I always looked forward to Good Friday as a kid. We didn't have school. I didn't come from a district that had a spring break, so this was a truly good Friday in my mind growing up, because I knew we had a long weekend, with Easter Monday off as well.
That was enough to make a simple kid like me look forward to the holiday. That, and the promise of wearing a pretty Easter dress to church. Not a frilly one, mind you, like my little friends wore, because my mom's austere taste was too refined for the gaudy, ruffly dresses (that I was not-so-secretly dying for). Anyway--
I did always wonder what made it a "good" Friday.
The question was never answered sufficiently until I was older and interested in faith on my own. It's hard to internalize matters of faith until you actually, well, internalize them. You can't get by and deal with the troubles in life leaning on your parents' and grandparents' faith. It has to become yours, or it can never bear any weight. The smallest trouble blow it away like a dandelion seed on the wind, unless you have made faith part of your own life. We both know that to be true.
So when life got hard, I had to come to grips with faith. And then when that faith became my own, I was finally interested in the answers to a lot of questions I had been holding in my heart.
This was one of them.
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:45-46
Jesus called out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:46
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God." Mark 15:37-39
Good Friday doesn't look all that good when you look clearly at the details.
But that does not mean that God isn't using it for good. For yours, and mine. For the future, and for all time. And that is what makes it good.
Follow with me here.
Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God."
"You believe at last!" Jesus answered. "But a time is coming and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:29-32
Jesus clearly states that we have peace in him, and we will be scattered to our own homes. Hmmm, I notice relevance here....
But take heart, He says.
Years after this, Paul will state that we are all more than conquerors because of Jesus Christ. But in this moment, on that particular Friday, the situation looks grim. Jesus doesn't look like a conqueror, he looks pitiful--beaten and bloody and hanging to die on a cross, in a shameful (there was a curse that followed being hung on a tree) manner, fitting for the worst criminals of the Roman empire.
In that moment, Jesus doesn't look like an overcomer.
But before the pain of betrayal from a friend, before the up-all-night-sweating-blood anxiety; before the pain and humiliation of being mocked, jeered at; the agony of the flogging and crucifixion, there was a humble servant. And he was abandoned. Fully man and fully God (Lord, help us comprehend the mystery) who was So SURE that his Father was in control that he KNEW in advance that he was a conqueror. In spite of his personal feelings at that moment.
He just had to follow the plan God had already given him.
And no matter what befell him, Jesus trusted his Father.
Even when he was scared.
Even when the soldiers were putting the nails into his hands and feet.
Jesus wanted the situation to be different. He prayed, "Father if you are willing, take this cup from me..." (Luke 22.:42) meaning--God if there is ANY other way, do that instead! Jesus had fear. He was so upset he sweated blood that night in Gethsemane (which science later confirmed was a real THING under severe duress), but he kept trusting.
It is nearly impossible for modern persons like ourselves to really imagine.
What we need to see here is this: The worst possible day ever--when God himself lays down hist life to die at the hand of man--turns out to be only way we can be saved.
The worst day in the history of man, turns out to be our only hope.
Baffling, and strangely beautiful.
We don't see the good in the pain. We don't.
We don't know how pain in the moment can look like victory in the final. We just cannot think like that. But that is what Easter is all about.
That first Easter, Friday night and Saturday, Jesus friends (by this time, he had very few followers, since he looked like any old criminal hung on a cross) were walking through immense pain and sadness.
They had no idea victory was coming.
Friends, we need to live our lives like we know the end of the story--that we recognize the victory is ours. Because it is.
Don't let the circumstances in this world bring you down. Yes, there is much to fear. Yes, there is pain. Yes, there is sadness. Yes, there is virus and boredom and quarantine and illness. And we are supposed to help in whatever way we can to make lives better, when we can.
But don't get stuck in "Saturday" mode.
Sunday morning comes, and the stone rolls away, and the grave is empty.
Death and defeat do not win.
Darkness doesn't not win.
Mourning doesn't win.
We have a Savior who LIVES. And this Savior lives in us, and for us, and through us. It was a good Friday because of what comes after. Resurrection is right around the corner.
Keep hope, my friends. Take heart! And don't let go.
Have the most joyful Easter celebration ever. It was never about baskets and eggs and bunnies, but about forgiveness and rebirth and new beginnings in Christ.
Amen. So be it.
xo, Ann Marie