Spurgeon: Good Friday is No Funeral

Charles Spurgeon wasn’t too hip on the whole Good Friday idea. In his opinion, too many people ignored the church until “Holy Week,” a week so sacred that attendance on Good Friday and Easter atoned for neglecting the church for the remainder of the calendar year. In this way Good Friday became, in his words, “a superstitious ordinance of man.” It was too rote, too structured, too formalized. “The kind of religion which is ordered by the Almanac, weeping on Good Friday, and rejoicing two days afterwards, measuring its motions by the moon, is too artificial to be worthy of my imitation.”

Yet for all his criticisms, Spurgeon hosted Good Friday services at the Tabernacle. So how did he approach those services? Sermon no. 2248, “Sad Fasts Changed to Glad Feasts,” gives us a glimpse into his thinking.

The Lord of life and glory was nailed to the accursed tree. He died by the act of guilty men. We, by our sins, crucified the Son of God.

We might have expected that, in remembrance of his death, we should have been called to a long, sad, rigorous fast. Do not many men think so even today? See how they observe Good Friday, a sad, sad day to many; yet our Lord has never enjoined our keeping such a day, or bidden us to look back upon his death under such a melancholy aspect.

Instead of that, having passed out from under the old covenant into the new, and resting in our risen Lord, who once was slain, we commemorate his death by a festival most joyous. It came over the Passover, which was a feast of the Jews; but unlike that feast, which was kept by unleavened bread, this feast is brimful of joy and gladness. It is composed of bread and of wine, without a trace of bitter herbs, or anything that suggests sorrow and grief. …

The memorial of Christ’s death is a festival, not a funeral; and we are to come to the table with gladsome hearts and go away from it with praises, for “after supper they sang a hymn” [Matt 26:30, Mark 14:26].

Scholars believe the disciples would have closed their Passover-turned-Lord’s-Supper gathering with a hymn taken from the joy-filled Hallel Psalms (113–118), perhaps even the majestic Psalm 136. Thus we see that for Spurgeon Good Friday, like any celebration of the Savior’s death in the Lord’s Supper, was a proper and suitable context for worship, joy, and gladness.

I think we can safely assume loud, joyful singing could be heard in the streets as the Spurgeon’s Good Friday service came to a close. In Spurgeon’s mind, Good Friday was no funeral.

Easter and Apologetics

Gordon Fee, 1 Corinthians, page 760:

There is a place for apologetics, that is, the defense of Christianity to the unconverted; but Easter is not that place.

Easter, which should be celebrated more frequently in the church, and not just at the Easter season, calls for our reaffirming the faith to the converted. The resurrection of Christ has determined our existence for all time and eternity.

We do not merely live out our length of days and then have the hope as an addendum; rather, as Paul makes plain in this passage [1 Cor. 15:20–28], Christ’s resurrection has set in motion a chain of inexorable events that absolutely determines our present and our future. Christ is the first fruits of those who are his, who will be raised at his coming. That ought both to reform the way we currently live and to reshape our worship into seasons of unbridled joy.

Amen to that last paragraph.

But what about the first two paragraphs? Do you agree? Disagree? Should Easter morning be used for apologetics?

I see Fee’s point, but I’m not sure the unbridled joy of Easter for the believer should eliminate any apologetical use of the sermon (I think of Acts 17:30–31).

But what say you?

Justification by Resurrection

Paul writes in Romans 4:25 that Jesus was “delivered up for [διά] our trespasses and raised for [διά] our justification.” A stunning statement that locates our justification in the resurrection of Christ.

On this passage Geerhardus Vos (1862—1949) wrote:

“… it remains worth observing, that the Apostle has incorporated this idea of the resurrection in his forensic sceme. It seems a pity that in the more prominent associations of our Easter observance so little place has been left to it [the forensic]. The Pauline remembrance of the supreme fact, so significant for redemption from sin, and the modern-Christian celebration of the feast have gradually become two quite different things. Who at the present time thinks of Easter as intended and adapted to fill the soul with a new jubilant assurance of the forgiveness of sin as the guarantee of the inheritance of eternal life?” [The Pauline Eschatology (P&R 1930/1994) p. 153]


Further study:

Stuffing all our Easter eggs into one basket

I used this modified cliché in a sermon delivered years ago on a college campus. My text for the message was 1 Corinthians 15, a chapter that shines with clarity on the significance of the resurrection of our Savior.

Even the most superficial reading of this chapter will convince us of one important fact—the resurrection is the historical hinge on which every eternal truth of the Christian faith either stands or falls.

Did Jesus rise from the dead? To this question there are no half-answers. Either Christ was physically raised from the dead or he was not physically raised from the dead. Another way to say it is that we as Christians carry all our eggs in one basket.

If Christ has not been raised, we are in serious trouble. Paul could not be clearer of this in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19.

– If Christ has not been raised, the preaching of the gospel is vain, powerless, and even blasphemous.

– If Christ has not been raised, the Apostolic writings of the New Testament are meaningless.

– If Christ has not been raised, our faith is worthless.

– If Christ has not been raised, we remain dead and hopelessly entangled in our sinfulness.

– If Christ has not been raised, death wins, and we become mulch.

As Charles Spurgeon said:

“If Christ be not risen, then is may preaching vain, and your faith is also vain, and you are yet in your sins, … all our visions of heaven are blasted and withered; the brightness of our hope is quenched for ever; that rock on which our trust is built, turns out to be nothing better than mere sand if the divinity of Christ be not proved. All the joy and consolation we ever had in this world, in our belief that his blood was sufficient to atone for sin, has been but a dream of fancy and a ‘figment of idle brains;’ all the communion we have ever had with him has been but an illusion and a trance, and all the hopes we have of beholding his face in glory, and of being satisfied when we awake in his likeness, are but the foulest delusions that ever cheated the hopes of man.” (sermon 258)

But what if Christ has been raised?

– If Christ has been raised, the preaching of the gospel is glorious, powerful, and provides us with an accurate, reliable, and trustworthy revelation of God.

– If Christ has been raised, the Apostolic writings of the New Testament are accurate, precious, and filled with eternal truth.

– If Christ has been raised, our personal faith is of priceless valuable.

– If Christ has been raised, we are free from sin and filled with eternal hope.

– If Christ has been raised, death has been defeated, and we await eternal life in the presence of our resurrected Savior!

This is why I love celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. We are forced to reckon with the weightiest question in the universe in a simple, matter of fact, yes/no conclusion. The resurrection is no matter of personal opinion or a matter of religious preference. Our faith is not some platitude severed from history offered to those who want a subjective psychological wholeness. The very foundation and validity of the faith is a matter of historical accuracy. Either the miracle of Christ’s resurrection didn’t happen and we are all fools, or the resurrection of Christ was accomplished and we possess freedom from sin and victory over death.

There rushes into our hearts at some time in our lives the realization that all our eternal hopes and comforts hinge on the reality of the resurrection of our Savior. We discover that all our eggs are in one basket.

Pastor: “Allelujah! Christ is risen!”

Congregation: “He is risen indeed! Allelujah!”