It’s Good Friday! I don’t know if you knew that or not. Maybe you weren’t raised in the Church and were too embarrassed to ask what “Good Friday” means. All my life I have known about this Holiday… this Holy Day… the day that signifies one of the six (according to my estimation) most momentous events in all of history. The other five would be Creation, the fall of mankind, the birth of Christ, the resurrection of Christ and the one that hasn’t happened yet: The return of Christ! On this Friday before Easter, we celebrate the murder of God, call it “Good” and we celebrate. This feels a little like insanity.
This morning Simon plopped down on the corner of my bed, just as I was nestling in with a cup of coffee and the Good Book. Rather than thinking of my beloved kid as an interruption, I figured I’d treat his presence like an invitation. I began reading out loud.
I creased the Spine to the end of Luke, and read words of life to my own Simon Peter. I read of the Passover-Communion meal, Judas’ betrayal, Gethsemane’s bloody sweat, Peter’s denial and his eye-contact with Jesus, Pilate and Herod’s ludicrous “trials”, Barabbas’ pardon, Simon of Cyrene’s cross-bearing, the mockery and wisdom of the two criminals beside Him, the way He breathed His last, the Centurion’s belief, the chest-beating agony of the crowd that had crucified Him once they saw His majesty transform into death, a three hour interval of darkness, an impossibly thick temple veil rent in two, and of the Joseph of Arimatheas’ borrowed tomb. We ended on these words, laden with anguish, “And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56).
We will never fathom the weight of those words. We could never imagine what torment it was, for His followers to know that the world had just crucified the Messiah, and now all they could do was to sit still and let it soak into the soul… to honor the Sabbath day of rest. Kind-of like we are right now, in our quarantine and solitude. They had no idea Sunday would bring about a Resurrection, and all their hope would be restored.
But God knew.
If you read the story for yourself (I began in Luke 22:39 this morning), you will see the flint-faced perseverance of God Incarnate. Just look at Him with Pilate. You can read it in another Gospel-writer’s account, the Lord told Pilate, with a bold face, that Pilate had no authority except for what was given to him by the Father in heaven… as Pilate was reminding Jesus that it was up to him whether the Lord lived or died. The only time we see any sort of trembling is in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He sweats blood, and it tells us in Mark 14 and Matthew 26, He begged the Father that if there be any other way for God’s redemption to be accomplished for mankind, He would choose another way. Jesus didn’t desire the agony of the Cross, and He certainly felt the full, impending weight of it while face-planted in the Garden of Gethsemane.
We cannot begin to imagine all He was about to endure, or how gruesome it was for Him to have to wrestle His heart into surrender in that moment. We often think of he physical pain, which must have been excruciating. They nearly killed Him before they ever hung Him on the cross. The Romans were known for being masters at torture. Yet, we often forget about the emotional devastation of His separation from the Father, as God’s full wrath was poured out on Jesus. His. Full. Wrath. Incomprehensible! Then, there was the spiritual torment of surrendering to His enemy’s devices and desires. The betrayal of His creation, even more specifically some of His closest companions. I feel as though I have only touched the surface of all the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pain He endured in that one, singular day. No wonder His begged God to find another way to save mankind. Yet, in the next exhale, He was surrendering again, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done” (Mark 13:36).
Even in His weakest moment, the one where He begs His Father to deliver Him from this unimaginably excruciating fate, His eyes are fixed on what must be done. He has come to earth for this exact moment in history… to die for mankind. Now, if that’s not a love-story, I don’t know what is.
In this moment of complete chaos, the original “Good Friday”, with God dying like a criminal, the folks He came to deliver jeering and crying out for His crucifixion, all of it, the thing that strikes me, today, is that God was always in control. It wasn’t chaos to Him. It was purpose. He knew Sunday was on the horizon, and although His followers were feeling as though all hope was lost and their lives were shattered into a million splintery shards of glass, God Himself knew that what was taking place must take place in order for order to be restored to the Universe. He had designed what seemed to be the greatest spiritual upheaval in all of history (comparable only with the betrayal of mankind against God in a Garden called “Eden” long ago) to be the one thing that would bring order and glory back to earth, to the people He so-loved that He not only created, but also died to redeem.
It feels like such a step back, into much safer waters, to talk about the coronavirus, yet I think it is worth making this whole thing applicable to our present circumstances. We are living through the greatest global catastrophe of our lifetime, and really many lifetimes. Honestly, some of the things I am hearing make the state of the world seem much more chaotic, scary and out-of-control than a virus ever could. This doesn’t seem to just be Russian Roulette with who may get sick and die. I am hearing many things being advertised as “needs” to help with this pandemic that are really just biblical prophecies, regarding the end of the world. They are being spoken of by people with influence who are breathing fear into the hearts of man through this virus, and using the fear to control and manipulate the masses. Honestly, there’s a part of me that is terrified. A part of mean that feels a little like Jesus in Gethsemane (except way less awesome!). I know this may mean torture for me, and endurance like I’ve never had to exhibit in my life. I pray that God will give us the grace to endure. There is a part of me that wants to cry out, “Lord, if it’s possible, deliver us from our suffering”, but then I remember what Jesus knew, that brought Him through the fear and all the way to the greatest surrender: That it was all purposeful. That even Pilate had no authority outside what the King of heaven had chosen to give him. That His Father has never left His Throne. And that Sunday couldn’t have happened without Friday.
No matter how this turns out, whether God heals our land through His Church’s repentance (2 Chron. 7:14), or whether the trumpet blast of Christ’s return is nearing and we must endure some tremendously hard things between now and then, we can rest assured that sometimes what seems the most chaotic will turn out to be the most triumphant and glorious! To Him be all praise!