Leadership Transitions at Erskine Theological Seminary: Dr. Seth J. Nelson, Dr. R.J. Gore, and Dr. Michael A. Milton
Erskine Theological Seminary is pleased to announce the appointment of Rev. Dr. Seth J. Nelson…
The Reading of Scripture:
On this Good Friday, we seek to answer one of the most fundamental questions about this day. Jesus will provide the answer to the powerful forces at work beneath the awful scene on Calvary’s Cross. From the Gospel of John, chapter twelve, and verses twenty-seven through thirty-two: This is the inerrant and infallible Word of the living God:
27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Praise to you, Lord Christ.
The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord will endure forever. Let us pray.
Our heavenly Father, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Let me preach as if never to preach again, and as a dying man to dying man. Through Christ our Lord, I pray. Amen.
Why is Good Friday called “good?” On that day in history, human beings successfully conspired to judge, humiliate, degrade, spit upon, jeer, and then execute the One who made them. How in God’s name is Good Friday good?
There are days in our lives that are so difficult that we would never want to live through those days again. Yet, because of the consequences of the day, or some new insight we were given in that day, we might pause, look up, and reveal just the slightest of smiles. Then, as we think about it, we might even dare to utter,” I never want to repeat that day again; but do you know what? I wouldn’t trade that day for anything.” Such a paradoxical day may have been an endurance test—maybe a marathon that you ran. It might have been a course you took, and you think upon it as a single day of agony—yet you prevailed. Perhaps one of our ladies thinks of childbirth labor that lasts for hours upon hours—you think about the pain of that day as you look upon your gangly thirteen-year-old son whom you love so very much. Me? I think of boot camp in the Navy.
It was the end of Vietnam. Research had been done (by someone who had never been through bootcamp) that U.S. Naval Recruit Training had softened over the years. There had been a necessary focus on “getting ‘em in and getting ‘em out.” There had been World War Two, Korea, and the war that wasn’t a war that almost took the heart out of a nation—‘Nam. The consultants convinced the Pentagon brass that unless the U.S. Military was toughened-up, the Airmen, “Coasties,” Guardsmen, Merchant Mariners, Marines, Soldiers, and Sailors could not take on the rigors of an extended Cold War. They must have urged in secret meetings that the Navy Company Commanders and Marine Drill Sergeants needed to be more assertive. The Invisible War with its cat and mouse games in the fields of Europe, the frozen hills of Korea, the airspace over the Black Sea, and deep beneath the Arctic and in the underwater canyons of the Atlantic, called for a more severe recruit experience, just in case of American service personnel fell into the unforgiving, merciless hands of the Soviets, North Koreans, or Red Chinese, What a time to be a young man in boot camp. Six weeks turned to twelve. Chief Petty Officers were retrained to “inflict,” I mean “indoctrinate” recruits into the new Cold War American Navy.
I endured the necessary physical, mental, and psychological privations designed to tear me down and build me up for twelve weeks. After still standing and standing tall, only then could one qualify to don the official uniform of the United States Navy. I would wear my nation’s uniform of military service for thirty-two years (first, Navy; then, Army). The “break ‘em to build ‘em” mantra created days I would never want to repeat. One of the best lines my old Chief used on me for his new model bootcamp training remains unforgettable. After a surprise inspection of our lockers revealed that Seaman Recruit Milton—yours truly—could not fold his undergarments according to US Navy standards—a serious infraction in recruit training that detected a Seaman’s ability (or not) to follow simple orders—Chief Arkansas (he was a crusty old submariner from Arkansas in his last assignment before retirement) decided to make Recruit Milton an example.
With a Camel cigarette perennially stuck to his dried-out lipless mouth, Chief Arkansas accused me of being—let me see; how did it go?— “The most insignificant, single-cell creature on the lowest point in the Pacific Ocean. He caught himself: “No! That is too good for you, Milton! You are lower than a sick amoeba on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean! That is how incredibly insignificant you are, Seaman Recruit Milton!” I moved not one centimeter as I stood at attention and compliantly agreed. He was so close to my face that I counted the pores on his rosy bulbed nose to stay focused and not break. “What? Is little Seaman Recruit Milton going to cry?” The truth is, I was not “little,” nor was I about to cry. However, the CAT 5 gale-force winds driving the Chief’s screaming was tickling the hairs in my nose. “You want your mommy, little baby recruit?” He turned to my peers, each at parade rest, and made sure they understood that he knew they were witnesses to what was about to happen; I am certain that my shipmates were praying that Chief Arkansas would beat me up so badly that he would be too tired to come after them. Oh, boy, how I loved that man. I can still see the veins bulging in his neck, pulsating to prove to us that he did, have a heart.
