The First Good Friday
Here in the United States, we call this day Good Friday. In Germany, it is known as Karfreitag or “Sorrowful Friday.” Christians living in Eastern countries refer to it as “Holy Friday.” Whatever you call it, today is the day set aside to remember the death of Jesus on the cross.
Jesus’ disciples probably would not have referred to the Friday that Jesus was crucified as “good.” In fact, from their perspective, the death of Jesus was also the death of many dreams and hopes that they shared. They had traveled with Jesus for three years. He was more than just a close friend. With Jesus, they had seen blind men given back their sight. They had seen storms calmed with just a word from Jesus. They had walked on water, caught fish where there had been none before, seen crowds fed with one boy’s meager lunch. They had even seen the dead raised to life again.
The disciples were just beginning to understand that Jesus was the Son of God. They were looking to him to bring them freedom from their Roman oppressors, to raise up a new kingdom, and to deliver them from their enemies. Watching him die on a cross was the last thing that they expected, and to them, his death would have seemed like the end of all their hopes. How could a dead man deliver them? How could a dead man save them or build a kingdom? How could Jesus be the Son of God if he lay dead in a tomb?
Imagine what it would be like to be the disciples, to watch your teacher and leader suffer and die, to go home in fear and utter hopelessness. After three years of miracles and teachings and parables and healings, all of it has come to a crashing end. The earth has literally shaken. Darkness has descended. The temple curtain has ripped in two. Good Friday would seem like the worst day in human history.
Now imagine, in that despair and hopelessness and fear, that you find the tomb empty on Sunday morning. Jesus is not there. However, it isn’t just his body that is missing. Jesus is alive again. You see him, you eat with him. All of your hopes and dreams, along with Jesus, are resurrected. He is the Savior, the Messiah you had hoped for. He just didn’t do things the way you expected. And as always, God’s plan is even bigger and better than your own.
This Easter, let’s celebrate the resurrection the way the disciples would have. Celebrate as if you are hearing the news of the resurrection for the very first time. After all, no matter how many times we hear the story, it doesn’t make it any less miraculous or wonderful. We can call Good Friday “good” because we know that Easter is coming. Good Friday is not the end of the story. Jesus is not dead; he is alive and present and active in our world and lives. And that should make us want to celebrate.