The Great Exchange

Good Friday always used to baffle me as a kid.

‘Is there actually anything good about Good Friday?’, I used to wonder.

Last week I was helping a bunch of five-year-olds write about the story of Easter. Seeing it through their eyes I realised just how unique a story it is.

For many of those five-year-olds it was probably the first time they’d heard the real Easter story. And they, just as I used to be, were somewhat baffled.

Today is Good Friday. But where’s the Good?

On Good Friday, with thorns on his head and nails in his hands, Jesus stretched out his arms and uttered those words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

image Good Friday takes us right back to the heart of the gospel. Jesus received punishment in our place: we are forgiven. And we are to forgive, as we’ve been forgiven.

It’s good news because I’m forgiven. But it also means that those who’ve hurt me are offered that same forgiveness. It’s easy to get caught in wanting mercy for ourselves and wanting others to receive full punishment for their sins against us.

But that’s not the way of the Cross. No one, not one single person, is excluded from the forgiveness offered through the Cross.

That’s the scandal of grace: we receive forgiveness not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

And it’s offensive to our earn-your-grace mentality. And it confronts our “I’m right and you’re wrong” mindset. In the shadow of the cross we’re all wrong. And we can all receive His grace.

On Good Friday the Great Exchange took place:

His wounds, my healing

His blood, my peace.

His pain, my freedom;

His death, my life.

I didn’t earn it. There’s nothing I could do to earn it. It’s His free gift of grace.

And as we receive that grace He calls us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Him. Sometimes there’s no harder way to pick up our cross than by offering forgiveness to others.

We want justice. We want to be proved right. We want things to be fair.

I know, because I want those things for myself.

But the way of the Cross, the Good-Friday-Way is forgiveness. When we forgive, we wave our “right” for justice and put it in the hands of God. When we forgive, we set others free as we release them from our judgement. And when we forgive we also set ourselves free:

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Lewis B. Smedes

So, today, this Good Friday, where righteousness and peace kiss each other, it’s time to receive that forgiveness afresh for ourselves.

And it’s time to lay our weapons down. It’s time to lay down our hurtful words, our poisonous thoughts, our bitterness and our anger. It’s time to be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven us.

It’s time to offer grace and forgiveness befitting the bride of Christ.

That’s the way of the cross. It cost Him everything. And it will cost us too. But as one young disciple said “Following God is always worth the sacrifice.”