It is not unusual for Christians to question God when we suffer and when we observe evil in the world. But Good Friday offers good lessons for those who grapple with a circumstance God has the power to prevent. That’s because the crucifixion of Christ was one of the most preventable events in human history.
Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.” (John 18.36).
Later, he told him, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (John 19.11)
As he was arrested, Jesus told his disciples that he could call on his Father, “and he will at once put at my disposal twelve legions of angels.” (Matt. 26.53)
God could have stepped in supernaturally or through the actions of people to prevent the brutal death of Christ, but he did not. And because he did not, we partake of the gift of salvation and new life. We rejoice in this on Easter Sunday. We even call the day Christ hung on the cross “Good” Friday.
It’s possible to translate this joy into our own circumstances in two ways:
First, we have to understand the role we play in the suffering we see around us. We have to ask, “why do we humans allow preventable things?”
It was people who rejected and killed Jesus, was it not?
Judas betrayed him.
Peter denied him.
The disciples forsook him.
Religious elders falsely accused him.
Soldiers mocked him.
Government officials executed him.
All of this rejection of Christ was the doing of people.
So if we are bothered by some evil in society, what are we doing to prevent it?
Why have we allowed porn and guns to proliferate? Why are prisons overcrowded and schools underfunded?
Why is there racial strife in America when there is a church on every corner in every city? Isn’t heaven supposed to include all tribes, tongues, and nations? Shouldn’t the church be a beacon of racial harmony?
Doesn’t the Bible say the love of money is the root of every kind of evil? Why, then, do we allow capitalism and consumerism to skew our thinking about what we deserve?
Why don’t we give away more of our money and possessions to bless the poor, the homeless, and the sick? It’s not God’s fault that we are sitting down on the job of loving our neighbors and living sacrificially.
After his resurrection, Jesus told his disciples to “Go and preach the good news to all creation.” When was the last time you shared the gospel with anyone? I can’t remember the last time I did. Is it any wonder that sin is rampant and so many young people reject Christianity and church attendance? Nobody even cares anymore whether they show up to church on Easter.
Whatever sorrow we feel for sitting on the sidelines of God’s kingdom work can be turned to joy like it did for Peter and the disciples, who eventually proclaimed the Good News with boldness. God works through us. A harvest field awaits us. Let’s go and make some disciples and prevent some suffering and sin.
Secondly, we can find comfort in knowing that Jesus also questioned God as he hung from the cross that dark, yet “good” Friday. When he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” he was asking why God allowed such a preventable thing.
But of course, he knew why. “… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20.28) From this we learn that our suffering is not for us, it is for others. When we don’t seem to benefit from our suffering – when it doesn’t seem good at all – we can wonder how others might benefit and be blessed. That’s what Jesus did. It gave him strength to endure. It enabled him to commit his life into the hands of God.
Easter weekend is a good time to see God in preventable circumstances, and just as importantly, to see ourselves. When God doesn’t intervene, it may just give us the opportunity to do so in his name. We get the joy and satisfaction that comes with sacrifice and service to others.
And when we bear the cross of suffering, we gain the maturity that comes with patience, the compassion that comes with mourning, and the heavenly perspective that only Christ can give.
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.