God is good. “All the time.” Isn’t that what we’re supposed to say? It’s easier to say at some times than it is at others. That’s the thing about confession, though. Truth doesn’t change based on feeling, preference, or circumstance. God is, in fact, good all the time. Even when we don’t see it, or feel like it. Take Good Friday for instance. Why is it called “Good Friday?” It’s the day Jesus was falsely tried, beaten, accused, mocked, scourged, and crucified. How can that be good?
God’s view of good is clearly very different than ours. “Good,” for us, means “favorable.” Good, for God, seems to mean more like, “effective.” Effective for what? His purpose and will.
“Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer” (Isaiah 53:10).
“I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:10).
“This man (Jesus) was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to a cross” (Acts 2:23).
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace though his blood shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).
You see, God is perfectly just. In the beginning he told Adam that if he disobeyed he would surely die. Romans reminds us that “the wages of sin is death.” Sin, disobedience, and rebellion warrant execution. We see God execute the guilty throughout the Old Testament: the flood of Noah, the rebellion of Korah, the plague of the firstborn in Egypt, the cleansing of the Promised Land, the sons of Aaron consumed by fire from the altar. In fact, we are told that if God would bear with any sinner, permitting one to live, that this was an act of great mercy and grace (e.g. Romans 3:21-26). How could he allow a sinner to live and remain just? Because he knew Friday was coming.
How could God be pleased to crush his Son? How could he hand him over to wicked men? The same way Jesus could endure the cross: for the joy set before him (Hebrews 12:1-3). Christ, who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf and was executed by God, through wicked men, for sin — though he was innocent. Jesus was executed in the place of sinners: a willing sacrifice once and for all to redeem the world to God. Sinner and saint alike are now spared execution, and experience unfailing mercy as a result of Jesus’ death. This stay of execution is given to all, without exception. There is another calling, however, that not all experience.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed into the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29).
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:4-5).
“To God’s elect, strangers in the world … who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood” (1 Peter 1:1-2).
Good Friday is good because God showed his justice. Good Friday is good because God also displayed his amazing mercy and grace, once for all time. Good Friday is good because God demonstrated his love for us in the giving of his own Son to be executed in our place that we can live with him, for him, in him. Good Friday is good because it brings us face to face with the severity of our sin (which we too often regard as incidental and trite, and this is why Good Friday makes us uncomfortable) and the astounding goodness of God. Good Friday is good because it launches us into the passion and zeal of the heart of God, and ushers us into the life of Christ.
For the lost, Good Friday is a demonstration of God’s unfailing mercy and patience (or, longsuffering) as he fulfills his pleasure, will, and purpose. To the elect it is the beginning of the transformative work of the Gospel–an open door to the wonder of the riches of God’s grace which will further declare God’s goodness (glory) as we live in it. And this is very good.