A day that changed the world

Some days are more significant than others.

A personal development teacher says your two most important days are the day you were born and the day you find out why! I've often questioned that in my mind. In world history there are the  days that mark significant events like terrorist attacks ( 9/11, 7/7, 26/11) or more positively the end of war, or the independence of nations.

crucifixion

Good Friday commemorates a day that literally changed the world.

There are some surprising truths that lie behind this day.

What are they and why is it called a 'Good' Friday? As a child I went to secular British schools in the 1970s and 1980s. I often wondered what was good about this Friday, but no one seemed to know and so I concluded it must be good because it was a public holiday! How wrong I was!

The message of Good Friday is that there is a God out there who identifies with and feels our pain. Jesus came to the world to face death and ultimate pain.

But why did Jesus have to die such a terrible death? The cross is such a well-known religious symbol, but 2000 years ago it was a gruesome tool of Roman power and torture. In our day and time the cross is a sanitised emblem used in religious contexts and worn around the necks of many people. But in those days the cross brought images of terror and fear. We get the word "excurciating" from the word 'crux' that means cross. To use the word cross in Roman culture 2000 years ago would be as offensive as using a 4 letter swear word in public today. You never used the word in polite company. And now the cross has become one of the most recognised and loved symbols in the world.

The other surprising fact around Good Friday is that there is more emphasis in the Bible on the death of Jesus Christ than there is on his birth. In one sense Easter is far more important than Christmas.

But why did Jesus have to die such a horrible death at such a young age?

The Bible teaches that this world, our lives and our relationships are all spoilt. Yes we do live in a beautiful world and there are some great people around. But all of us live with some degree of regret or pain or lack of fulfilment. Some of it is our own fault; some of it the fault of others and some of it is undeserved. The word the Bible uses to explain this is the word sin. Sin is about wanting to be in charge of our own lives.

A helpful definition of sin that I came across from my children, and spells out the letters of the word, is:

Shove off God! (Literally get out of my life, God).
I am the boss of my life
No! to God's way.

We see the consequences of that everywhere. (You can read more about avoiding God here.)

2000 years after Jesus' death the world continues to be full of selfishness, greed, jealously, envy and pride - just look at today's news headlines and you can easily see that.

But the problem is not just out there. It starts in our hearts. The truth is all of us have done, said and thought things which have spoilt our lives and often hurt others too. Before God, the good things we try to do, our good karma,  becomes like dirty and filthy rags. We can look decent and respectable on the outside, but God sees our heart.

That is why when we really understand the meaning of Good Friday we have good news that is worth celebrating and sharing with others.

Normally we celebrate someone's birth and not their death. The reason we celebrate Jesus' death is that through his death, the Bible teaches, we are made right with God. That is an amazing truth that has comforted, challenged and even terrified millions of people over the centuries.

In the New Testament (Acts 10: 39-43), one of Jesus' disciples called Peter explained it this way to a Roman solider called Cornelius:

‘We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross,  but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

That is radical news! Radical 2000 years ago and radical today.

The disciple Peter who said those words was one of Jesus' closest friends. He was there watching when Jesus was horrifically nailed to a cross and left to die. At that moment he did not understand why Jesus had to die, but later he did and explained it to that Roman solider by saying:

'..everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.'

As we said earlier, sin separates us from God and stops us from knowing Him. It stops us from being friends with God and ultimately sin leads to death.

So why is Good Friday 'good'?

It's because as Jesus died all the sins of the world were put on him. The Bible teaches that he took all of our sin onto himself, taking the punishment we deserve. He died in our place as our rescuer, so that we can be forgiven. And the message of Easter is that Good Friday is not the end. After 3 days God brought Jesus back to life. Peter was an eyewitness of this. Later on he was one of those who ate and drank with Jesus after he rose from death. Jesus was not some kind of ghost. Peter could touch him, talk with him and even eat a meal with Jesus. The message of Easter is that Jesus is now alive forever more. And He is alive today.

We started by saying some days are more significant than others.

Good Friday is a day that changed the world and holds the key to understanding the purpose of our entire lives. Maybe that personal development teacher was right after all!

What are your thoughts about the message of Easter and Good Friday?

Is this something new to you or something you have known for years? How can the message of Good Friday be good news for you today?

Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “A day that changed the world

  1. Hi Sunil, my responses to this kind of article are obviously very predictable now. I tried christianity and it just seemed to create more problems in my life, with the added paranoia of “he’s constantly watching what I do”. I believe you can be a good, moral, ethical and kind person without god, and I never needed jesus to teach me those things. Life will always consist of misery, failure and dissappointment, also with happiness, success and triumph, with or without god in your life, yet he still wants us to acknowledge and worship him, and we’re threatened with an ETERNAL lake of fire if we don’t??? I think that the creation of god is man’s attempt to explain the universe and make sense of it.

