One of the top stories on AL.com this morning was an article written by Greg Garrison called, “Why do they call it Good Friday?” It’s a great article and the author does a great job explaining context, theology, and tradition. I appreciated the explanation and the question being asked in such a public way; however, I found myself taking it a different direction. I wasn’t sure that even with the answers in front of me that I understood it. Explaining the meaning of the cross of Jesus doesn’t help me to understand it. I want to sit with it. Wrestle with it. I want to consider the cross and what Jesus’ last words, “It is finished” mean to me.
We have gotten slightly uncomfortable with mystery and I am the first to begin trotting with anxiety to my nearest Google search bar to satisfy my curiosity and questions. This isn’t a question that google can answer. Why is the day that God died a good day? We can look up generations and ages of beautiful and thorough theological thoughts to find an adequate response, but in other ways it’s more a question of perspective and experience. I am far away. Any answer that I come up with wouldn’t be able to touch or respond to the agony and the grief of those crowds, disciples, and family members that gathered on that deadly hill and saw their Savior die. To those witnesses, in that moment, there was very little that was good. On that first day, the finality of the cross was crushing. There wasn’t 2000 years of explanation to comfort us and tell us that everything is going to be alright, Sunday is coming. I imagine when Mary went home that night, she didn’t thank God for grace and for forgiveness. She was probably closer to feeling the words that she heard from her son, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” She probably had to be carried home from trauma rather than walking back in victory. If Mary slept at all, it was out of exhaustion and grief rather than peace and assurance. The comfort and anticipation that we have of a few days later was dead to her.
“It is finished.” To us, those words are a transitional movement. They are an accomplishment of one part of Christ’s ministry before another that starts with angels and large stones being rolled away. To the disciples and others, “it is finished,” hung in the air like death. Their thoughts immediately went to scattering and survival. Let’s not distance ourselves too much though. Even with over two millennia of story that tell us that everything is going to be alright, we know that feeling too well. We know what hopelessness feels like. Maybe we know the next chapter of the cross in our minds, but we all have moments in our lives that feel like we’re at the foot of that cross and our hope is stolen and murdered. We’re not so far away. We know how Friday can feel.
There are circumstances in this life that we don’t feel are ever going to change. We can push, fight, cry, and yell all we want. We can know all the right answers, even the disciples had been told it would be alright, but when you’re in the midst of a battle, it’s hard not to recognize that sinking feeling of death when you know you’re on the losing end. You feel beaten. You feel finished when the words from the cross echo through us, “It is finished.” We are finished.
Sometimes hope is so very hard to see. Sometimes hope looks like death. But hope is not so easily finished. The words that we take as loss and death keep ringing and hanging over us, too stubburn to fade away. “It is finished.” Those words contain the seeds of Good News. They are not words about us. They are words for us. We are not finished yet. Rather, the power that death and hopelessness had over us is finished. The chains that addictions have over us is finished. The power that anger and stress have over us to crush us and crush those around us is finished. Every voice, diagnosis, and debt that told us that we are not capable of being made new again is finished. It’s broken, helpless, and impotent. We can know the explanations of why Good Friday is good, but until we’ve felt what it’s like to have what’s bent, broken, and dead in our lives redeemed and given a taste of recreation, our perspective of the cross will always fall short of eternal.
Our story stretches thousands of years to the cross of Jesus, and before that, to the first moments of creation when God wanted to be with us. We are the ones who sit in a mystery. We see beyond ourselves. We look upon death and still see hope. We are the ones who can look at a veiled, tortured and absent God and know that he is still king. We are the ones that endure as a flickering light in the darkness so that others may see a sense of hope and steadiness. On this Good Friday, rather than just answering the question, why is it good that God died, we can start to show the world. We can be the ones who stand watch for three days and care for those who still tremble. We can be the ones who leave here today with a story and a purpose that God is not finished with us yet. A new day has come. A new type of Friday. A Good Friday.
*the feature picture is from Flickr image share sourced on Google images