A group of friends and I like to ponder the mysteries of God and his word. Thursday night we stayed up until 4 a.m. debating the age-old issue of predestination versus free will. Although we never make any headway into resolving the issue (and this friendly discussion emerges frequently), it does raise other questions about the character of God.
For instance, what do we really mean when we call God good?
As I thought about it, I didn't even realize that during our discussion hands of the clock had well surpassed midnight. It was now Good Friday, the day that Christians are supposed to celebrate the crucifixion of Christ. We celebrate because we know the end of the story, that Jesus rose again from the dead and won the victory over sin and death.
But to the disciples before the Resurrection and to those who don't know the way God works in the present day, the fact that God killed his own Son looks like anything but good. In fact, it looks completely morbid. An all-powerful God choosing to accomplish redemption by such a bloody method seems completely illogical. All that suffering and pain, the strips of flesh ripped by the scourge, the nails and spear piercing Jesus's body, the crown of thorns that served both to blaspheme and to physically harm the King of the Jews. Was it really necessary?
We live in a culture that crowns convenience and makes the concept of "good" synonymous with the fulfillment of our desires. We live in a self-sufficient culture that is laden with pride. We all feel like we can do it on our own, and we like to let others know that as much as possible.
But anyone who walks with God on the way of the Cross can tell you that God is not always interested in fulfilling our every want. And he's certainly opposed to those who feel like they don't need him. That's why he uses the weak things of the world to shame the wise, and he brings about victory in situations where a defeat looks certain. He allows persecution to befall his children to develop the character of Christ in us, to show us that things like winning the lottery or experiencing healing aren't the absolute definition of good. Good is what happens when God's purposes are fulfilled, and even events that seem bad on the surface must be viewed within the full context of God's redemptive work.
This Friday is good because Jesus was obedient to the will of the Father. The death of Christ is pointless without the resurrection, and this Friday is good because Jesus had faith enough to put his deposit down for the event we'll celebrate Sunday. This Friday is good because, however bleak the situation looked on the surface, the full picture shows that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).