It’s the day that Christians have traditionally honored and remembered as the anniversary of Christ’s crucifixion and death. Because of that, it is generally a day that is solemn, sober – a day that of remembrance and reflection, not a day of celebration.
Because of that, for many, it is a day of repentance and penance – perhaps a Christianized version of giving thanks, while at the same time trying in some way through activities and remembrances and observation to partially repay a debt that can never be repaid.
To be honest, this Good Friday fills me with conflicting emotions. There is a part of me that finds Good Friday to be a day of hope, optimism, even joy – because it is, after all, GOOD Friday. While it was not good for Jesus, it is eternally good for those of us who put our faith in Him. It is good because it is over and done with, never to be repeated. It is good because we know the end of the story – the resurrection, ascension, and someday, return of Jesus.
It is Good Friday because it is simple – we owed a debt we could never pay; God paid it for us with the life of His Son. While volumes of theology have been written about this, it is also a message that can be summarized simply – for example, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Or theologian Karl Barth’s favorite summary of the simple message – “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me; yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me – the Bible tells me so.”
And yet so profound.
Because while part of me sees the hope and the joy and the “rest of the story”, there is also a part of me that sees the deeply convicting, difficult-to-comprehend, even “heavy” side of Good Friday:
- I’m not nearly as good as I sometimes fool myself into thinking I am. Although now I am saved by a grace and have a new nature, I entered this world a sinner. It was my sin – my sins – that put Jesus on that cross, that caused Him to suffer unimaginable agony.
- And I’m surrounded by people who are the same as me – whose sins also helped put Jesus on that cross.
- The events of the first Good Friday remind me of just how horrible and depraved people can be, and how inhumane humans can be towards one another. Then I check out the latest news online and I find out that people are still capable of great cruelty to one another.
And that leads to the most difficult part of Good Friday, at least for me – that God, who loves so much, and yet hates sin so much, could love me – and you – so much that He gave His Son for us.
I’ve known that truth for most of my life. I’ve preached about it, taught about it, written about it, heard about, read about it, seen it dramatized, seen it re-interpreted and updated into contemporary settings, thought about it, talked about it…
And I still don’t completely get it.
It’s an incredible mystery. God – infinite, perfect, holy, just, powerful – also loving, kind, and merciful.
God the Creator and Sustainer – sacrificing the life of His Son so that I could have eternal life. So that you could have eternal life.
I guess that’s why Jesus said that we have to become like children to enter the Kingdom. Because we’ll never completely understand it; never fully comprehend the depths of His love and the price He paid. And so, we have to simply accept it by faith.
So whatever your observance or activities may look like this Good Friday, leave some space for wonder.
Whether you grieve or celebrate, whether you focus on the events of Good Friday itself or are drawn more towards the “rest of the story” – like a child, accept with wonder and gratitude that which cannot be completely understood.
I am thankful that amazing grace doesn’t have to be completely understood in order to be experienced.