Good Friday has always seemed to be the most oddly named day in the Christian year. What is so “good” about this particular Friday, this day of death? Jesus, the Christ, died on a Roman cross on this day. His disciples abandoned him. Guards beat him and spit on him. Jesus was nailed to lumber. He died. This is a day we want to invest a lot of time in for worship or reflection?
What can be good about this? Why do we Christians hold special services on this day? Whether you are a participant or a leader of such services, they always lean to the dreary side. Paraments are black. Anything shiny on or near the altar is covered in black, or removed entirely. The Scriptures we read focus on the trial, beatings, and death of Christ. The music is quite somber, along the lines of Ennio Morricone’s “The Mission,” or “There is a fountain filled with blood.” Introspection prominently features on Good Friday. Is Good Friday really needed? Do we really need to go through all this? Can we not simply go from Palm Sunday to Easter?
We try everything to escape our mortality. Exercising religiously. Recreating our bodies through a variety of surgeries—a nip and tuck to shave years off our age. Human growth hormone. Testosterone pills or patches. The latest superfood. Less sugar. More water. No bread. More protein. All these and more may be fine and good, perhaps even necessary. But it is clear that Americans do not like death.
Having worked in a cemetery for many a summer as a youth, I dug graves as part of my duties. Most of the work was done by a backhoe, but at the end, I had to climb down into the grave and square off the corners. The vault that the coffin rested in had to be level, so the grace itself had to be as close to ninety degree angles as possible. I and my co-workers didn’t make too much of this activity. . .unless there was the deceased’s family present. Then we remembered they were there to bid goodbye to their loved one. Most people would not stay around after the coffin was lowered. The finality of seeing the body of the deceased in the ground, or watching the dirt piled on top of the coffin was too much. We don’t like death or dying.
As a pastor, I have witnessed how we seek to dress up dying, or try to sanitize it as much as possible, to avoid the reality of death. This too may be needed to ease our grief, or honor the deceased. More and more people are opting to be cremated, for a variety of reasons. The people I have talked with choose cremation to avoid much interaction at the funeral home, coffin, gravesite, headstone and more. But the fact remains—we do not like death.
We have salvation because of what occurred on Good Friday. The day reminds us death is reality. We can’t escape it, no matter how hard we try. If even the Lord of all creation died, so must we. We need to face the fact that Christ died for all of humanity. It is imperative we take time to stare into the abyss of him perishing on a cross for us.
Somber worship is essential to attune our souls to salvation’s requirement. The day is “good” for without it the praise and celebration of Easter morning are meaningless. Christ had to die before resurrection could occur. “It is finished,” he said. In the finishing, we have beginning.
Good Friday is necessary. Needed. More, we should want Good Friday. It may be the most necessary day of the year.
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