This morning, our church will be celebrating Good Friday for the first(?) time on Good Friday. We’ve worshiped in public high schools up until last fall when we moved into our first permanent facility, so it’s going to be an interesting morning for us, if for no other reason than the novelty. Regardless of the location, though, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are big deals for us, as they are for (I hope) all Christian churches. They’re an opportunity to invite non-Christian family and friends to join us, certainly. But there’s something else, something much more important: the celebration of the completion of Christ’s work in redeeming us.
And that word “completion” is an important one, as I’ve been reminded over the last several weeks. Since January, I’ve been working my way through the Old Testament, first through the Law, now into the history of Israel. And each time I read, I have been consistently confronted with one thing: humanity’s complete inability to be righteous on our own. Ever since that fateful day in the garden when our first parents ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it’s been like this. We just want to do what is right in our own eyes, not what is actually right.
And to make matters worse, there’s no list of commands that can make us do more better. There’s commandments that are good, but they serve to condemn us in our failure to accomplish them. And this is why Christ came. He came to die for us—to take the penalty of our sins—but also to live as we cannot. As R.C. Sproul wrote in The Work of Christ,
Jesus had to adhere to the whole law of God because the redemption He brought was not accomplished solely by His death on the cross. God did not send Jesus to earth on Good Friday so He could go straight to the cross. Jesus not only had to die for our sins, but also had to live for our righteousness. If Jesus had only died for our sins, His sacrifice would have removed all of our guilt, but that would have left us merely sinless in the sight of God, not righteous. We would not have done anything to obey the law of God, which is righteousness. . . . Jesus’ life of perfect obedience was just as necessary for our salvation as His perfect atonement on the cross.
When I sing at church this morning, my hope is that I will sing with this reality in mind. When I listen to the message, my hope is I will listen with this in mind. What I celebrate today—and make no mistake, as dark a day as we often paint it, it is a day to celebrate—is not simply the final act of Christ’s atoning work, but the totality of it—for “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, HCSB).