Good Friday is coming to an end, and I have to admit that Good Friday is one of my favourite days of the year. It has been a good Good Friday. The weather was remarkable and it was a day to take a breath after a very very busy week.
I started this week looking forward to spending it reflecting on Jesus in the approach to Easter, and I ended up missing three posts as I scrambled to get everything done that I needed to get done.
There are busy weeks, and my weeks are generally busy as is typical for a lot of people these days, but this was one of those weeks that was busy in an atypical way. There’s a routine busyness that is familiar and manageable because it is known and expected. This week was filled with surprises and breaks from my schedule that were not familiar at all, and that can cause stress.
I think I mentioned in my last post about some of those things that turned my week into an unusually busy one, so I won’t dwell on that further, but I have to say that this afternoon felt gloriously relaxed with all of my pressing tasks completed for the week. I have to take the kids to swimming lessons and go grocery shopping tomorrow – so familiar – piece of cake. I love it.
This was also the fourth Good Friday in a row that I have led the service at our church and I love this service. There is a very distinctive feeling to Good Friday that is unique to all other special celebrations I know of in the Christian church. It is a moment to slow down and to reflect on the death of Christ and how much it means to us and also how much of a sacrifice it was for Jesus.
The death of Jesus is rendered almost meaningless without his resurrection…I think. To consider what it might have meant if God’s son had died for the sins of the world and had stayed dead is the kind of speculative theology that I’m not sure I would be good at, or that is even useful to engage in.
My gut feeling on this is that the death of Jesus was payment for the sin of the world – one giant sacrificial offering, but it was his resurrection from the dead that paved the way for us to do the same one day and to follow him into the riches of Eden that were prepared for us from the beginning.
But my point here is that although it’s really hard to consider the meaning of Jesus’ death apart from his resurrection, we all know that he came back from the dead, and because we know that, we are able to take a day just to focus on his death and to meditate on the gravity of that event before we enter into the celebration of his resurrection.
His death meant something. It was not easy and it was not honourable, and it came about not on some divine whim but as a result of the perpetual failure of humanity to do the right thing. To remember Good Friday is to enter into the full expression of human weakness and ineptitude and to marvel at the fact that God picked up the cheque simply because he loves us.
I also love the songs I can choose. I find that I tend towards some of the older gospel songs. I think that there isn’t any more beautiful hymn than Near the Cross and I get to indulge that on Good Friday. I was tempted to do The Old Rugged Cross but I was worried that people would think I was being indulgent. There’s a version of The Old Rugged Cross by Bart Millard that I think is brilliant and I feel like if you can do it that way you would earn the right to do that song on any Sunday of the year, but I’m not sure I can do it like that. I need the steel guitar.
I also like to include Psalm 22 in the service and when I read that whole Psalm in the context of Good Friday it gives me chills. It sounds as if it’s a Psalm that was written about Jesus after he’d died and come back to life, but when I realize that it was written hundreds of years before it makes my head spin a little. It’s not so much the details like the casting of lots for his clothes, but it’s the second part of the Psalm that talks about what is to come – ending with the line “he has done it”. It sounds like a Psalm of praise to Jesus. I think it’s astonishing. I think it’s one of the most amazing Psalms.
You can read through the story of Good Friday with this whole huge mountain of dramatic irony hanging like a sunburst behind the clouds. It’s an utterly horrid account of injustice and cruelty, but we know that it turns completely upside down in a glorious twist of divine deliverance and so we can endure the horror of it all so much differently than if we didn’t know what we do.
It’s perhaps why there was so much criticism of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. It was certainly a violent violent movie – I would suggest unnecessarily so, but the criticism from many many people who didn’t believe that this was a story about a man who rose from the dead was probably much fiercer than if they had that perspective of how it all turned out. If you don’t share that hope and that sense of dramatic irony, it all seems shockingly disgusting by a factor of 100 or more. I think criticism of the violence of it was certainly justified, but there’s a way you approach it that is different when you have that belief in the resurrection that followed.
Jesus is amazing in so many ways, and for me Good Friday is one of my favourite days just to bask in the depth and the richness of his greatness. He is the embodiment of hope in the midst of any and every instance of suffering this world can throw at us.