The most significant pair of events in world history are the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No set of occurrences have had more far-reaching effects, both for the world as a whole, and for the bride of Christ. As the redeemed people of God, we uniquely recognize the significance of these events. On the cross, the eternal Son of God took on human flesh, identified with sinful humanity, and bore the full weight of the wrath of God on behalf of the world. The cross represents the justification of God’s people, wherein God removes our guilt, places it on Christ, and grants us his righteousness. Yet the cross cannot be separated from the resurrection, when Christ rose from the grave, victoriously triumphing over sin, death, and every force of evil. At his resurrection, Jesus was vindicated as the redeemer of sinners, shown to be truly sent from God, and the One who is restoring the fallen world.
Each Sunday, we celebrate these events, focusing our minds on the crucified and risen Savior who gave himself up for our redemption. We meet to worship and adore Jesus, keeping our hearts thankful for the work on the cross he accomplished for us, a work that we could never have done ourselves. Indeed, our entire lives as believers are centered around the cross and the resurrection. We never move past the cross, for there is no other means by which our sin can be forgiven. We are daily in need of the cross, for though we have been redeemed, we continue to battle the flesh, struggling daily with the sin that clings so tightly to us. Nor do we forget Jesus’ resurrection, for we all walk in the hope of our own resurrection at his return. Just as Jesus was resurrected from the grave, we too will one day rise from the grave and leave behind our old bodies marked by sin and suffering. Thus, for us as the body of Christ, each day of our lives is shaped by the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
In addition to living our daily lives in light of these events, it is appropriate to set aside specific time to focus our hearts and minds afresh on these events. With the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday approaching, I want to provide us with some ways we can focus specifically on the death of Christ as a church family.
Come to the Good Friday Service
Each Friday evening before Easter, we meet together as a church family on Good Friday for a somber service of remembrance and reflection on the death of Jesus. Unlike our Easter morning service, which is a triumphal affair that celebrates the victory of Jesus over sin and death, our Good Friday service is a solemn gathering. We meet in this way both because of the seriousness of the crucifixion and because, apart from the events after the cross, Jesus’ death seems to be the moment where he failed. Jesus had been beaten, mocked, scorned, and hung on a wooden cross to die a shameful death. His claims to be the Messiah seemed to be empty, defeated when he breathed his last breath. Thus, we meet together in the spirit of Jesus’ disciples, deeply sensitive to the weight of Jesus’ death. If you want to sharpen your focus on Christ during this season, join us for our Good Friday service.
Fast with your church family
As part of our preparations for Good Friday, we unite in fasting together for the twenty-four hours before our evening service. During this time, we intentionally focus on the cross, adoring Jesus for his glorious display of God’s grace, confessing times when we fail to keep the cross central to our lives, thanking God for his gracious provision of salvation, and asking the Father to bring the lost to a knowledge of his love for them displayed at Calvary. We do not fast to make our prayers more acceptable to God, or to bend his sovereign will toward our demands, but rather to demonstrate the genuineness of our prayers, showing that we value fellowship with the Triune God more than the sustenance that our bodies need to survive. Our time of fasting together is one of the most spiritually meaningful times of the year on our church calendar, and you will be blessed and drawn closer to Christ by participating along with the rest of your church family.
Read the Passion narratives
For many of us, our Scripture readings are guided by a yearly plan. These plans are helpful, for they give us much-needed structure, goals, and accountability as we seek to fill our hearts with the truths of God’s word. However, these plans can be augmented by additional Scripture readings throughout the year. You may particularly need the comfort of Psalm 23 and read it in addition to your prescribed reading, or you may want to read the sermon text in preparation for Sunday morning worship. In the same way, you will find great benefit to reading the accounts of Jesus’ death in the four Gospel accounts. You can find these accounts in Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, and John 18-19. As you read these texts, your mind will consider the marvelous acts of Jesus on the way to Gethsemane, and your heart will be pierced by the awesome display of his love for you on a bloody cross.
As Easter weekend approaches, take time to be reminded of the glories of Calvary. Without this great display of mercy and grace by the Son of God, we would be dead in our sins. As Christians, our lives are wholly shaped by the cross, formed by the infinite love of God on behalf of wicked sinners like us. Truly, there is no greater way to celebrate the Friday that we dare to call good than to focus on the cross.
Thomas Spivey (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the Managing Editor of the Oak Park Blog. He lives in Jeffersonville with his wife, Cristen.