It’s Called Good Friday For a Reason
It’s called Good Friday for a reason. It’s not intuitive until you think about it. For many people, the scholars and philosophers, scientists and skeptics, it’s just another day at minimum or a day to be mocked if they think you are taking it seriously. For the believer history turns on that day. For the repentant sinner, heaven’s gate opened then. The scoffer just rolls his eyes and says pass the catsup.
How could the greatest evil in the world (crucifying the Son of God) become the greatest good in the world (the sacrifice for your sin and mine, good enough for all eternity, past and present)? It is foolishness, Paul writes,
but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, but to those who God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.*
So if you are scratching your head or shaking your head, you are not alone.
But if it is true, you owe it to yourself to look into it and figure it out. What if the Bible means what it says when it uses words like,
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of Man must be lifted up. That whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No man cometh to the Father but by me. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.**
The above quote is found in the New Testament in various passages. I found the quote in a sermon by Billy Graham given in 1958 in San Francisco at the Cow Palace, the home of the 1967 NBA Finals, the Beatles in 1964 and, more recently, Katy Perry in 2011.
The reason I happened upon that in the first place is I was flipping channels, which I’m doing less and less lately, and we’d just gotten digital TV. No, not an actual new digital TV. I went to the cable company and got one of those little black boxes and had to plug it in between my old fat TV and the cable outlet and after a time of fiddling around with it, all of a sudden we’ve got a bunch more channels, one of which, apparently, carried old Billy Graham sermons on Saturday night.
I’d watched Billy Graham growing up as a child. Whenever he was on, my dad made sure we all sat in the living room and watched. This was in the day when there was one channel. I’d always liked him. I’d even seen him preach twice in my life in person. The first, truth be told, was when I was 21 years old in Dallas, Texas, and I’d taken a bus load of church teenagers to Explo ’72, along with 80,000 other high school and college kids, to go hear Billy Graham and to learn how to share our faith and to consider ministry as a life-long career. The Wikipedia link I just gave you, says “The long-term impact of Explo ’72 cannot be measured.” I agree with that, but on a personal note I can write that when I heard Billy Graham at the Cotton Bowl say what are you going to do when you go home from this mountain top experience here in Dallas and you face the cruel world out there, are you willing to commit yourself to full-time service for Christ, and the Cotton Bowl was so filled with people he couldn’t give an invitation to come forward, so he asked people who felt God’s hand on their shoulders to stand and say, by this act, that, yes, I’m willing to give my life to service for Christ. I was one of those people who stood. Me and thousands of others.
I’m not sure what happened to the others that day, but for me, that day was a milestone and it is no coincidence that a week later I was at a Bible camp in northern Minnesota as a counselor to 8th grade boys and there was this really cute counselor for the 8th grade girls I got to know and I shared with her what I’d learned at Explo ’72 and that I’d stood at the urging of God’s Spirit and the mouthpiece of Billy Graham and she was impressed enough with my heart and my determination that she gave me the time of day and it wasn’t too long after that in the greater scheme of things that she became my wife and a couple of decades after working in full time ministry and finding doors closing here and there I end up being a marriage counselor because it gives me an opportunity to share with hurting people one on one or one one two and to tout the one thing I’m really good at, namely, enjoying my marriage to that really cute girl from Trout Lake Camp and being able to explain to others how to get there and in the background is this song that is playing in the back of my head and sometimes if you are with me you can hear it too and sometimes clients ask me about it or tell me they’ve tried everything and I’d nod, yeah, but since none of it worked what about giving God a go? Or, wouldn’t you know, they ask me.
Can you believe that? People are coming to me to ask me my advice and paying me for it. Who’d a thought. If you don’t believe in God, just that very fact alone should be enough to make a believer out of you.
Which leads me to the Billy Graham sermon my wife and I happened upon the other night, wantonly flipping channels (flipping channels is as wanton as we get). There he was in all his youth and it was starting, because I’ve only seen him on TV interviews the last ten years or so, and, like me, he’s getting up there in years and frail and his voice isn’t as strong and in 1958 he was only 40 years old and his voice what sharp and vigorous and his mannerisms dramatic and his message powerful and he preached of foolishness of the cross. I was spellbound. It’s amazing a sermon given 54 years ago could be so powerful.
And then I told my wife we used to watch Billy Graham on TV when I was a kid, that my dad made sure we heard him. She said, no, she’d never seen him on TV. I asked if she’d been to hear him ever. She said, no. It was hard for me to fathom that Billy Graham had been the most well-known preacher in the twentieth century and she’d never heard him! It made me think others haven’t either. Maybe, even, my own kids!
I looked up his website (you can find it here) hoping to find the sermon from San Francisco in 1958 on the cross of Christ as a video, but was disappointed to find it’s only available online as an audio. The audio isn’t downloadable either, so that was disappointing. But I listened to the same sermon again and taped it on my digital recorder so I could listen to it in my car.
You can find the page where his sermon on the the Cross is available here. There are 10 sermons listed there from his San Francisco Crusade, but click on the one called “The Cross.” Really the message is about the topic “The Offense of the Cross” and he does a great job explaining why Jesus had to go to the cross and why so many chaff at the thought.
On this Good Friday, this would be a great sermon to listen to. I commend it to you and hope you will give it a go. It is worth the effort. It may very well change your life.
*1 Corinthians 1:24-25
**John 3: 14-16, Acts 4:12 KJV