Why Good Friday is Good

My Good Friday was good–wonderful, actually! Slept in, read, hung laundry in the sunshine (probably my favourite chore), met a friend in the park, went for ice cream and laughed alot, had a picnic in the forest with friends–all told, it was a great day. A good day becomes immeasurably better when the sun shines.

I’ve often wondered why it’s called Good Friday because it was a terrible day. Last Sunday when the pastor talked about Jesus’ trial and suffering, it made me cry. There’s nothing nice about that story.

The payment for sin was death. That’s easy to understand. But why did it have to hurt so much? Why the thorns and scourges? Maybe His pain is the best way that He could get our attention. Maybe nothing else would impact us as much. We don’t know so well how it feels to die but we know what it’s like to hurt. Though no one ever hurt like He did.

I think that the worst pain is alonenness, abandonment. What is good about Easter is to know that “as dark as it gets” happened already. It will never hurt as much as He hurt. So now even the worst pain–aloneness–has fellowship. His suffering means that we are never alone in our suffering.

I can’t explain it well, but Mark Galli does here. He explains why Good Friday was good and how forsakeness is redemptive. His message is courageous and comforting. Excerpts below:

Sometimes this word remains unspoken, but the sentiment is a steady reality. There is no great anguish. There are no tears. There is just the daily, ongoing experience of God’s absence. … We wouldn’t quite say we’re forsaken, but neither would we say God is a living reality. But at the end of another dreary day of divine absence, when we turn out the bed lamp and lie still in the dark, waiting for sleep to overtake us, we wonder, Why don’t I experience God more?

Sometimes the experience of God-forsakenness is much more keen. You are at a place of deep and profound need. You are staring into the face of death. Or your spouse is. Or your child is. Or you’ve lost a job or are about to lose a marriage. Or you are losing your faith. But whatever the crisis, it is a crisis. My God, you hang on a cross, and it’s excruciating, and this would be an awfully good time for God to show up…

But God is not showing up. There is nothing but silence, and the sounds that make the silence worse…

What is it with God, the God who promises abundant life, the God who invites all the weary and heavy laden to seek him out for rest? Why does this God sometimes seem to fail us just when the chips are down, just when we need him most?

The experience of God’s love is a wonderful thing, a divine gift, but like all divine gifts it can be so wonderful that we make it an end in itself. Instead of believing in God, we start believing in prayer. Instead of trusting in God, we believe in the authority of the Bible. Instead of simply basking in the love of family, friends, and church, and returning that love, the very meaning of our lives becomes determined by these relationships.

Who can say what Jesus experienced on the cross? What exactly was the nature of this forsakenness that he exclaimed? We know in one sense that Jesus’ death, and his forsakenness, was utterly unique, never to be repeated.

…if Christ’s incarnation—which includes his forsaken crucifixion—is a participation in humanity and thus our participation in him, then all humanity shares in Christ’s forsakenness, and to freely share in this forsakenness by faith becomes a way we grow fully into Christ-likeness. Whatever it meant for Jesus, it surely means this much for us: It means to know the abandonment that is the dead fruit of human sin and evil. It means to recognize the incomprehensible distance between us and an infinite and righteous God, to recognize again the terrors of life outside of life in him. It means also to grieve, not unlike Jesus, over our own and our world’s hardness of heart (“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!”). It is indeed a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the living God, for it means to suffer in ways not unlike the suffering of Jesus.

Again, let’s not wax tragic here. This is not the end of the story. Forsakenness would be tragic had Jesus not risen from the grave. We would not have the courage to talk about this sobering reality if it were not Easter.

Still, they come, these times of forsakenness. We are wise to remind ourselves that the cross is indeed part of the story of Jesus, and to the degree we would be like him, it becomes part of our story. You want to be like Jesus? “Okay,” says God. “Good for you! Be prepared to know forsakenness!” Because we can know Jesus, can be one with Jesus and the Father, only when we know this.

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