    • Dear Karl
      Once again thank you for being willing to share your honest thoughts. However, I am beginning to notice that although you have your strong beliefs you are not actually engaging with the issues raised. You state your beliefs and make the assumption that you must be right. Granted I may be doing the same, but it is vital to follow through with the implications of what you say. Either there is a God or there is not. There is no half way compromise. IF there is not, then there is no fundamental basis for good in the world, because good is then just a moral construct like everything else and who is to say one moral construct is superior to another? The problem with what you are saying, as I see it, is that you want a moral universe without God – but how can that be possible?
      Also using your phrase, ‘I too tried Christianity and it just seemed to create more problems in my life,’ suggests some assumptions you are making. One important one is that Christianity (and God) is just there to make our life easy and comfortable. I refer you to this quote by C. S. Lewis who spent many years thinking through such issues:
      “Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness? While it lasts, the religion of worshipping oneself is the best. I have an elderly acquaintance of about eighty, who has lived a life of unbroken selfishness and self-admiration from the earliest years, and is, more or less, I regret to say, one of the happiest men i know. I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity. I am certain there must be a patent American article on the market which will suit you much better, but I can’t give my advice on it.”

      The other issue you raise is the ‘paranoia’ of “He’s constantly watching what I do.” Again I think this is an underestimation of the deep love of God. We want a love that knows us to our inner most being and still accepts us. We want a love that can handle the evil and suffering of the world, giving an answer to all the injustice we see. An example is the recent tragedy of the Jimmy Saville issue – a man who committed terrible crimes and died in his old age with no human justice. Without a God of the universe who knows everything how can we respond? We want Him to know everything, but at the same time know our lives are not right.
      One more Lewis quote:
      “You asked for a loving God: you have one..not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, but the consuming fire Himself, the love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.”

      Good Friday and Easter point to this kind of love. i would so much encourage you to go to the Gospels and reflect on that.
      Your friend
      Sunil

      • Hi Sunil, as usual you have dissected my comment (don’t mean that in a critical way) and turned my assertions on their head, which as usual as resulted in an impass. Quoting C.S Lewis quotes is all well and good, but his high standing in christian circles does not make him any more correct, it’s still based on faith. You didn’t, however, address the issue regarding the hobson’s choice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson%27s_choice) that god gives us (if you worship me you’ll be saved, if you don’t you’ll burn in hell), if god is all love, how could he subject creatures of free will (that he gave free will) to such eternal suffering? This is a clear case of hobson’s choice.

        • I agree with you Karl that both or our positions are based on faith. It is impossible by discussion alone to prove or disprove the existence of God. However, it is helpful to engage and dialogue over our respective positions to understand and test the implications of what we say we believe or don’t believe. Many people (including those who profess faith in Christ) are not willing to talk to or engage with those who have a different world view to their own. For that reason alone I admire your willingness to respectfully engage with me.
          From reading the link you sent a Hobson’s choice is one between something or nothing. With regard to the issue of hell, it would seem fair to try to make sense from our different positions. However, this is a huge subject and what I say will invariably be incomplete.
          So if there is no God and no hell:
          1. How do we make sense of people like Jimmy Saville who lived practically their whole life with popular acclaim and riches, yet on their death it has come to light that they were responsible for terrible evil? How does an atheistic world view make sense of the terrible unjust suffering in this world and what is the response to those who are the perpetrators of this kind of evil, especially when they receive no punishment in this life?
          2. Why should we believe in any right and wrong? How can there be any universal understanding of right and wrong? Why should we, for example, say that women or the handicapped or weak be treated with dignity and respect? If there is no God, then what makes your belief more worth listening to than any other? This is a very real issue in the Middle East as arguments are given that treating women as equal citizens is an imposed Western value incompatible with the views of the host culture.
          3. What then is the purpose of life? Is life then just about the survival of the fittest?

          It would be helpful to see what an atheistic world view would say on issues like those above.

          In terms of understanding hell from a Christian world view:
          1. Our world is clearly broken and spoilt. It is under judgement and so are we. I may not have committed terrible crimes, but the seeds of evil are within my own heart and given the wrong circumstances and nurture I too am capable of great evil.
          2. God loves us and has sent Christ to rescue us.
          3. The problem of sin and evil must be so great that the rescue plan involves the death of His beloved Son.
          4. Hell is eternal separation from the source of all love and goodness.
          5. Rejection of God is a person’s free choice. No one goes to hell without choosing to deliberately reject God’s goodness and love for them.

          The above is very brief and maybe even simplistic, but it is a structure to build on further thoughts.
          I hope it helps!