The Eucatastrophe of the Cross and What It Means for Us

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Today is the day we remember the brutal crucifixion of Jesus. To the original disciples, it was the darkest of dark days. It was the end of hope and the beginning of despair. They had witnessed a catastrophe of cosmic proportions.

How would this day come to be known as Good Friday?

Our English word catastrophe is the transliterated form of the Greek word, katastrophḗ (καταστροφή).  For the Greeks, a catastrophe was a dramatic, world-changing event or the fatal turning point in a drama. The Greek word literally means “to overturn, trample on, or to come to an end.” With that definition in mind, professor and author J.R.R. Toilken used the word eucatastrophe to describe a tragic event that turned out, unexpectedly, for good (thus, the eu prefix for a good catastrophe).

In the eternal redemptive plan of God, the crucifixion of Jesus on what we call Good Friday is the ultimate eucatastrophe, where the love of God deals with the justice of God so that we can receive the mercy of God.

Through his death upon a cross as a substitute for condemned sinners, Jesus overturns the curse of the law, he tramples any accusation that could ever be brought against us, and puts to an end our fear of condemnation.

Redemption accomplished. Justification ratified. Adoption assured. The indwelling presence of the Spirit confirmed. Eternal joy guaranteed.

In the Old Testament, Joseph experienced a similar eucatastrophe.

Foreshadowing Jesus’ death, Joseph would be mistreated and sold into slavery by his own brothers, just as Jesus would be betrayed and handed over the Romans unto death. Yet, Joseph would see God’s hand at work, even in his catastrophe, saying to his brothers upon their reunion, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, the saving of many lives.”

Joseph’s catastrophe became a eucatastrophe.

That is the good news of Good Friday. God is able to add the prefix.

So now, when we look at the catastrophes of our own lives, we may now have the courage to ask, “Can God turn this into good?” Can the catastrophe of an arrest, a shattered marriage, an illness or a financial crisis be used for good? In the purpose and providence of God, the answer, unexpectedly, is “yes.”

Grace rises from the ruins. Redemption is born out of death—out of catastrophe.

Indeed, the cross was meant for evil, but God meant it for good.

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