Good Friday is good because on this day in history, God demonstrated his love for humankind in the greatest way possible. To be sure, God from the moment he created the world had already shown his love in his creation by the very fact of his creating it. He created it in love, and this love was slowly in time revealed to be truly and divinely sacrificial and in the person of Jesus Christ. This love changed the destiny of all of us.
What did God do as he lived and walked this earth for those 33 years in the person of Jesus?
As Jesus lived his life, he manifested the kingdom of God. With each miracle, each teaching and by his very life, the love of God was revealed. It all came to a climax when the powers of the day believed that their reign was threatened by the teachings of Jesus. He was made to pay the price by being put to death by crucifixion. It was a most shameful death, reserved for the worst of criminals.
But Good Friday must never be seen in isolation.
We can misunderstand Good Friday if we view it in isolation only. It is in fact part of what we call the Holy Triduum, which has as its summit the joy of Easter. The Triduum or three holy days begin on the evening of Maundy Thursday, where we pray with Jesus as he gives us the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, and then is later betrayed and handed over to the authorities to be tried.
Good Friday has us being with Jesus on that shameful and sad day where with great love and humility, he submitted himself to pay the price of our sins and transgressions.
On Easter Sunday, we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are two sides of the same coin. There is no Easter without Good Friday, and it was Good Friday that resulted in the glory of Easter.
How does the death of Jesus save?
When something is damaged, someone has to pay. I was at a particular Chinese New Year gathering this year and someone parked his sports car outside of the house and a taxi passing by the house somehow scraped the fender of that car.
The owner of the sports car now had a damaged car. Someone had to pay – either the taxi driver, or his insurance company, or even if the driver waived it off and says “it’s only a fender”, he either pays for it himself or he lives with a damaged fender, which in itself is also paying for something broken.
Using this analogy, God sees the brokenness that our sins have caused, and instead of making us pay, he has paid for it by his own life, and out of love for us. This is one way of seeing God’s love through the cruel death of Jesus for us.
Another analogy of reverse osmosis may be useful here, which is how New Water is obtained. This process entails sending unpurified or contaminated water under high pressure and having it passed through a semipermeable membrane or a series of them. This membrane traps the ions, molecules and larger particles, leaving only the purified water to emerge at the other end of the process. So, from something dirty, perhaps even toxic, something that is life-giving and even life-saving comes through.
On Calvary, Jesus took on the sin of the world. In this analogy, sin contaminated and made the world impure. But Jesus out, of his death on that cross, gave the life that we know to be New Life.
He took upon himself anger, deception, lies, betrayal, jealousy, smallness of heart and hatred and refused to give it back in kind. Instead, under all that pressure, Jesus absorbed it and gave back instead charity, truth, loyalty, obedience, through a heart that is stretched with the love of the Father. He also willed himself to forgive those who tortured and made fun of him.
Once we begin to understand Jesus’ motivation to die on the cross for us, many things that we find so difficult to do will take on a deeper meaning. Things like forgiving when wronged, extending ourselves and putting ourselves out in ways that require generosity, charity, selflessness, not being calculative, excusing others when they hurt us, praying and loving our enemies and sacrificing in so many ways. And it is here we recall the words of Jesus in the Gospel of St John chapter 15:13-14 ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.’ (NRSVCE)
We know these are really so important to live a good life, but we find all sorts of reasons to not live this way. Good Friday is God doing all these for us and more on the Cross. And he did it because he loves us. All of us are called to be loving and courageous in the same way.
Have a solemn Good Friday.
Audio Production: Gold 905, MediaCorp (2018)