was the Son of Man, who is the promised offspring of David, who was crucified on our behalf. Though it was sinful humanity who put Jesus on the cross, it was the only perfect human who was obedient to the point of death on the cross. Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, to be sure, but Jesus Christ, simultaneously, the fully human son of Mary, who died in our place. We have been redeemed by one like us in our humanity, but one unlike who we are now in his faithfulness. Yet Jesus was not content to leave us merely saved, but to save us to the utmost. Even as he did what we were completely incapable of doing (saving ourselves), he left us an example that he would empower us to follow. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him (John 12:25-26). Good Friday is good, because it commemorates the redemption of humanity by the selfless act of our Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Todd Miles (B.S., M.S. in Nuclear Engineering at Oregon State University; M.Div., Western Seminary; PhD in Systematic Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. Before his doctoral studies Miles was a Research Engineer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for ten years. Now Miles teaches Systematic Theology, Hermeneutics, and Ethics at Western Seminary. Miles is married to Camille and they have six children, Natalie, Ethan, Levi, Julius, Vicente, and Marcos. Miles serves as an elder at Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in Portland. Miles is the author of A God of Many Understandings? The Gospel and Theology of Religions (Nashville: B&H, 2010).
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