You died today. You really died. Your heart stopped. Your lungs emptied. Your spirit left your body.
Good Friday has always been a heavy day for my heart. I tread through this day like I tread through a cemetery: with light steps and a heavy heart. There is a certain amount of reverence, fear, awe, and respect that has always captured me about this day. Mostly on this day I want to pause and reflect. I want to feel. So much could be said, but I want to remain silent. Yet, this is a blog. So I will share a few words:
No One Is Good But God
Why do we call this day “Good Friday”? What is good about the suffering and death of an innocent man? Sure, we could selfishly say that it is good for us because on this day our salvation was purchased. But what an insensitive posture with which to approach this day! Some have said this day is called Good Friday using the word “good” in the sense of a good, high, and holy day: a day set apart. That may be a proper etymology. Others have suggested that Good Friday was originally God Friday, but then became popularized with the word good instead of God. That would not be surprising, especially when considering our culture.
As I think of “Good Friday,” I remember one slight and passing comment that Jesus said when answering a man’s question:
As he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”
There is much to be debated and wondered at from this fleeting phrase. Was Jesus denying his divinity? Or was he asserting it? I suppose that depends on how you read the story. Perhaps we can ask the same question, but in the context of Good Friday rather than Good Teacher. One might rephrase the question this way, “Why do we call this Good Friday? No day is good, except for God’s day?” Well, is this day good or not? Is this God’s day or not?
No Day Is Good But God’s
Of course not! We may assume. This is the day that evil triumphed. It is the day that injustice won out. Innocence was swallowed up by sin; humility was stamped down by pride. And it would be natural to assert and assume such. But what did the readings from today tell us? “We thought his affliction and torment was the abandonment of God, when all the while it was God’s rescue plan!” or “When someone is facing affliction it is not because God has abandoned him!” What do we learn from these? That today is not the triumph of injustice, but precisely the opposite.
Today is in fact God’s day because it is this day that God did what only God could do. It is the day that Jesus, in the words of N.T. Wright, “took upon himself the Accuser’s sharpest arrow and, dying under its force, robbed the Accuser of any further real power.” It is this day that the devil was disarmed. God, in Jesus, took on what only he could take on: Death itself!
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The devil may have been disarmed, but he is not yet defeated. Death still stings. The disciples are still scattered. We are still in disarray.
We veil our faces before your glory,
O Holy and Immortal one,
and bow before the cross of your wounded Christ.
with angels and archangels,
we praise you, our Mercy,
and we bless you, our Compassion,
for in our brokenness
you have not abandoned us.
Hear us as we pray through Jesus, our high priest:
heal all division,
reconcile the estranged,
console the suffering,
and raise up to new life
all that is bound by death. Amen.