“Evil Friday Is Also Good Friday” (Luke 23:44-56)

Good Friday
April 15, 2022

“Evil Friday Is Also Good Friday” (Luke 23:44-56)

The theme for our Lenten journey this year has been “You Meant It for Evil, But God Meant It for Good.” We have seen how God can just plain grab something evil and use it for good, in his larger plan. No one could see it at the time, but that’s how God works.

We see God working this way in our reading tonight from Luke 23. Something evil was happening on the day our Lord Jesus was crucified. But God used it for good–for incredible, tremendous good–which is why call this day “Good Friday.” And so our message tonight: “Evil Friday Is Also Good Friday.”

Tonight I want to bring out both sides of what happened that day, both the evil and the good. That way we can take the world as it is, and we won’t sugarcoat things. But we can also marvel at how our God was at work on that Friday, and how he is still at work in our lives and in our world today.

Now the first thing our text says is this: “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.” The darkness is bad. It’s a sign that evil is close at hand. At noon on that Friday, darkness came over the whole land. Recall that the night before, when Jesus was being arrested by people who were doing the will of Satan, Jesus said to them, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” So at the crucifixion, this darkness over the whole land should make us tremble. Because there is a real Satan, and there is real evil, and evil is at work that Friday afternoon. There is no question that evil is afoot, out to destroy the Son of God.

What happened next? “And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” Who tore it? God did. God tore the temple curtain. Why in the world would he do that? This temple was dedicated to his worship. Sacrifices and forgiveness happened at this place for everyone who drew near. But now God makes a crack in the temple, and something worse is coming. Jesus predicted it: “Not one stone will be left upon another.” Why? Because the chief priests had lost their way, and they used their power and influence against the person to whom the temple pointed, namely, Jesus the Messiah. In their blind ignorance they hated–and now are trying to do away with–God’s only Son. For that evil, God’s judgment will come on the temple within the span of one generation. The Roman army will level the temple in the year 70. The splitting of the temple curtain was a sign pointing ahead to that terrible judgment. Because evil was at work on that Friday. Darkness came over the land, and the temple curtain was torn in two.

Then Jesus entrusted himself to his Father’s care: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And he died, he breathed his last. He didn’t deserve to die. You and I–we deserve to die. The wages of sin is death, and we have sinned. But Jesus is innocent. He doesn’t deserve this fate. Yet Jesus does die. He dies the death of a criminal, covered in nothing but shame and dishonor. Death by crucifixion. An evil death.

What happens next is a hinge, a turning point. A centurion, a Roman officer in charge of one hundred men–a centurion is there, and he’s been watching and listening. This unexpected Gentile can be like a hinge to help us see that Evil Friday is also Good Friday. He can help us to see the amazing good that God is doing in the face of evil, even using the evil for his good will to be done.

“Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, ‘Certainly this man was innocent!’” The centurion glorified God. He knew that God was at work in the presence of evil. He stood there in the darkness, faced with cruelty and a death that should not have happened. In the face of that, the centurion glorified God. How much exactly did he know? We can’t be sure. But he did know that the execution of this perfectly innocent man had to be part of God’s plan, and so he glorified God. And so can we.

When Jesus breathes his last, that can’t be the end, it can’t be the last thing–not if God is God, not if justice matters. Evil must not have the last word. Jesus’ complete trust in his Father to receive his spirit will not be the last thing. Not if God cares about the world and about sin and about Satan’s wreckage. The centurion knew that Jesus was deeply innocent, pure, and righteous. And so he glorified God, because more was coming, because good was coming. He may not have known in what form, but good was coming. Evil Friday was also Good Friday. Because Easter was coming.

God was at work on what seemed to be only an evil Friday. The curtain of the temple was torn in two. God rejected the former place of sacrifice and forgiveness, because it was corrupted by its leaders and their sin. But rejecting the temple means also that there is now a new place of sacrifice and forgiveness, a new place where God is present among his people to bless and restore. The new place, the location for God’s blessings now will be Jesus–the body of Jesus. He is the new way, his blood is the new covenant, he is the new place where God is present with his people. Jesus, body and soul, true man and true God. The temple was cracked, coming to an end. Something new was coming. Easter was coming.

Satan meant it for evil, and it was. But God meant it for good, and so it was. God planned to bring people out of the darkness of Satan’s lies and their own sins, and into the light of his peace, his acceptance, his fellowship. Satan did his worst. He waited for the opportune time, and it came. He entered Judas, and Judas did Satan’s bidding. The authorities were tools in Satan’s hand. And there was darkness all around, coming against Jesus.

It came against him, but the darkness could not snuff out his compassion: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” The darkness could not snatch any believer, even a dying criminal, from Jesus’ mercy: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus stood in the gap. He hung where all of us deserve to hang. The darkness came against Jesus, but he did not flinch, and he took it all. He perfectly performed the Father’s plan. And so in faith, he entrusted his spirit to the Father’s hands: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” Jesus knew that the darkness would give way to light. Evil was at work, but God was at work more strongly still. Evil Friday, yes: Death and darkness were all around. But even more, it was Good Friday: Life and light would return. Because Easter was coming.

Jesus has died. Joseph of Arimathea provides the tomb, and the Galilean women prepare spices to anoint Jesus’ body. What they did that day was beautiful. More beautiful still, though, is the fact that their loving efforts were in vain. The tomb where no one had ever been laid will become the tomb where no one is lying anymore. The spices prepared to anoint a corpse will go to waste. No corpse to be found–only Jesus, alive and well.

That Friday long ago was the turning point, the hinge of history. Everything depends on Friday, and on Sunday. Our lives depend on how God took that evil and used it and then destroyed the evil with the resurrection life of Jesus the Lord. No darkness of sin or guilt can overcome Jesus. When darkness comes in your life, remember Good Friday, and entrust yourself to Jesus, who bore the darkness in your place. When confusion and hardship swirl around you and confuse you, and you can’t find your way back into God’s presence, remember Good Friday and the torn curtain, and Jesus who is God’s presence. Come to him, come to the Lord’s Supper, come to hear God’s promises in Christ. He is God’s presence in our world, and he is for you. If life becomes so hard that it seems like you can’t trust God, and you have no idea what good he can bring out of evil–that’s the time to lean on Jesus, and to learn from Jesus, who trusts his Father. And like the centurion, you can even glorify God, because he is still at work to bring good out of evil.

Evil Friday was also Good Friday, because Jesus stood against the darkness for you. What a God! And Easter was coming. So we end this evening in faith and hope, and we’ll go home and rest as the women did long ago. But we’re not going to prepare any spices to anoint a dead body. Because we know that it was, and is, and always will be, Good Friday.

Published in: on April 15, 2022 at 2:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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