Today is Good Friday, one of the most significant days during Holy Week, and one of the most memorable days in the life of the Christian Church. It was on this day over 2,000 years ago that Jesus of Nazareth was mocked, brutally beaten, and ultimately crucified at Calvary. In many respects, it is for Christians a day of sadness and somber recognition of the sacrifice that Jesus made for all humanity. Can you imagine how the disciples of Jesus must have felt, having just shared the Last Supper with him? As they received his comfort, learned of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and discerned the importance of remaining in the vine and showing love to all, could they have comprehended merely 24 hours later that Jesus was now dying on a rugged cross? And what about Mary? How could she possibly understand that her son, full of youth yet wise and authoritative, would no longer fill her life with his anointed presence? Yes, her devoted son spoke from the cross to appoint his beloved disciple John as her new son, but surely this replacement was little consolation in the moment. From all appearances, it was certainly NOT a good Friday.
Nevertheless, we contemporary Christians have the benefit of historical perspective to know that by early Sunday morning, everything had changed. Jesus was raised from the dead, and in so doing, provided for us a way back to right relationship with God. Our atonement, that is, our ability to be “at one” with God once again, was made possible by Jesus’ loving willingness to give his life, and by the subsequent resurrection. The grace of the gospel could now achieve for us what we could never have accomplished by attempting to observe the law. For those of us who have striven for works-righteousness, that is, ways to demonstrate our goodness through our positive, charitable, and generous efforts, this is a huge relief! Sometimes we can become so consumed with showing the world “I’m a good person” that we develop anxieties as we try harder and harder to prove our worthiness. When we miss the mark, as we inevitably do, we may be launched into a deep depression which may lead us to question our identity and value. Eventually, this episode passes and we fashion a new plan for self-improvement, finding the strength to “earn” our way back into God’s good graces and greater respectability among our peers. This can become a vicious cycle…but God! God has not made us responsible for earning our salvation; it is a gift freely given, thanks to death and resurrection of Jesus. Salvation is more than enough, but God didn’t stop there: God gives us the power in our earthly existence to walk daily in the love, strength, and forgiveness God provides. Does this mean that our good works should cease? Not at all, as long as we remember that good works are the result, not the cause, of our redemption. So it is not Jesus’ suffering, but the gospel of our redemption and God’s effervescent grace, that make today a *very* Good Friday.
With this good news, may you and yours enjoy a very special Resurrection Day!
À votre santé (“To your health”),
Tonya D. Armstrong, Ph.D., M.T.S.