I’m writing this on Good Friday as rain falls gently through barely budding tree limbs. That seems like a peculiar name for this day, doesn’t it? A huge swath of the world honors this day for a crucifixion, the slaughtering of a man, and we call it “good”. However, I’ve come to embrace the name because although horrific for Jesus, it means good for us. And even as I embrace it, I don’t think the word “good” is even close to adequate to denoting what his death accomplished. Although other religions and philosophies seek to better a person through personal works and spiritual release, only Christianity says we can do nothing to achieve what we crave.
I want to take just a moment to share a very, very intimate, personal story. It’s the recollection of the day my Mom learned she had cancer. My Mom lived alone, not far from where my wife and I currently live. On the day of her diagnosis she called me to come over. I had a key to her apartment so I unlocked the door and ascended the long, beige carpet of stairs up to her living room. As I made the final step and turned, next to the antiqued dining room table, crystal chandelier and white upholstered chairs stood my Mom. I remember her looking like a limp leaf. Arms hung low at her side, her countenance even lower. She slowly, through the gravel in her throat from tears, eked out the words, “I have cancer.” I walked quickly to her. We embraced and she collapsed into my arms in sobs that seemed to come from cavernous depths of the ocean.
I would’ve done anything for her; I would’ve traded my life for hers. I valued her beyond anyone else apart from my wife. But I was utterly helpless. There was absolutely zero I could do to change her condition.
We talked for a brief moment about the diagnosis and then, saying the only thing I could find to say in my broken humanity, I asked her if she wanted to pray. She decided she wanted to lay on the couch. As she reclined she spoke words seared them deeply into my heart, “Peter, heal me.”
Today we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus. Foretold hundreds of years before his torture, Jesus would fulfill hundreds of prophecies in his life, death and burial. His entire life was focused on his final ascent to Jerusalem, to the hill - to piles of skulls - to the cross. I’ve never met a person who’s destiny and goal in life was to die for the sake of others. And not just the good ones, but to die for scoundrels, liars, thieves, murders, adulterers, sexual offenders, the arrogant and me.
Now here’s the link - what I couldn’t do for my Mom, Jesus did for us. He sacrificed himself so that we could live and be free. Free of fear, free of bondage, just plain, flat out free! I believe the crux of the message of Jesus has gotten entombed in the evil of humanity. Heaps and piles of hatred, ego and selfishness - both inside and outside the church - mask the true message of the cross so that many are just bitter skeptics. I can’t say I fault them. So many times my faith was halted by the horrendous behavior of “Christians”.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. - Galatians 5:1
Today, though, on Good Friday, I am reminded of the abundance of love displayed both by Believers and Jesus as he stretched out his arms, was nailed to a tree and said, “It is finished”. What we are powerless to do, he did. What we wish we could do, he accomplished. His death was a horrific, violent act and God knew that violence, a sacrifice, was the only, only way to finally defeat sin, death and the grave. It had to take place so that there would be glorious victory three days later in an empty tomb.
Today is good. Good for you!