Why do we call today ‘good’?
In the midst of desolation and despair; in the midst of betrayal and abandonment; in the midst of utter darkness closing in on an innocent young man: why do we call today ‘good’?
Many have offered their answer: is it Jesus being punished for our sins, as though God required punishment? Is it Jesus offering himself in a deal with the devil, as though God owed Satan anything?
These answers all fall short because they fail to line up with scripture. No, fundamentally, this day is ‘good’ because on this day, God fulfilled his promise.
The Son of Man will crush the Serpent’s Head.
On the very day that disobedience, and thus death, entered the world, God cursed the devil, saying “cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals” (Genesis 3:14), but with that ancient curse, God made his first promise to humanity.
God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers.” Yes, the serpent, those deceiving jaws trying to swallow up creation in death will indeed strike at our heels. That’s the story of the rest of scripture, and it’s our own story, as we spend our lives in a broken, bent, and fallen world, surrounded by deceiving jaws and venomous bites, hell bent on leading us to curse God and embrace death and despair.
But, we forget that first promise of God: God said yes, Satan, and the rebellious forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil, “you will strike his heel”; but… just wait.
The son of man, “he will crush your head”, O deceiving serpent. (Genesis 3:15).
Today is “good” because today is the day that God fulfilled that promise.
There was no other good enough.
As scripture teaches us, humankind could never triumph over death. Sure, we live our lives with sin biting at our heels, but there’s a more fundamental problem: it’s not just that we all find ourselves disobedient, self-centred, self-absorbed, prideful, bent inward, and quick to abandon our God-given duty.
Even if you or I managed to be perfectly obedient to God, we’d still have a problem: we’ve inherited the curse. That serpent’s venom first flowing in Adam and Eve, turning their hearts to stone, turning their hands to evil, puffing-up their heads to see themselves as not needing God; that same venom was passed down to you and to me. As the psalmist put it, “I’m not really a man; I’ve been a sinner since my mother’s womb”.
You see, escaping despair and death isn’t about being “good”, about checking the right boxes, about performing well, about earning a place. No being “good” means being free from the curse of sin. And, simply, there was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. It would take a new, a fresh humanity: God Himself creating a new, unstained, uncursed flesh; a fresh start, or, as the Bible says, a “second Adam”, a new man, born without the serpent’s venom coursing around in his veins.
That’s the miracle of Christmas – a fresh start, a new Adam, the promised Messiah of God, born humbly to live and die as one of us.
But why is today “good”? Because today is the day that God fulfilled that first promise. That first Good Friday was really and truly the day when, once and for all, the Son of Man crushed the serpent’s head.
Sin biting at His heels.
Just moments ago, we heard Jesus, hanging stripped, bloodied, and beaten on the cross; the Incarnate second Person of the Trinity, God-in-the-flesh cry out in desperation and dereliction “My God… why have you forsaken me”.
It’s a shocking statement, God Himself feeling abandoned.
But we have to remember that, last night, at table with his bumbling, cowardly disciples, the only one since Adam and Eve to ever be born free from sin’s curse, freely accepted that weight. And why? Out of unimaginable love.
He said: “this is my blood… the blood of the new covenant… given for the remission of sin”.
Think about that: He who knew no sin, willingly saying, “My Father loves them; I love them; I’m sending my Spirit to dwell in them: I will bear their curse”.
Parents – I know you’ve been there. You see your child hurting, and you say, “I wish I could deal with this, not them; I don’t want them to bear this pain alone”.
Christ was the one and only person free from the curse, so he was the one and only who could make the offer. And then, in that moment, as he prepared to die, the weight of every sin was laid on his shoulders. Every sin. The curse, the shame, the guilt of every man, woman, and child, in each and every moment. The weight of every disease, the devastation of every earthquake, fire, and flood in this broken world. All poured upon humanity’s fresh start, as God, the one who knows no sin, feels the desolation and utter separation not of one man’s sin, but of every evil thought, every evil deed, and every broken aspect of a world whose very nature is turned against God.
And just when it looks like evil has won;
just when it looks like those ravening, hissing jaws are closing in on the Son of God;
we hear those beautiful words.
“It is finished”.
It is finished. No, not Jesus’ life.
No, the promise has been fulfilled. “It is done”. God has kept his promise.
Just when you thought the serpent was going to claim another victim:
No. “It is finished”. The Son of Man has crushed the serpent’s head.
We call today “good” because God kept his promise.
We call today “good”, because this is the day that everything changed.
Or has it?
Jesus broke down the gate of hell; Jesus loosed the chains of death; Jesus opened the path to eternal life.
But you and I, more likely than not, are going to leave today, just as we came. Bearing the same weight, and guilt, and shame.
But we call today “good” because it doesn’t have to be that way.
We feel weighed down, we feel trapped, we feel chained in… but we call today “good” because Jesus removed the weight, broke down the wall, and loosed the chains.
He opened the path, and said “Come”.
But most of us choose to sit.
Most of us sit in the dark corner of sin’s prison, looking at the chains of shame on our hands and our feet, carrying a heavy load of guilt that keeps us from ever looking up… even though we don’t have to. We sit in the dark corner of prison, not realizing that the wall’s been broken down. We look at the chains of shame, not realizing that they’re not attached to anything, and, in Christ, we’re free to let them go. We feel the weight of the world, not realizing that we’re the ones holding on the straps, not the other way around.
We call today “good” because God fulfilled his promise.
We call today “good” because sin, shame, guilt, and the fear of the grave have been defeated as the Son of Man crushed the serpent’s head.
But it’s only “good” if we get up, drop that weight, let go of those chains, and follow Christ up and out of the pits of despair that have become far too comfortable.
Today is truly “good”… but, it comes to each of us as a question:
Will you let this be good news for you?
Will you share in Christ’s victory, and follow him out of the pit of despair?
Or have we become too comfortable to even realize the freedom that has been offered?