Friday, April 10, 2009

What's So Good About Good Friday?

In great respect of this day, I am taking a short detour from our regular Ephesians bible study and posting this reflection instead:

This was not simply disappointment. It was gut-wrenching tragedy. What could be “good” about it? Their hopes, like precious china, lay shattered. Their dreams were nailed with Him to a splintered wooden cross. The disciples, glancing over their shoulders in fear with each step, wondered who among them would be next. For those who loved Him, darkness smothered Friday like a damp woolen blanket.

But what was that Friday like for Christ?

It began with flogging. Roman soldiers fashioned a leather whip, studded with small rocks and bone. Every blow against Jesus’ back ripped open new strips of skin. His muscles and tendons quickly turned into a mass of quivering, bleeding flesh. Most prisoners died of shock and blood loss long before being nailed to the cross.

After the brutal beating, Jesus -- with help from a stranger in the crowd -- dragged the cross to the execution site where soldiers laid it the ground and threw Jesus down onto it. The seven-inch spikes hammered through His wrists and feet tore through exquisitely sensitive nerves. Electrifying pain exploded along His arms and legs.

As He hung between heaven and earth, breathing became an all-consuming struggle as gravity restricted His respiratory muscles. Moment by moment, Jesus had to push against his feet and flex His arms just to breathe. But every movement intensified the strain on His ravaged nerves. Adding to His torment, each breath forced His back against the splintered wood, reopening the raw wounds. Every breath, every movement, every moment on the cross inflamed His anguish.

For Jesus, for the disciples, for anyone standing at the foot of the cross, Good Friday seemed anything but good.

What, then, is so good about that Friday nearly 2000 years ago?

That Friday proved God’s faithfulness. As early as Genesis 3:15, the Lord promised the human family a redeemer, someone to set us free from the Serpent’s grasp, someone to take “captivity captive” to Himself. On that Friday, Satan bruised God’s heel-- but more importantly, through Christ, God crushed Satan’s head. The Serpent forever lost the right to enslave anyone in his devilish grasp. His power is nullified by the blood of Christ.

That Friday tore through sin’s impenetrable barrier between us and God. As Isaiah wrote, “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God and your sins have hid His face from you, so that He does not hear.” But on that Friday, God shattered the barrier. He rescued the prisoners. Laying our sins upon Christ’s shoulders, the Father threw open the gates of reconciliation between us and Himself.

That Friday proved God’s love for us. It is easy to read quickly over John 3:16 and not sense the searing emotions the Father suffered as He watched His Son agonize on Golgotha. But when we meditate on the Roman scourging, the spikes in His limbs, the flesh wounds -- perhaps we can better understand the personal nature of that verse -- “God so loved me . . . that He gave.”

That Friday clothed us with Christ’s righteousness. The harlot, the thief, the murderer, the adulterer . . . think of it! There is no sin which cannot be cleansed by Christ’s blood through repentance. There is no sinner who cannot be made as righteous before God’s eyes as Jesus Himself.

Finally -- if there can be a final point about Good Friday -- that Friday challenges us to repentance. When the crowd gathered forty days later in Jerusalem for Pentecost and learned it was their sins which nailed Christ to the cross, “they were pieced to the heart.” In unison they cried out, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?” St. Peter responded, “Repent,” and three thousand among them were converted to Christ.

Standing at the foot of Christ’s cross, nothing about Friday looked good. But no one knew Resurrection Sunday was coming . . . and with it, God’s redemptive plan for all humanity, conceived before the foundation of the world.

Good Friday? You bet it was!

Questions for Reflection:

Mother Teresa once said, Put your sins in the chalice for the precious blood to wash away. One drop is capable of washing away the sins of the world. The Eucharist is connected with the Passion. If Jesus had not established the Eucharist we would have forgotten the crucifixion. It would have faded into the past and we would have forgotten that Jesus loved us. There is a saying that to be far away from the eyes is to be far away from the heart. To make sure that we do not forget, Jesus gave us the Eucharist as a memorial of his love.

One of the great dangers of celebrating the Eucharist is that it can become for us routine. Mechanical.

1. What do you usually think about as you approach Christ's body and blood in the holy Eucharist? How can you make the Eucharist even more meaningful to you?

Watch this YouTube.

2. Why would the almighty King of Glory stand meekly and take such a beating for you?
3. What do you think can separate you from His love?


M7healer said...

Only my indifference can separate me from Christ's love. For indifference being the opposite of love, my indifference attempts to snuff out the light of His love. Whereas, my reverence will fan the flames of Christ's Love for me.

Richard Maffeo said...

Ah, yes. Indifference. It doesn't keep Him from loving us . . . but it surely hurts His feeling, I believe. God give us reverence for Himself.

Gary said...

Sometimes I meditate on the idea that Christ's deepest pain came from the idea that he had failed. Do you think he knew at his creation that he would be rejected? In that regard, I have appreciated some of new writings about Judas. Somewhere deep in my soul I know that God received Judas with love and compassion.

Richard Maffeo said...

Interesting concept, Gary. I think scripture is clear that Jesus, before the foundation of the world, knew the result of His planned sacrifice. "He came to His own, and His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him, He gave the right (power) to become the sons of God, even to them who believed in His name" (John 1).

And THAT, for me, is the great demonstration of God's love and mercy and compassion, KNOWING that most of His creation, for whom He suffered, suffered and died, would nonetheless shake our collective fist in His face and walk away.

Oh, how that must grieve Him so.

As for Judas, I am not familiar with the apocryphal books you mention. The NT writers seem to me to suggest Judas lost his soul (Acts 1:16-20, Psalm 69:20-28, Luke 17:1-2; 22:1-3; and many others).

But, only God knows.


Anonymous said...

Hello Richard
Can i please just ask, Does HOLY BIBEL says anywhere to worship idols or pictures or symbols or any kind?

Richard Maffeo said...

Hello, Anonymous. No, the Scriptures make it very clear that we are to not worship idols or pictures. We are to worship only the Lord, who is Spirit (John 4). Hope that helps.