Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

It is a little puzzling to understand why we would commemorate the day Jesus died as "good" Friday. It seems to be an oxymoron when we consider the brutal beating, ridicule and death of an innocent man and yet call it "good". Where did this originate?
What we can know for sure is that it is not biblical - meaning only that the term did not originate from scripture. Instead, the term appears in the early Catholic church where every Friday was considered a feast day and the Friday in which Jesus died was a most important day - A Holy and Great Friday.
In Latin countries, it is called "Holy Friday." In Germany, it is called "Mourning Friday" or "Friday of Mourning." Norway refers to it as "Long Friday" (a reference to the length of the day's services). The Orthodox Churches call it "Holy Friday" and "Great Friday." In English speaking countries, it is translated as "Good Friday".
As I have reflected on the events of this week and their importance in my life, I have been struck by the single minded vision of Jesus. In a moment of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asks His Father one last time, "Is there any other way this can be done?" Finding His answer in the silence, he submits, "Not my will Father, but may your will be done."
He was human - and like all humanity, we want the redemption without the cross. There is no question redemption is necessary, but to willingly accept pain, suffering, ridicule, and torturous death - that's just not human.
But it seems to me that the agony of the crucifixion was not the burden in the heart of Jesus. Even worse that the pain of crucifixion was the burden of sin and separation from the Father. As Jesus prayer for alternatives, His mind was not on the crown of thorns pressed onto his skin, the whip with embedded glass raked across His back, nor the spikes driven through His hands and feet.
No - the pain which supersedes all this agony is the weight of sin He bore on our behalf. The punishment of every human's sin - past, present and future. A pain He endured because His heart beat with the desire for none to perish but all to come to eternal life (2Pet 3:9).
Yet there may be something more. I think there is...
Knowing the heart of Jesus as revealed in Scripture, the burden of sin He would gladly bear should the people look upon His sacrifice with faith. Perhaps the pain and agony Jesus would feel the most is the understanding that there would be many who would learn of His sacrifice, who would witness His great love, and yet walk away, choosing to reject the gift He so willingly offers. Can there be any pain greater than the pain of sacrifice rejected.
To lay down one's life for someone who looks upon your death and then walks away. Jesus know this would be the case and I believe this was the heaviest burden of all.
I pray, as I reflect on this day, that I avoid seeking redemption without the burden of carrying the cross. I pray I reflect on the crucifixion of my Savior and realize that I was on His mind when he was hanging on the tree. I pray that I live in the freedom from the penalty of sin He purchased with His own blood on my behalf and may I honor Him with love and devotion unmatched by anything else in my life.
The words from a song by kathryn Scott seem to echo my prayer:

At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me Your love
Through the judgment You received
And You've won my heart
And You've won my heart

Now I can trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross

At the foot of the cross
Where I am made complete
You have given me life
Through the death you bore for me
And You've won my heart
And You've won my heart