What’s “Good” About Good Friday?

Laurie Vanden Heuvel has previously contributed a number of articles to THE OUTLOOK. She is the wife of Rev. Thomas Vanden Heuvel, pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of Chino, California.

There was a young lad in his early teens who, in his stroll through an art gallery, came upon a huge painting of Jesus on the cross. As he studied the scene before him, he became more and more agitated until finally he blurted out, “If God had only been there, this would never have happened!”

The truth of the matter is that God was there and not only did it happen, but God made it happen. Peter in his sermon found in Acts 2, tells us that Jesus was delivered “by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” Paul in II Corinthians 5:18 says that God “made Him to be sin.”

This fact is an enigma and an offense to the unbeliever. Paganism knows no god who loves. The gods of false religions arc gods who always wear a frown, whose wrath must always be appeased by sacrifice of preposterous quantity und quality. James Michener in his book The Source paints, with hideous strokes, the practice of heathen people who threw their firstborn into the open arms of the god Molech whose belching flames devoured the little ones to appease the angry god.

Paganism knows nothing about a god who “empties Himself” out of love for His people, becoming like them, punishing Himself for their sins.


And the modern sophisticated pagans of the twentieth century care nothing either about a god who hates or the God who loves. They live for today and never worry about tomorrow. In a very real sense, they are the most difficult pagans to reach with the glorious news of “Good Friday.” Their awareness of God is almost nonexistent. Their sensitivity to sin is nil. They have no felt need of a Savior. They need only a “nice man” who will be a good Teacher, a fine example of human virtues, a “sounding board” for their frustrations who has a rescue squad of angels when they need it. And because of their basic antiGod perspective (for that is what it really is: “He that is not for me is against me”) they are repelled by the story of “blood” and a “cross.”

We have a dear friend who, when she became converted, began to attend our church but maintained her membership in. a liberal Methodist church because she felt a real burden to bring the true gospel to her Sunday School class. But one day her pastor came to her and said, “Esther, you are going to have to stop teaching this ‘slaughterhouse theology.’ You are scaring the kids.” Bravely she replied, “the blood of Christ is the only thing that saved me, and it‘s the only thing that will save them. I will not stop.” That says it all, doesnt it? The “cross” and the “blood” constitute the core of the Biblical message and without them, our religion is but “sounding brass” and a “clanging symbol.”

The great doctrine of atonement is more than a carefully defined theological proposition to be filed in the annals of the past. It must rather be a glowing demonstration in the life of every believer, of what its very spelling teaches: AT-ONE-MENT with God. When Jesus cried out from the cross “It is finished” He uttered the best news man had heard since the fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise. Jesus declared that the chasm which resulted between the offended God und the offending sinner was now healed by the perfect obedience and sacrifice of His Son for the sins of His people. Anyone who fails to be overwhelmed with joy and wonder over that fact, has simply never comprehended the heinousness of sin and the justice and finality of eternal destruction. There are many today who think that they are in the way of eternal life who will never enter heaven’s gates because they have never really bowed before heaven‘s gift.

But to those who have confessed their own spiritual bankruptcy, and, by the sovereign grace of God, have trusted Jesus, God has promised an abundance of blessings: cleansing from sin, a growth in holiness, a richness of fellowship with God, hope for the future, and a purpose for the present.

That what‘s so “good” about Good Friday. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!