Why did Jesus suffer?
Why do we observe Good Friday? When we think about the audacity of human beings to torture and kill God incarnate, our minds are unable to fathom a reason why this could happen. The suffering and death of Jesus Christ is the darkest moment in human history, yet we call this day "good."
In 1 Peter 3:14-18, we find Peter making a connection between the suffering we experience as Christians and the suffering of Jesus. We read: "But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit."
Peter tells us that Jesus suffered for our sins. He, who was perfectly righteous, took on the sins of us, who are unrighteous, so He could bring us to God. Think about that. The way to God is a way of suffering. In order for us to be restored to God, our sins required judgment, and that judgment cam through suffering. Yet we do not have to face the judgment for our sins ourselves, because Jesus did the suffering for us.
This passage also points out the way we should react to suffering in our lives. If we are suffering because we have done wrong, we have no complaint; we get what we deserve. But if we suffer for doing what is right, we suffer in a very faint imitation of our Lord. He took on suffering that He did not deserve so we could be made right with God. We can take our suffering in stride because we know that Jesus has experienced suffering and understands what we are going through, even as He goes through it with us.
For me, the most moving service of our church year at CNCC is our Good Friday service. As we sit and listen to prophetic Scriptures and an account of the death of Christ, and as the darkness slowly envelopes the sanctuary, we are brought in a symbolic way into reflection on the terrible cost of our salvation. We are brought face to face with the agony of our Lord, even if it is only in a small measure, and reminded that the grace which gives us a salvation we did not deserve through faith in Jesus comes because He took a judgment He did not deserve on Himself.
Easter is coming shortly. We rejoice at the resurrection triumph of Christ, and often can't wait to get to the celebration of life over death and grace over sin. In our desire to celebrate, however, let's not rush past the cross and the tomb. The joy of Easter only comes because of the sorrow of Good Friday. We experience the "good" of salvation because of the "bad" of the killing of the Savior. Enter into the darkness for a while, and remind yourself of the price paid for you to be made right with your God.