As our nation becomes increasingly secular, it also becomes increasingly ignorant of the spiritual traditions responsible for inspiring it. There’s no time like this week to reaffirm what drove those first pilgrims to brave treacherous seas on the Mayflower and settle here “for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith.”
Christians refer to this as “Holy Week” because it includes arguably the three most pivotal events of our faith. This is the second in a three-part series looking at each of those events, which will explain what they meant at the time and what they mean to us now — in 500 words or less.
The series isn’t a definitive theological exercise, but an attempt to make the traditions that inspired liberty in America accessible to Americans once more. Hopefully this might inspire you to seek out more information.
Part 2 — Good Friday
What it is
Good Friday is when Jesus Christ was crucified, or executed, to pay the price for the sins of the world. The Jewish scriptures, commonly referred to by Christians as the Old Testament, contains God’s revealed law through Moses the deliverer, as well as other prophets (or truth-tellers). One of the most important prophets of the Old Testament, Isaiah, had much to say about a “suffering servant” to atone for the sins of the people. Christians believe Jesus is the fulfillment of these and other prophecies about the messiah.
We also refer to Christ as “the lamb of God.” It is a reference to God’s law commanding the Jews to sacrifice an unblemished lamb as penalty for their sins. The Jewish people’s sins would be passed on to the lamb as a substitutionary atonement, so they wouldn’t have to perish for their sins themselves.
Similarly, the lamb’s blood protected them from the wrath of God in Egypt, when the angel of death “passed over” their homes marked with lamb’s blood to signify they were “saved” from the judgment.
With Christ, the people no longer have to present an unblemished lamb before God, but instead God has provided us His unblemished (sinless) son to atone for our sins on our behalf and in our place.
Why it matters
The Bible teaches the following: There is only one God we are accountable to; we have all disobeyed Him; and we cannot earn our way back into His good graces on our own. Therefore, if Christ had not willingly gone to the cross, we would have no hope of escaping hell for our sins. Because Christ was born of God’s spirit, he was not born into the same sinful state the rest of us are. This made Jesus alone worthy of taking our place, because he alone was pure enough to satisfy the wrath of God we all rightly deserve.
Christ’s final words on the cross — “it is finished” or “it is accomplished” — are vitally important. For the “it” here is God’s law, which Christ alone has fulfilled by taking upon himself the wrath of God we have earned with our disobedience.
What it means for us today
Every other religious system on this planet makes demands upon its followers for what they must do to be declared righteous. Christianity is the only religion that instead says here’s what God through Christ has already done for you.
The ideas that each of us owes God an individual debt for our sins (which Christ alone can pay) and that God permits us to have an individual relationship with Him were hugely influential upon our Founding Fathers. If God demanded personal accountability, then, they believed, so should human authorities, such as government.
Furthermore, if the most powerful being in all the cosmos highly values the freedom and dignity of each individual person that much, human authorities such as government should as well.