sam and i were talking last night and she mentioned she had nothing to do today. “i don’t either,” i said, and after a short pause, continued, “except be sad Jesus died.”
i’m still trying to figure out what the appropriate approach to good friday is. on the one hand, Jesus DIED. He was beaten and He was mocked and He DIED. if you’ve read lee strobel’s the case for Christ, you’ve read the graphic chapter that details the medical effects of all the torture Jesus underwent on this day so many years ago.
i’m not going to get into it because just thinking about it makes me squirm, but for those of you who haven’t read the book (you should hop to that), suffice it to say Jesus should have been dead on the ground by the time the whip had stopped slicing through his back muscles.
so on the one hand, i feel as though good friday should feel a little like a funeral.
on the other hand, i have the benefit of two millennia of hindsight, so i know sunday comes, that Christ takes on satan and rises from the devil’s grasp with sure victory crowning His head, delivering the promise that when the gush of living water meets the blaze of hellfire, water will always win, because He already has. and so it almost feels like a funeral where you know in two days you’ll see the person walking around, fresh and new as a baby’s sweet smile.
it’s a little surreal.
i’ve decided, friday shouldn’t be a funeral. we’re not despondent. we have hope. we are confident that sunday is coming, even if sunday isn’t dawning quite so soon as we hoped. but it shouldn’t necessarily be a celebration either: friday isn’t over, and saturday’s yet to come. victory is coming, yes, but it’s not here yet. and we fight and pray and hope in the meantime.
instead, i’ve decided friday is the beginning of the good fight.
you know that moment you first surrendered your life to Christ – really surrendered? maybe this isn’t the same as the moment you first prayed your life over to Him (those of us who have been christians since we were wee ones will know the moment that we understood from an intellectual level differs from the child’s trust we placed in Christ although we all absolutely need both perspectives, regardless of when we first surrendered our small and lowly thrones to His mighty one). but you know the moment it first made sense, and you understood: this is not the end. this is not a one-time surrender and BAM: christian.
instead, it’s only starting. we’ve only taken step one – the hardest, surely, but still, only the first – of a journey that will test and try and wring out and mold and shape and eventually kill all the parts of us that cling so tightly to that which leads to death. we’ve only taken step one – the hardest, surely, but still, only the first – of a journey that will bring joy and pain and humility and goodness and patience and the growing realization that home is a place we cannot fathom, a place to which the apostles watch our Lord ascend so He could go to prepare it for us. we’ve only taken the first step toward holiness. we’ve only taken the first step toward knowing the King.
we’ll live through the rest of the friday, and we’ll live through that first terrible night, and the next day will dawn with desolation because it’s saturday and where in Jesus? in the tomb – maybe not literally, but i can’t hear Him, feel Him, see Him, and i wonder, i wonder, did i make a mistake? did i go wrong, somewhere, somehow? speak to me, Jesus, just speak one word to my small heart.
but it’s saturday and He’s silent and meanwhile we’re left wrestling with the writhing serpent of our own hearts.
we pass through the second terrible night, our faith sorely tested and our eyes searching heavenward desperately.
sunday dawns early. perhaps we are more reconciled to the darkness this morning; perhaps we are not.
but on sunday morning my name is mary magdalene – or, maybe when your name is annie and it’s maundy thursday afternoon – you find the Lord walking around in the everyday, still there, still providing, still very much where you need Him to be even though you couldn’t see Him there.
sometimes He smacks you with the grace of an anvil and other times He just asks you why you’re crying while looking at you quizzically.
and one day we will know the victory of finding the Lord right where He needed Him, followed by the armies of heaven clad in white, armed with grace and victory, coming to take us home. and it will be our very own resurrection sunday.
today i recognize the fight that friday begins: the hard but good fight. that fight that is more difficult than words could even express but that in the small victories are infinitely satisfying because His joy filling our small hearts is the only satisfaction we will ever find this side of eternal glory. it is in every way a war against spirits and principalities of which we know not even the half, but it is good because it is a fight to which He has privileged us – yes, privileged us! – and because He has already won it. and in His unfathomable humility He stands right next to us as we wield poor weapons and sets evil beneath our feet so we might know what He has won for us.
slay me, Jesus. slay me because none of me is good enough for any of You. slay me and make me holy.
today i claim this as the rainbow of our faith: the promise that no matter how much wickedness proliferates in our lives, in our hearts, in our minds, God will never again cleanse the earth with water to the extent that what was meant to bring overflowing life instead brings righteous death. and i praise Him for the promise and i thank Him because we are certainly about as worthy of that as we consider pond scum to be of existence. which is to say, not even in the smallest least.
and today i claim as the beginning of the end: that the waiting period from death to myself to victory in the resurrection is the time during which Christ is working furiously for my good and His matchless, endless glory. that the waiting period from His death to His resurrection, similarly, was not a time of desolation and hopelessness, but a time during which He was fighting against the armies of hell to defeat its hold, for now and evermore, on all of humanity.
He has broken the chains. praise Jesus, He has set us free! the shackles are loosed and we are free. we have been given blessed, sacred freedom by the work of His own hand.
but it is a fight. it was a fight for Him to gift it and it is a fight for us to live it.
it is a hard fight, the hardest war i will ever wage, but it is a good fight.
i’m taking up my small cross today, in the shadow of His own. let us remember today as the beginning of a war that ends in freedom. let us remember today as the beginning of the grueling marathon that ends in glorious resurrection.
let us remember today as the beginning of the path that leads to eternal glory and everlasting light, the path that leads us to the Maker of both even as we travel alongside Him, and let us run the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Him and Him alone, that we might obtain the prize.
during christmas we remember He is Immanuel, God with us. and on good friday, let us remember that He is also God for us, baby God grown to Son of Man, crucified for our crimes against heaven. let us remember He descended into the depths of blazing hellfire and rose in glorious victory for our benefit, all to set us free from chains we never could have broken out of ourselves.
let us remember, that when God is silent, it is not because He has better things to do, or because He doesn’t care, or because He has nothing to say.
let us remember instead, that when God is silent, He is working miraculously on our behalf, so when glory rises victorious with the morning, we will be slaves no longer. let us praise Him for His faithfulness. He has never, ever forgotten us.
To him [Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth] who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.