By the Rev. Darren Miner
I’d like to know who decided to call this day “Good Friday,” for there is nothing good about it. It is a solemn day, a dreadful day, an awful day. It is a day of fasting and abstinence. It is a day to contemplate the torture and execution of Jesus on a Cross, a day to confront death itself. And this year, we have to do all this in isolation, trapped in our own homes. No, it is not a “good” day!
So, why on earth do we put ourselves through this torment? Why are we compelled to think about the Cross? It would be much more congenial to skip right over Good Friday and to go straight to Easter Day. Now that’s what I call a good day!
Well, folks, that just wouldn’t work. You see, the road to Easter, the road to Resurrection, goes straight through the valley of the shadow of death. There is no other route. Before we can experience the new life of Christ, we must surrender the old life of sin. We do this for the first time at our baptism (or our godparents do it for us). We do this again and again every time we confess our sins to God, whether at Holy Eucharist or at Morning Prayer. And we do it today in spades!
There are many lessons to be learned from the Cross. But the first and foremost is that Christ died for us. And I put especial emphasis on the “for us.” Put another way, Christ died because of us. Once upon a time, the Church was in the habit of blaming the Jews, all Jews, for the death of Jesus. That slander was false then, and it is false now. One of the hymns normally sung during Holy Week has this verse:
Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee.
’Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee:
I crucified thee.
The fact is that we all share in the responsibility for Jesus’ agony on the Cross, for it was our sin that made this terrible sacrifice necessary. And it behooves us to remember that shameful fact on this most solemn day and to grieve.
On this day, for the sake of our souls, we are constrained to imagine the painful and humiliating death of Jesus of Nazareth. For our Lord did not die stoically, as John’s Gospel might lead us to believe. The other Gospels make it quite clear that Jesus suffered both physical and spiritual agony on that cross.
But, thanks be to God, agony and death were not the end of the story. And even on this day, which focuses on the death of our Lord, we need to keep in mind that the road goes on, out of the valley of the shadow of death, to a place of refreshment and eternal life. The Cross, as crucial as it is to our faith, is not the final destination. It is but the signpost to a place beyond death.
Later today, I would suggest that you take some time to look at a crucifix, a cross with Jesus’ body fixed to it. Maybe you have a crucifix on a wall somewhere in your home; maybe you have an icon of the Crucifixion. And even if you don’t, you can always Google the word “crucifixion” and bring up a medieval painting on your computer screen. Just take some time today to gaze upon the life-giving cross and upon the Son of God who was nailed to it. Look upon the one who suffered so that your sins might be forgiven you, and worship him!
© 2020 by Darren Miner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.