What’s So Good About It Anyway?
Like many churches, both Catholic and Protestant, my home church has a Good Friday service. It is somber and quiet and given to deep introspection. I remember on one such Good Friday service a bit of a ruckus ensued. Apparently, I say apparently because I did not immediately take notice, a young couple was sitting in the pew directly behind us, and were having a quiet conversation. As it turned out the young man had not been to our church before and all that he was witnessing was new and obviously strange to him. He was asking his girlfriend next to him what the meaning of the service was and just, what it was all about.
At this point a congregant from across the aisle came over to hush what he thought were acts of disrespect, rather than the curiosity that was being witnessed. Only at that point was I aware of any conversation going on. More than a few others in attendance became aware as well. This included the senior pastor who leaned over and gave a look over his glasses that clearly indicated he was not altogether pleased. I’ll set aside the questions surrounding the congregant’s reaction and travel across the aisle during service to focus on the young man who was clearly curious.
If I were this person, I would be curious too. It is perhaps a bit odd to choose Good Friday as the first service to invite a newcomer to church, but then again maybe not. After all it is Jesus’s death that sets our faith in motion. Anyway, Good Friday is somewhat mysterious even to Christians, much less those outside the faith. What is so good about commemorating the torture and murder of the one we as Christians consider to be the Son of God. It seems so sadistic to note such a day as “good”.
Recognition, Not Celebration
What goes on in a church on Good Friday is not a sadistic celebration of a ritual state sponsored murder of an innocent man. It is simply a recognition of the price that Jesus paid for His earthly ministry. It is a visible reminder that the grace that God bestows upon His children is not cheap, it is in fact, hideously expensive.
It is also a day to remember why Jesus died. It is because of the sinful nature of a fallen humanity that sent Jesus to earth to share in our humanity and sent Him to the cross to show us what a fully human life of sacrifice looks like. Also, if there is to be a resurrection, then there must be a death. The glory of the empty tomb must first pass through the pain of the Cross. This is why the Good Friday service is so somber.
When Jesus Becomes The Christ
Then there is the miracle of what happens on the Cross. I say miracle because I cannot describe it any other way. Jesus commits the ultimate act of forgiveness. He forgives those who killed Him from the Cross. He is literally dying a horrible death at the hands of merciless henchman of a brutal dictatorship, and He forgives them. For me, it is at this moment that Jesus becomes the Christ. It is at this moment that He truly reveals Himself as the exemplar and template for humanity.
Obviously, all this make sense in light of our faith in the resurrection. Without the resurrection all of this is moot. Nonetheless, it is the path that our Lord took on our behalf, on that awful day that reveals Him for who He is, our Lord and Savior. This is what makes this Friday Good.
Anyway, that is what I would have told that curious young man sitting behind us during that service, as well as affirming the curiosity that both brought him to service and prompted him to ask questions. Questioning souls at such a somber service are also what makes this somber Friday and any other day of the week for that matter, Good.
Praise Be to God