It’s Good Friday.
Today we remember that Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is Lord and Savior, God incarnate, the Alpha and Omega, the Everlasting God, the Prince of Peace, Emmanuel–God with us, the Wonderful Counselor, was whipped to the edge of death with a Roman flagellum; mocked with a crown of two-inch thorns; stripped to his undergarment; and marched to Golgotha–the place of the skull, outside the city gates of Jerusalem–forced to carry the instrument of his own execution, a wooden cross.
There, Jesus was nailed to the cross and left to die a painful (from where we get the word “excruciating”) and slow death. When he had died, the Roman soldiers punctured his chest cavity with a spear to ensure he was really dead, causing the fluid which had built up around Jesus’ heart and lungs to flow out along with blood that had pooled there.
How is that good?
It’s good for only one reason. Try as we might, we cannot enter heaven. There is no way. We are sinful mortals, barred since the first sinners, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. God placed two angels with flaming swords at the entrance to that created, perfect place, because it contained the Tree of Life. Those angels are still there, in a spiritual sense. The way to God’s sinless eternal life is blocked and can never be unblocked.
God Himself had to provide a way, and He did as Christ–the anointed one. God had to take our place (as He said in the garden, “you shall surely die”) and die to atone for our sins. All our sins, forever. The covenant God made with mankind was fulfilled with the death of one perfect God-man.
When Jesus uttered his last words, “It is finished,” he fulfilled the Old Covenant and became the New Covenant. He, Himself, is the Way, the Truth and the Life. When Jesus told his disciples, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the father but by me,” they didn’t know what He was talking about, for he had not yet made the way (although in God’s eternal plan, He was always the Way).
The first Christians called themselves followers of The Way–Christ. The term “Christian” was in fact a pejorative used by the Romans in the same way “Mohammedan” is used to describe Muslims.
There is only one Way to heaven, because there was only one atoning death of a God-man, there was only one incarnation of the living God in Christ, and there was only one lamb of God required to make that sacrifice. It never happened before, and it will never happen again. Ever.
From the instant the universe came into being until the last star is dead, there is only one Way to heaven.
From the first human breath until our mortal lives are all expended, there is only one Way to heaven.
For all the actions of all the good men and women who ever, or will ever, live on the earth, there is only one Way to heaven.
For all the evil, perversion, and violence in the world perpetrated by people on their fellow human beings, there is only one Way to heaven.
For all the sickness, poverty, seemingly-random death, waves, wind, tree limbs, cancer, suffering, and starvation in the world, there is only one Way to heaven.
God did not need to make a Way to heaven for mankind. All the ways mankind could try to find to reach God: All the spiritual solutions, perfect laws, methods of self-denial, self-sacrifice, acts of compassion, justice and righteousness by every person who ever lived or will live, will not make a Way to heaven.
We, as a human race, were as doomed as atheists say we are. We had no hope, no chance, no possible way to achieve an afterlife. But we were worse than doomed, we were condemned to be separated from God forever.
You may not believe in hell, but your unbelief is not enough to disprove its existence. You may also not believe in compassion or suffering, but I guarantee people are suffering today, and others are helping ease that suffering from a very real compassion. But neither of those real things will avoid eternity in a very real hell.
Hell is real because God is perfect and he created humans “a little lower than the angels,” but in His own image to spend eternity with Him. He created us out of His perfect love. Where God isn’t, there’s no love and no order. There’s only suffering and chaos. That’s hell.
In one act of sacrifice and atonement, Jesus Christ, the one sinless man ever to live, who never sinned because He was also God and the Son of Father God–He was not born of a sinful father but a perfect Father–became the one and only Way to heaven.
God did not need to make a Way to heaven for mankind. But His perfect love compelled Him to do it. His perfect love compelled Him to suffer excruciating pain.
His perfect love compelled Him to separate part of Himself, his sinless son on earth, from Himself in heaven.
His perfect love compelled Him to send His own son to be tortured to death in the most exquisitely awful form of execution ever contrived by evil men.
Jesus Christ died on a wooden cross on a day like today, Good Friday, nearly two millennia ago.
And because He died–and only because He died–I (and you, if you follow Him) can live forever with God.
That’s why Good Friday is very, very good.