- Written by Pastor Shawn Nettleton Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Created: April 10 2020 April 10 2020
Friends in Christ,
The Lord be with you.
The Word of the Lord from Galatians chapter 3, verses 1–14.
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
After the Lord God had finished the beautiful craftsmanship of His creation, He stood back admiring all that He had made and said, it is “very good.” (Genesis 1:31) It didn't take long for God's very good creation to be ruined by the sin of humanity and the deceit of the evil one. What was once very good was now broken and cursed.
What used to be called Karfreiag, German for “Black Friday” or “Sorrowful Friday,” in our Luther tradition is now known as Good Friday. But why is the Friday of our Lord's passion and death good? After all, it's a day that some Christians do not attend services because the Gospel's graphic narratives of our Lord's passion are overwhelming. Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373) put it this way:
But if any honest Christian wants to know why the Lord suffered death on the cross and not in some other way, we answer thus: in no other way was it expedient for us, indeed the Lord offered for our sakes the one death that was supremely good. He had come to bear the curse that lay on us; and how could He "become a curse" otherwise than by accepting the accursed death? And that death is the cross, for it is written, "Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree." Again, the death of the Lord is the ransom of all, and by it "the middle wall of partition" is broken down and the call of the Gentiles come about. How could He have called us if He and not been crucified, for it is only on the cross that a man dies with arms outstretched? Here, again, we see the fitness of His death and of those outstretched arms: it was that He might draw His ancient people with the one and the Gentiles with the other, and join both together in Himself. Even so, He foretold the manner of His redeeming death, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Myself." 1
Today is a very good Friday because Christ came to reverse the curse and restore the original goodness back to God's creation (Revelation 21:5). He Himself became the curse to redeem us from the curse of the law which is death. It is “Jesus Christ, our Lord, who accomplished the salvation of mankind by the tree of the cross that, where death arose, there life also might rise again and that the serpent who overcame by the tree of the garden might likewise by the tree of the cross be overcome.” 2
Christ's death is Satan's ruin, sin's death and death's defeat! His death is the source of our life now and forever. This is all most certainly good for us and good for the rest of the world. Even as Jesus stretched out His arms on the cross to receive us as God's very own, so His arms remained stretched out today calling all peoples and nations to come unto Him for life and salvation.
Almighty God, graciously behold this Your family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and delivered into the hands of sinful men to suffer death upon the cross; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for Good Friday)
Blessed Good Friday,
Pastor Shawn Nettleton
- Athanasius of Alexandria, “On the Incarnation of the Word” in Treasury of Daily Prayer (Concordia Publishing House, 2008), 176.
- “Proper Preface for Holy Week” in Lutheran Service Book: Altar Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 231.