Good Friday. It is a day that, for followers of Jesus, is a bit of a misnomer. It is good, in the sense that it was the day our Savior turned over every right of his own to give them to us. It is good because we know that it is followed by the most miraculous event mankind has ever known: the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It is good because without this day, there is no hope for humanity.
But in reality, this day was painful, it was scary, is was full of fear and it was, for a short time, a moment that darkness won.
The day began with betrayal. Judas, one of Jesus’ closest friends and followers, sold the love and trust built over three years for thirty pieces of silver and a brief moment of recognition from the people in power.
Next came an arrest, and a barrage of false accusations toward a man who refused to defend himself. When cursed, he took it. When insulted, he remained silent. When asked to give an answer as to whether or not he was the Son of God, his only response was, “You have said so.” No arguing. No throwing three years of miracles and testimonies back in his accusers face. Just the greatest display of humility the world has ever seen.
Then came the abuse. The whip. The crown of thorns. The spit and the mockery. And while his body was beaten so was his soul, as no one emerged from the angry crowd to defend him but instead gathered a collective strength to ask that a notorious prisoner be released rather than him.
In the midst of all of this was the pain and confusion of those who gave their lives to follow him. Mary, his mother, watched each drop of blood spill from his body. Peter, a loyal friend and follower, lost himself in doubt and fear and anxiety and three times denied ever knowing him at all. The rest of his small tribe of eleven may have been somewhere in the chaos of the crowd, but none emerged as defender, no one spoke up as an advocate.
Then came the darkness. For three hours in the middle of the afternoon, there was darkness over all the land before the moment that the agonizing cry of Jesus made an echo for eternity: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? The sin and struggle of the whole world laid squarely on a man who deserved none of it, satisfying the justice of God, providing every man in history an answer for the condition of his heart.
Death won the day on Good Friday. It won with fear, it won with doubt, and it won with a brief moment of wondering, “where is our Savior now?”
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how to talk to my kids about Easter. We picked out a cute dress for Harper and polo shirts for Cannon and Jordi. We will have an Easter egg hunt with Grandma and brunch with our family. We will tell the story to Harper with the help of our “Resurrection Eggs” and try to keep the tiny silver cup and crown of thorns out of Cannon’s mouth as we do. For now, these things will suffice. They will mark Easter as a special day in their little minds, and we will pray with growing fervor that the weighty truth of this beautiful holiday lands heavy in their hearts as they grow.
But cute dresses and colorful plastic eggs will not always be enough. Our best attempts at helping our kids make sense of these three days in history will always fall short if we don’t face the truth: we live in a world that feels a lot like Good Friday. The fear in our lives today is real; we are reading stories of innocent lives taken by bombs and guns and we cannot help but wonder where next, God, and who next? How long shall the wicked triumph? The doubt in our lives is real; we are both hearing and living stories of pain and injustice and a life far from that of Eden, and we wonder if our faith is big enough to get through it all. We are watching political rhetoric fall to the lowest level of dignity, if it even has any of that left. We see divisiveness at every turn even among our own families and communities, and a lot of us, we wonder all the time, “where is our Savior now?”
So much of life is a Good Friday kind of feeling.
Mary, Peter, the disciples, and many of the people who put their faith in a man who mystified the first-century world, they spent three days thinking the story ended on Friday. They saw their Rabbi, their friend, put to a torturous death. They had watched with terror and shame as an innocent man was brutally executed and I can only imagine that their grief clouded any ability to know what to do next.
But Sunday came. And we know that on Sunday, two women went to the most guarded tomb in history and found it empty. Empty. A boulder, Roman soldiers, weapons, and law on the side of the accusers, and the once-dead defendant walked out on his own, met the two awe-struck women on the road, and greeted them.
We know that Jesus then met his disciples on a mountain in Galilee, and before instructing them to tell this very story to the whole world, he promised, “I am with you always...”
We know that the Holy Spirit descended on the small church of believers not many days from that promise, and under the power of that Spirit the first believers spread the gospel of Jesus throughout the ancient world. We gather in churches today, two thousand years later, thanks to the conviction of those brave men and women.
The people who were the most afraid on Good Friday became the most courageous after Sunday. The very same man whom they were afraid for their lives to speak up for became the savior they couldn’t stop talking about. Their fear turned to courage because of Sunday, because of an empty grave, because of an impossible truth: He is not here, He is risen!
The whole earth is groaning, longing for Eden again. It is easy for fear and doubt and wonder to cripple our faith, like they did the evening of Good Friday.
But friends, we also have Sunday.
As I try to tell these truths to my children, I realize anew how powerful they are to me.
Because soon the little faces in front of me will be older, and I know at some point life will start to feel the Good Friday kind of hard to them, too. But I will tell them that we serve a good, good, Father. We know that he is trustworthy, and we know that his holiness is our hope. I will tell them that our lives are as short as a breath, but that we can tell a beautiful story of redemptive work in the time we are given. I will tell them that if this story we tell on Easter is true, then it changes everything. And if it is not true, not even the Easter egg hunt is worth it. And I will tell them that when it seems like death has won the day, remember that Jesus Christ won the world. Even when life feels heavy like Friday, we can live with the joy and boldness of Sunday. What amazing grace!
And then, because we never outgrow our need to be reminded that our faith is only in that selfless act on the cross, I will tell myself those very same things.