The Company Commander then answered his own question, “Milton, I am your mamma!” He paused. “Don’t you believe me, Recruit?” “Yes, Chief. You are my mamma.” He rewarded my reply, which he deemed as “smarty pants” (he used another phrase) by bellowing out a new command, “Drop and give me fifty, Recruit!” Oh, what wonderful days! However, you would never guess what I told someone just the other day about Cold War Navy Boot Camp, “I never want to go through those times again, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.” A sick human being who likes being called an amoeba? No. Just a young man who learned life lessons that remain with me until today (by the way, the “old school” ways are long gone, if you are contemplating joining the service, I guess the consultants were wrong).
I think that there are those reading this who are thinking, “Yeah, that is just like when I was in college . . .” Or “Oh, man, that reminds me of when my parents punished me for . . .” Or, even this, “I had cancer. It was horrible. I never want to go through those treatments again. But, I have to tell you, pastor, I wouldn’t trade those times for anything.” That last line is a statement that came to me from a woman who said she never knew Christ until she had nowhere else to hide.
Okay. ‘Nuff said. So, why do we call Good Friday good? The crucifixion of anyone, much less the Son of God, is the very definition of bad!
Yes, it was bad. Good Friday is the sacrifice of the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. Jesus suffered, was publicly scorned, beaten, crucified between criminals, and before He gave up His spirit, He forgave those who crucified Him. As the Roman centurion reflected with uncommon insight, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).
Can you imagine it? Rembrandt van Rijn did. The great Dutch master (1606-1669) of oil and pigment, brush and stroke, form and figure, light and shadow, depicted Good Friday and placed himself, attired in the clothing he, likely, wore as he painted the scene in his studio, gathered with others, and raising the cross with Jesus Christ nailed to it. Rembrandt painted himself as just one more guilty sinner amongst the crowd, perpetrating Deicide. Think about it: Our Lord Jesus was crucified on the timber of a tree that He made. Though without sin, much less lawlessness, Jesus was put to death in the most cruel and inhumane method possible by the hands of human beings that He created. The blood-thirsty mob could scream obscenities because Jesus sustained their very heartbeats. It is no wonder that darkness fell upon the earth in that hour, or the underground plates of earth suddenly shifted, and the surface of the earth trembled violently at the visage of the Creator on a cross. It was as if all Creation revolted against the abominable, the unthinkable, the inconceivable deed. The darkness and earthquake is validated by eyewitnesses who wrote of the events as early as 52 AD. Geologists have documented an earthquake in the region around the year 33 AD. Yet, as monstrous as that day was, we call that day “Good Friday.” Why?
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, David foresaw the suffering of that day:
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning? 6 But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” 16 For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; 17 I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. 18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.
The one who reads these words today recognizes how precise David’s prophecy was, as the regal prophet’s pen assumed the voice of the Messiah. David’s description of that Good Friday is almost like an eyewitness to the event. For the believer, it is a difficult passage to read. Yet, David is not alone in his prophecy. Isaiah 53 is often read at noon services on Good Friday. Perhaps, more than any other passage, Isaiah’s words describe the astounding anguish of Almighty God in the flesh, Our Savior Jesus. Isaiah also pulls back the curtain of time that the reader may look upon the suffering Savior:
Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9 And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. 12 When You make His soul an offering for sin; Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.—Isaiah 53 (ESV)
These passages I’m not the only prophecies concerning what would happen on the Friday of the week that we call Holy. Listen to the Gospel reading from today:
27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. — John 12:27–33 (ESV).
Therefore, our Lord Jesus exercises his prophetic office only days before he will be crucified. While the Shepherd-King of Israel, David, and the Prophet to Israel, Isaiah, were used of the Holy Spirit to describe the events of the crucifixion, Jesus provides us with the theological rationale for his crucifixion. After speaking of his soul being troubled, a preview of the Lord’s incomparable inner suffering as He surrendered to the Cross in spirit while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus encouraged Himself with a soliloquy describing His mission in the world. In response to Jesus’ self-identification as the Suffering Messiah, and His prayer, “Father, glorify Thyself,” the voice of the Father spoke. The voice of God the Father came at crucial turning points—not only turning points in the life and ministry of the Son of God but also turning points cosmic history. The inconceivable event of the voice of God breaking into our human experience on earth is accompanied by thunder, according to witnesses there. Our Lord tells us that the voice of God came for their sakes. Again, this is a cosmic event, not merely a milestone in human history. The unimaginable moment when God spoke surgically removed the thin membrane between eternity and time, heaven and earth, and would cause universal consequences. The Apostle Paul would tell us that Creation itself will be liberated by the salvation of Jesus. In Milton’s words, the Apostle John unveils the truth of a New Heaven and a New Earth, “Paradise Regained.”
