Sunday, April 1, 2012

What's So "Good" About Friday?

This was an article that I wrote for The Courier=Times this weekend. I thought I would share it with you all:

A friend of mine said one time: “You can't have Easter without Good Friday.” What she meant by that was that you cannot have the resurrection of our Lord without the death of our Lord. Easter Sunday is a celebration that our God rose again on the third day. It is festive, and throngs of folks that hardly ever come to worship during the rest of the year show up on Easter Sunday.

The Sunday before Easter is traditionally called Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is another exciting time in the Christian calendar. We wave palm branches in worship and shout “Hosanna”, which means “God save us.” There is jubilation as we usher King Jesus into Jerusalem. But, as we follow Jesus into Jerusalem — we soon learn that our God dies a tragic death.

As Christians we gather together on the Lord's Day. For the next two Sundays we celebrate Palm Sunday and then Easter. But on Friday of this coming week, our God dies.

Jesus dies at the hands of sinners. Jesus was falsely accused. Jesus was spit upon — having thorns thrust into his skull. Jesus was beaten to such an extent that he was not recognizable. Jesus was mocked. Jesus had nails puncture his hands and feet so that he could be secured to a Roman cross. Jesus was hung between two criminals. Our God hung there until he died.

Good Friday — so what's so good about it? A theologian named Stanley Hauerwas once wrote: “Here the powers of this world are forever subverted. Time is now redeemed through the raising up of Jesus on this cross. A new age has begun. The kingdom is here aborn, a new regime is inaugurated, creating a new way of life for those who worship and follow Jesus.”

The reason Good Friday is so “good” is because our Lord and God dies. Jesus dies our death. In Christ's death on the cross a new reality has begun. Jesus said: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12.32) Here the savior of the world reveals to us what life is — that it is found through death. In Jesus' death the world is recreated and that is why it is “good”.

As Christians we need to spend a considerable amount of time considering that God died. In the early church they practiced a time of pilgrimage to Jerusalem during Holy Week. On Good Friday they would walk the Via Dolorosa (Latin for the “Way of Grief” or “Way of Suffering”). This was traditionally known as the route that Jesus walked while carrying the cross to Calvary. At different stations they would pause and consider what Jesus endured on the world's behalf.

This year, pause on Friday and go and spend time at the foot of the cross. For Jesus' shed blood makes this instrument of death into an instrument of life and calls it “good”. If your particular church doesn't have a service on Good Friday then encourage your pastor to begin one. Remember, you can't have Easter without Good Friday.

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