Thinking Towards Good Friday – Lectionary Year C

Good Friday’s Readings for Lectionary Year C in NIV translation:

Isaiah 52:13-53:12  /  Psalm 22 or UMH 752  /  Heb 10:16-25  John 18:1-19:42

 

Good Friday’s Readings for Lectionary Year C in NRSV translation fro the Vanderbilt Theological Library

 

Good Friday is the day commemorating Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. In the liturgical calendar of the Church, we observe the Good Friday on Friday before Easter. The exact origins of the name are uncertain; some argue it stems from the use of "Good" as an adjective applied to the day, which is an Old English synonym for "holy." Others argue it is a corruption of the word "God", in the same way that "Good Bye" comes from the phrase "God be with ye."

 

Ever since I became a Christian, I was perplexed how the day when Jesus died on the cross could be referred to as “good.” Ever since I became a Christian, I was  perplexed by the peculiarity of the story that we as Christians are reliving during the Holy Week.

 

As Christians, we profess to believe that Jesus’ death makes all the difference because our salvation came through his death and resurrection. On the other hand, we also say that this terrible execution should not have happened. The Gospels present the death of Jesus to be the part of God’s plan, and yet the same Gospels say it was the work of sinners.

 

One of Jesus’ own disciples – Judas Iscariot – sold him out. The other disciples either denied that they had ever known him or ran and hid in sheer terror. The crowd that had adored and followed Jesus just a day earlier, turned bloodthirsty. The clergy of the day brought bogus unsubstantiated charges against him and arranged the mock trial. The political leaders tried to be reasonable with all sides and to avoid taking a stand. The soldiers who executed him were simply doing their jobs and following orders.

 

The Good Friday is about pain of rejection, humiliation and desertion. In our affluent USAmerican culture we do not like rejection, humiliation and desertion. Our culture like things to be “easy” (have you watched Staples ads lately?), we are  fond of youthful energy and appearance and we are all about denial of suffering, and above all denial of death.  That is why the message of the Good Friday does not fit our psyche; we find it hard to resonate with that message. The message of the Good Friday does not mesh well with PowerPoint worship slides that show mostly young and always smiling faces. Good Friday carries with it an image problem because it is a downer that makes us comfortable.

 

All that makes it difficult to preach on Good Friday. There is nothing to celebrate, we have heard the story so many times that it is difficult to discover anything new in it, and we struggle to find alternatives to the popular belief that Jesus was predestined to physically die for our sins, stand in our place, and suffer on our behalf. That is why the ministerium that our churches belong to traditionally avoided preaching on communal services of Good Friday.

 

{{{

There is widespread thinking that concentrates on illegality of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. There is widespread thinking that being innocent, Jesus should have never been executed. I am not claiming that such thinking is incorrect. I am simply noting that it exist. For an example of such argument, you can visit this page.

}}}

 

The truth is that the Good Friday must be understood in the context of the larger story of Jesus’ life and his last week of life on Earth. Events of the Good Friday have almost no meaning without celebrations of Palm Sunday, the conflicts between Jesus and the religious and political readers, the events of the Last Supper, abandonments by his disciples, spiritual darkness, sadness and loneliness of the Holy Saturday and the surprise of the Easter morning.

 

The truth is that the Good Friday is about Jesus’ vocational call and has nothing to do with divine predestination.The Cross on which our Savior died  and the violent manner of his death demonstrate Jesus’ commitment to bring God’s reign into our lives and world, His love for each one of us and His faith that we would  be able and willing to carry out His mission. (If Jesus’ death on that Cross was predestined, then Good Friday is of little relevance to our daily lives because we have no say or part in how we serve God).

 

The truth is that Good Friday affirms God’s identification with us through the suffering of Jesus and the suffering of the world. Last week, trying to recuperate from the major surgery, it was comforting for me to know that Jesus is with me and that He understands what I am going through.

 

The truth is that Good Friday provides a great example of our own sinfulness. When the crowds turned bloodthirsty, they were more than happy to dump their own anxieties, to scapegoat their fears on Jesus. How often do we dump our anxieties on others instead of seeking emotional and spiritual growth from our mistakes?

 

The message of the Good Friday is that in order to be redemptive, suffering cannot be passive. One of the ways that we find freedom, liberation and growth is through pain and struggle. It happens when we find God’s presence rather than God’s punishment in our pain. Our Church is the best illustration of that. God’s love and grace brought healing to the disciples, outlasted Pilate and Temple Priests, continues to transform us where and when we live and inspires us to live our lives following the example of Jesus and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

On Process and Faith, Rev. Dr. Bruce Epperly writes (Here is the link):

While Good Friday calls each of us individually and corporately to confession, repentance, and transformation, the point of Good Friday is not obsessive guilt or the exaltation of divine violence, but the admission of our own tendencies to turn away from God’s vision and God’s constant creative-responsive love which bears our pain, laments our injustice, feels the cost of abandonment and oppression, and seeks healing in the most chaotic and painful situations. While progressive and moderate Christians may not feel at home with the “Christus Victor” approach of Gustav Aulen, there is something victorious about God’s enduring, unstoppable, ever-resourceful suffering and celebrating love. God’s love outlasts Pilate, the religious leaders, and the disciples’ cowardice, and continues to transform us in our time and place. This amazing love inspires us to love in the example of Jesus, being open to God’s call even in the midst of chaos, conflict, and pain. We can “practice” Good Friday by choosing to become aware of the suffering of our world and responding in acts of solidarity, justice, and comfort. The Cross of Jesus models a love that faces suffering and seeks healing in the midst of pain

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