According to Jesus, His crucifixion would actuate two extraordinarily good cosmic events. Each related to the other, and each marked the last days of evil’s reign upon the earth, as well as the unconquerable advancement of the Kingdom of God. For Good, Friday realized the prophesied sudden unleashing of the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness’s receding. The substitutionary atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ ignited the promise of God in Genesis 3:15:
The Protevangelium, the first Gospel, was announced as Satan was cursed by God for his part in the Fall of Mankind and Creation:
And I will put enmity/Between you and the woman/And between your seed and her Seed/He shall bruise your head/And you shall bruise His heel.
Good Friday is, thus, called Good because Jesus revealed the victory that came from crucifixion.
So, what did Jesus say about that day that makes Good Friday good?
That’s the Lord Jesus endured incredible suffering in the deepest part of His precious spirit. His Father reminds him that He is glorified and will be glorified through the day that we call Good Friday. Jesus prophesied that on that day, yeah, the judgment of the world was coming (v. 31). What was that judgment? It was the beginning of the reversal of “Paradise Lost: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15 NKJV).
It was the initiation Love the new heaven and a new earth. It would begin with a paradoxical movement by God that would split the darkness and the captivity of the earth by Satan. For our Lord Jesus says that we Chi has agonized about, That day, that all full day when the son of man is nailed to the timber of a tree that he and created, when he is despised and rejected by those human beings, he had created, and win the mighty angels are held back by the demand of garden, and even our saviors prayers to his father I met with silence; on the day the world will change.
Jesus said in verse 31 that’s the ruler of this world would be “cast out” (Greek: ἐκβληθήσεται, to be cast out is, “namely, out of the world, i. e. be deprived of the power and influence he exercises in the world”). The commentary of the masterful Matthew Henry is appropriate at this point:
The voice of the Father from heaven, which had declared him to be his beloved Son, at his baptism, and when he was transfigured, was heard proclaiming that He had both glorified his name, and would glorify it. Christ, reconciling the world to God by the merit of his death, broke the power of death, and cast out Satan as a destroyer. Christ, bringing the world to God by the doctrine of his cross, broke the power of sin, and cast out Satan as a deceiver. The soul that was at a distance from Christ, is brought to love him and trust him.
The phrase “cast out” could also be rendered “driven out.” Either way, it means exactly what we would expect: “throw forcefully in a specified direction.” It has both concrete and metaphorical meanings. There is a mystery is it transcendence human understanding in this passage. However, what is not subtle or in anyway cloaked in a literary device is the fact that Jesus was literally performing the ultimate exorcism of Satan from the world. In a sense, all of the other casting out of demons, the driving away of Satan, in the advance of the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, was but prelude to this grand and glorious event.
The event was anticipated in all of the casting out of demons in the ministry of Jesus. Every ministry event of Jesus anticipated the release of captives living in darkness and a new light arising over the earth.
Some may wonder if this conflicts with Peter’s statement that the devil go ship out like a roaring lion. However, Jesus is speaking of a monumental event in the history of the universe where the evil reign of Satan and his fallen angels is struck such a blow that the works of darkness recede, and the golden beams of life-giving light breaks forth and shines to the ends of the earth. The Christ-empowered potion jabs the pandemic of tyrannical evil; the ancient celestial Covenantal antidote that would bring about the liberation of human beings in captivity was, now, here.
Isaiah declared that a light would arise, causing the earth to rejoice. Even so, Good Friday is good because these things were fulfilled; and Satan was bound. He cannot hold peoples forever once the light of Christ comes. That is why we must preach Christ to every tribe, tongue, and nation. The light has come. Let it shine.
I would not be the first to compare what it happened on Good Friday to the events of the day in 1944 piano conquest of the allied forces did not call Berlin to fall on that very day. However, the victory and subsequent conquest. People: Paris, NORWAY, and small villagers and cities along the pathway two the capital of the Nazi German right. End of word, DJ was a sort of good Friday. It’s signaled the beginning of the end of the dark pole cast over Europe and other parts of the world.
