The Goodness of This Friday
The “goodness” of Good Friday has always eluded me. I keenly feel the heaviness of humanity’s selfishness, sin, and deceit on this day dedicated to remembering Jesus’s crucifixion and death. I learned later in life that this unique day isn’t always called “good” but is known by many different names by Christians around the world:
In Spanish, “Viernes Santo” or “Holy Friday”
In Greek, “Μεγάλη Παρασκευή” which translates to "Great Friday"
In German, “Karfreitag” or "Mourning Friday"
In Bulgarian, “Разпети петък” or "Crucified Friday"
In the Scandinavian languages and Finnish ("pitkäperjantai"), it is called "Long Friday"
This year, I’ve been repeating that “genuine transformation is only possible in the presence of great love and/or great suffering.” The greatness of intermingled love and pain has never been greater than what Jesus manifested on the cross. While the events recorded in Luke 23 (which will guide this evening’s worship service) are pure evil, the fruit of Jesus’s labors is beyond “good” or “great,” or even “holy.” What Jesus accomplished is transcendent.
But how can it be? How does it work that Jesus’s innocent death on this day leads to something good or great or holy?
There are hints in the world of biology and physics as to how the deep wisdom of God operates. It is planting season here in Illinois. The frost is gone and the soil is ready. Every green thumb knows that the healthiest growth is aided by decaying matter, compost, and even manure. In one of the mysteries of the natural world, the hidden secrets of seemingly “dead” seeds are unlocked in the presence of already “dead” and “rotting” matter. In particular, the nitrogen and phosphorus released from manure brings life. The plant that bore the seed will live again, emerging from the tomb of earth and soil green, alive, and breathing.
In a similar way, the cross stinks of death, rot, and decay. It is the grand culmination of the manure pile of human history. But mystery of mysteries, when the seed of Jesus’s body was planted beside that rot, new life emerged on that very spot. This resurrection was catalyzed by the toxic chemicals of human fear, hatred, and deceit. These were the raw materials that heightened Jesus’s immense suffering and love for us, Who could have guessed?
The powers of evil could not! Satan, having ignorantly orchestrated the events of Jesus’s passion, did not understand the deeper wisdom of God.
Perhaps that is why this Friday is “good.” Evil seems to have the upper hand. Darkness settles on the land. But the deep wisdom of God is doing its “good,” “holy,” even great “work.”
Let’s watch and wait for just a little while longer. Sunday. Is. coming.
May the Spirit bless you this weekend with a keen awareness of Jesus’s love and suffering on your behalf.
– Pastor Gregg