How will you be any different tomorrow than you were yesterday? How will today change you? How will this Good Friday mean anything different to you except that it will feel like a Sunday, because you have been to church? Does Good Friday make any difference to us at all?
There are many who live as though it does not, as if nothing happened at all on that strangely named day: Good Friday. Bad because of what happened to Jesus on that day, good in the light of Easter Sunday, but that is not how it got its name. It was originally known as God’s Friday. That one Friday of the year that God asks us to stop and think of him, to think of how much he thinks of us.
How do people live as though nothing happened on that day?
How does their life give the lie to their profession of faith?
Two wrong ways of living.
There are two ways of living that make a mockery of the passion and death of Christ. One is the life that is lived by many Christians, a life that ignores the suffering and pain, that blocks out how difficult it all was. It is a life that seems to be saying, I am forgiven, I can now live how I want, and it will all be alright. I can carry on sinning happily, because I am forgiven.
That is what we call cheap grace, and it seems to say that nothing all that big really happened on that first Good Friday, or nothing at least worth changing your life for. Cheap grace is often the error of a life that is lived so much in a state of grace, that we forget the real cost. How can anyone look closely at what really happened on that first Good Friday, and still live that way?
The second way of living that ignores Good Friday is to live as if there still needs to be payment made for sin. These are the lives of Christians who want Jesus to pat them on the back because of all that they have done for him, when in fact he wonders why they lack faith in him, and what he did for them on that first Good Friday. Why do they feel that they need still to save themselves?
It is a life that cheapens the physical pain and suffering and death of Christ, as well as the spiritual torment, because it is a life that does not show that the person truly believes the last words of Christ on the cross: It is finished. That is just as much atheism and idolatry as a life that ignores God. That is called works righteousness.
Jesus the go-between.
Until that terrible day: good Friday, we were cut off from God, and the only mediator was the high priest in the temple. A pretty flawed system, it was all about becoming right, or righteous, before God.
The curtain of the temple had the moon and stars embroidered on it in gold thread, and once every year, the high priest would “go through the heavens”, that is, go beyond the curtain, into God’s presence, and intercede for the people, and bring out God’s blessing.
Jesus went through the real heavens, once and for all, and the symbolism of the temple curtain tearing in two when he died was that there was no division any more, in heaven or on earth, between God and us.
Jesus is the one who mediates between God and man, our great high priest, our saviour. And we can come to him with confidence, because of his pain, and suffering and death for us.
Just when we need it
There was a six year old girl who has since died of cancer. While she was facing her death, and knowing that she had little time before she would die, she knew that the time she had left would be painful and humiliating. Everyone who looked at her could see the effects of the cancer. Tubes ran in and out of her tiny body; the long blonde hair that she once had was gone, fallen out because of the chemotherapy that had ravaged her body in its attempt to kill the cancer.
She was a sight to be pitied for anyone who dared to look. But surprisingly, her sad plight did not take away from the joy of living that she had, and the beautiful smile that she had each day.
One day as her pastor visited her, he noticed that she was not in her usual cheerful state. He thought it was because of the intense pain, and thought no more of it until he saw the tears forming in her eyes. “What’s the matter?” asked the pastor.
With a maturity and confidence that many adults do not have, she said, “I’m going to have a new body soon in heaven” “That’s right” said the pastor, but that’s good news. “Why are you crying?” And with a beautiful wisdom the tiny 6-year-old girl shocked the pastor when she whispered, “I’m going to have a new body when I get to heaven, but Jesus will always have the scars.”
We can’t live as though Good Friday had no cost. The cost is there in the scars that our Lord bears for ever: The nail-holes and the spear-wound and the thorn-pricks.
Your Good Fridays.
Our district Bishop Mark used to finish all his e-mails with the quote “We are Easter people, and Hallelujah is our song.” But there are days when the wondrous truth of Good Friday, made perfect in Easter glory, is not there in our hearts. There are times when hallelujah is not our song, when we do not feel like Easter people. There are times when we feel alone, when we feel defeated. When we feel that the blackness that came with the death of Jesus has filled us so much that there can never be any light of life in us again.
There are the bleak days, the “ye of little faith” days.
But remember that Good Friday was not the end. Lift up your heads. From the blackness of this day a dawn will rise, a dawn that means that the loneliness that Christ took on the cross for us is defeated, the bleakness is defeated. The separation is defeated, for we can now come to the throne of grace with confidence. Our Great High Priest has gone through the heavens, and we are Easter people.
There is no Easter without Good Friday. There is no dawn with out the night. There is no salvation without the cross. How will this day change you? What does your life say about your faith? Are you Easter people?