By: Brian Brandau
What’s good about Good Friday?
Good Friday has been described as the darkest day in history. Those who have read the Gospel narratives are well acquainted with how bleak this day actually was. Jesus was publicly flogged, humiliated, condemned and executed by a nervous Roman prefect and an insulted High Priest.
But the story doesn’t end there. Christians typically see this dark day in light of the event that happens three days (ish) later. I often nearly forget Good Friday myself in the rush to the glorious hope that is Easter Sunday. I tend to almost consider Good Friday the “rising tension” to the Resurrection, which is the climax of the Gospels. Kind of like what The Empire Strikes Back is to The Return of the Jedi. But is it really fair to gloss over Good Friday like that? To see at as little more than the necessary death to the coming Resurrection?
I do think there’s a lot for Good Friday to teach us. While Easter is a tremendously hopeful and clean…and sanitary…day, Good Friday is bloody and grim. Good Friday reminds us of how messy a business sin and salvation really is.
Sin pervades the world. It’s everywhere. We cannot go a single day without feeling and seeing its effects. We are a society ever on the verge of self-destruction. People are killed and lives are ruined every waking minute of every day. Although we in affluent communities are often sheltered from the worst horrors of our fallen world, the hidden strife is always lurking around us. Even in my (largely) culturally homogenous, affluent liberal arts college in Nowhere, Iowa, hearts are broken, people are hurting and many people grapple with despair from day to day.
My hometown of Osage, IA recently underwent a terrible tragedy where a 13-year-old boy shot and killed his mother. It was the first homicide in my sleepy farm county since 1898, a horrific reminder that sin has infected the entire human race. I cannot imagine what kinds of unspeakable pain, hidden abuses and psychological maladies could have been responsible, but I am not surprised that such things are possible. Every once in a while, events like these throw into sharp relief the kind of world we live in. It reminds us of the insurmountable despair we face if we hope to save this world by our own efforts.
But we are not left to our own devices. Jesus, God’s perfect Son, saves us. We know that story. The Passion of the Christ—it’s more than just a movie—is a stark reflection of the world’s condition. We cannot ignore the world’s pain if we want to be witnesses to the true power of the Gospel. People know that the world we live in is messed up. Christians should never pretend that the Gospels have washed their hands of that ever-pressing truth. Jesus endured the worst of the world’s falleness for our sake. He didn’t sidestep it, and neither should we.
So as we await the coming of Easter this Sunday, let’s make sure to reflect on the unfinished work of the Gospels. Let us take up our crosses daily, to acknowledge and carry the weight of brokenness and sin for our brothers and sisters around us. Let us recognize injustice, from a 13-year-old murderer in my backyard, to the George Zimmermans and Trayvon Martins who remind us that fear and hatred make monsters and victims of us all, to those dying by the droves in the streets of Syria.
Christ did so. On Good Friday, God bore the brunt of sin’s brutality, malice and insidiousness. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” as 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us. He experienced the awful truth that life is unfair and cruel and the curse binds us to weakness and shame. Thank God for Easter. Remember why it is necessary. And in remembering why it is so necessary, let us be all the more thankful that God’s grace and sacrifice is sufficient for the chasms of our deepest weaknesses.
Good Friday is good. In a terrible, terrible way.