It is in this sense that Satan was cashed out. The world has been covered in darkness and subject to the most heinous activities, often and adds a worship of the deer do you learned with the devil, what is now broken. Christ went forth, and everywhere he went, and everywhere he goes now, human beings are liberated from the heat. Mayor of the devil, they are brought into the kingdom of light.
Is it not ironic, Or better put, paradoxical, that the earth turn dark, and rapturous thunder was Hurd on the day on Good Friday. Were these the final outburst of satanic rule? I believe they were instead the first cry of freedom of creation years the Lord Jesus cashed out the prince of darkness and the ruler of this world. That is what makes Good Friday good.
There is a second dynamic of His crucifixion—another consequence that Jesus said would come about—another reason why Good Friday is good. It is this:
Not only is Satan bound, but more good news: “‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die” (vv. 32-33).
Jesus would literally be lifted up, just as Rembrandt painted. Yet, the paradoxical power of the Cross is also intended in the words of our Savior. Such ricocheted power could only be comprehended by men and women after the deed was done. Jesus would be lifted up as the cross was raised. The Devil and Hell had a brief surge of unjustified optimism. Their unfounded frivolity would quickly, surprisingly, and—to those sin-mangled creatures—horribly flip upside down. For the Prince of Righteousness became the Victor, and the cross became the crown, and, wonder of wonders, Satan would recognize the picture from days past. It is essential to read this story to know this story and to believe this story. For the Biblical case of the judgment of serpents being lifted up on a pole to become the source of healing for those who would follow God’s offer of salvation is the most precise prophecy of the paradox of the Cross:
6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and against you; intercede with the Lord, that He will remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “[f]Make a fiery serpent, and put it on a flag pole; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, and looks at it, will live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and put it on the flag pole; and it came about, that if a serpent bit someone, and he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived” (Numbers 21:6-9 NASB).
The passage is so amazingly replete with the story of the fall and the plan of salvation that we could mine the priceless truths of this passage for days upon days. However, our focus must remain on the reason why Good Friday—a veritable snake pit of a day—is called good. My beloved friends, Good Friday, is good because Jesus Christ is lifted up, but this needs to end. Jesus Christ is available to you today. Jesus Christ the righteous, Jesus Christ the atonement for sin, Jesus Christ the mediator of a new covenant has turned across upside down in the very things that would’ve just destroyed him became the things that exalted him even on to resurrection, ascension, and rule. You and I must realize that we have the venomous bite of a vampire called original sin. We will either die in this sin, or we will look up at Christ who became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. Will you look upon him today and live?
Why is Good Friday called good? Now you know. Now you know what the Scriptures say. Now you know what Jesus declared would occur on that day. Now you know that on the same day that humanity would crucify God-in-the-flesh, the act of crucifixion would bring about the binding of Satan, the release of captives, the casting out of demons; and, the lifting up of our precious Jesus on the cross, whose shed blood is the Divine antidote for the venomous bite of original sin, the necrosis of the human soul, and infectious diseases that are passed from generation to generation. It is finished! Satan can harangue, Hell’s demons can harass, but no man, woman, boy, or girl can be held in perpetual darkness any longer. Whoever looks up—looks upon, and receives by faith the crucified Christ who is raised from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and hears your prayers today, WILL BE SAVED.
My friend THAT is good news to a dying race. THAT is the glory of God at work in the world. THAT—THAT—is why Good Friday is good.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Rembrandt van Rijn, The Raising of the Cross, 1633 by Rembrandt, Oil on Canvas, 1633, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, accessed March 28, 2021, https://rembrandtpaintings.com/the-raising-of-the-cross.jsp.
 See the testimony of Thallus in 52 A.D. “On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.” – (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18:1). For the geological evidence and other witnesses see Billy Ryan, “Was There Really Darkness and an Earthquake at the Crucifixion? 3 Clues Give Us the Answer…,” UCatholic, March 30, 2018, accessed March 28, 2021, https://ucatholic.com/blog/was-there-really-darkness-and-an-earthquake-at-the-crucifixion/.
 John Milton, Paradise Lost (Hackett Publishing, 2005).
 James Strong, “Strong’s Greek: 1544. Ἐκβάλλω (Ekballo) — I Throw, Cast, Put out, Banish, Bring Forth, Produce,” Online Bible database, Bible Hub, last modified original 1890, accessed March 27, 2021, https://biblehub.com/greek/1544.htm.
 Matthew Henry, “John 12 Bible Commentary – Matthew Henry (Concise),” Christianity.Com, accessed March 27, 2021, https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=43&c=12.
 Strong, 1544.