Every year as Easter Sunday approaches we are faced with the harsh reality of Good Friday, a day set aside when all of Christendom remembers Jesus Christ’s death on the cross nearly 2,000 years ago. I use the words “harsh reality” because Christ’s death was nothing short of bloody, gruesome, and horrific. In fact, for many people, Good Friday doesn’t sound very good at all: How could a loving and gracious God let His Son suffer and die at the hands of cruel and harsh men, especially when He had done nothing to merit an excruciating death on a cross? Sadly, there are voices in our day who refer to the cross as cosmic child abuse and others who think everyone should just “move on” from it and get past all this talk of bloodshed.
The reason so many people neglect the cross or reject it altogether stems from the very fact that the cross is not easy to consume… but that’s exactly the point: the cross is not meant to be easy to consume.
The cross is meant to sting. But the cross stings in order to take the sting away from death. While the fruit of the cross is sweet to the taste, the cross itself is a heinous event that is not meant to be anything less than grotesque.
Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ attempts to portray the bloody reality of the cross, yet even in this cinematic depiction of the crucifixion, Gibson is unable to display the reality of God’s infinite wrath being poured out upon the Son of Man. Indeed, the events of the cross are more repulsive than whips tearing Christ’s flesh from His body and nails piercing through His hands and feet; the Son of God was our Passover Lamb – our Substitute (1 Peter 2:24) – as He bore the weight of the sins of His people upon His shoulders, bringing dead men to life.
In the words of Charles Spurgeon:
“Our Lord has appeared in court for us, accepting our place at the bar…. He has appeared at the place of execution for us, and has born the death-penalty in our stead…. Our Redeemer has been arraigned, though innocent; has come under the curse, though forever blessed; and has suffered to the death, though He had done nothing worthy of blame. ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.’”
Truly, the cross is not cosmic child abuse but is rather the story of God who loved the world in such a mighty and profound way that He sent His only begotten Son to be punished on behalf of all who believe in Him, that they might not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Christ’s cross is the ultimate display of love as God showed mankind how far He would go in order to reconcile His people to Himself.
And because of the great lengths to which God has gone in order to redeem fallen man, we cannot afford to lose the truth of the most glorious and wonderful bloody cross that makes Good Friday so good. After all, it is the cross of Jesus Christ that is at the very heart of the Gospel.
Without Christ’s sacrificial substitutionary death on the cross, we would all wander like lost sheep, eventually wandering to eternal death. The cross is our only hope to be made right with the perfectly just and perfectly holy God, for there is nothing we can do to take away our sin, to pay sin’s penalty against our Holy Creator, or to reconcile our relationship to God the Father… but Christ can and Christ did.
He willingly took our sin upon Himself. Like a sheep led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7), He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8), and He perfectly paid the penalty for His people by pouring out His blood in the most scandalous death in all of history.
So, as we approach Resurrection Sunday, let us not forget about Good Friday, a beautiful reminder of a bloody and grotesque cross that brought death to our Savior and life to all who call upon His name.
 Spurgeon, Charles, Until He Comes: Twenty Reflections on the Lord’s Supper, New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House.