Good Friday?

Something I wrote in 2005:

Today is Good Friday. A curious name because in reality it was a pretty bad Friday.

Imagine if you were a disciple. You had spent three years following a man who more and more seemed like he was the Messiah. He did miracles. He spoke wisdom. He had a power you had never seen in anyone.

Then, on the day in which his power was tested he failed the test. You had given up everything, all that you were, to follow this man and on this Friday he left. He was killed. And this is just the perspective of Jesus’ followers. Don’t get me started on how bad Jesus’ day was.

“Take this cup from me,” he prayed the night before. God didn’t. It wasn’t his will that Jesus be saved at this point.

Rembrandt Raising the CrossOn that Friday it was anything but good. Maybe it should be called Miserable Friday, or Awful Friday, or The Worst Friday Ever. Lives were lost on that day, and not just those crucified. Souls were seemingly lost. Everything went wrong. Nothing worked right.

Oh, yeah, Joseph of Arimathea… he was able to get a tomb and bury Jesus before nightfall. At least Jesus wasn’t thrown to the dogs. Thank God for the little blessings, eh?

Yes, the prophets said something about suffering, and disfigurement and the like. But, what is that on such a day? Everything goes wrong. But God does not do wrong things. What are the prophets when one’s own perception sees the troubles bubbling over? They are forgotten words of a past era unable to speak to the present. Jesus is dead. Jesus is buried. Turns out he wasn’t the Messiah after all. We were wrong. He couldn’t even save himself.

Good Friday? There was nothing good about it.

So why call it this? Why is it Good Friday?

Because of Easter. Because two days later he rose from the dead. Friday is only good because we are able to observe the future of the events. We are able to see that Jesus died, but he died for a reason, a reason only seen on Easter morning. We reinterpret the past events based on the later events. All was wrong on that first Friday… except that it was all right because of what would happen two days afterwards. Friday has no significance but for Sunday. All of its meaning is contained in what was observed in the empty tomb. Friday is important not because anything good happened on this day but because the two men on the way to Emmaus realized Jesus was walking with them and explaining the Scriptures.

At that moment, at each moment each disciple saw the Risen Lord, the entire past was came into focus for what it was. Until this happened it was all meaningless. There was nothing good, nothing important, no sacrifice, no salvation. The cross saves because of Easter morning. There is no past without the future to define it.

We call this Friday good because we know Easter, because we proclaim Christ crucified and resurrected. We know the end of the story so we know the fullness of the whole story.

But what of our story? What of my path? I sit here alone on a Friday night without much of what would make a person seem whole in this world. I know others who have had their wholeness ripped from their sides, stripping them of all they planned and depended on. Many weep and grieve over the dead and the dying. People starve, people hurt, people cry, people rage. Many are lost in confusion or loneliness or frustration or hopelessness.

Have faith. That’s what the Bible says. That’s what the Church says.
Titian Crucifixion

Have faith?! Do you know me? Have you seen all I’ve done and what I have to show for it? Do you see how I struggle to pursue my calling and am attacked from all sides? Do you see what was stolen because of misplaced yearning? Are you alone? Are you healthy? Are you successful? Who are you to tell me to have faith? Can you see what is happening in my life? And what is not happening?!

Have faith? How can we have faith? I’ve tried having faith. It didn’t work out.

God does good things, we are told. This all is good? Nothing about it is good. Thank God for the little blessings, eh? I guess there’s that.

There’s more.

Good Friday is only good because of Easter. The future interprets the past, reforming every single aspect into goodness despite the initial appearance.

Our present existence is the same. Only we don’t know the end, we haven’t arrived there yet. Our paths are still indeterminate. Nothing we see makes sense, nothing is settled, even that which we observe does not speak to what really is happening. There is no way to tell if things will get better or worse, whether this world is progressing or retreating. We are living in the midst of chaos, a chaos of free wills chosen by sinful humanity all leading to something, all affecting everything. The past is filled with pain. The present is filled with confusion. Nothing makes sense. The paths are random and confused. Good Friday has Easter to make it good. What do we have?

Ah, but that’s the whole point of our faith. That’s the point of Revelation, the point of the epistles, the point of Christian theology. We are told the end. The end is final even if the paths are indeterminate thus far. There is no telling how the race will end, or who will finish well, or how my life will proceed this week or the next. But we know the end. We know that despite all things God will make it good, that at the end of all things we will see that God is good. We are able to call this day good because of Easter and because of the end which has yet to come but has already arrived.

This world is settled. What we observe merely points to our present awareness. It has no bearing on the final outcome. We are all moving down a turbulent, random path towards a settled end. In the future our past makes sense. In what we expect, we find peace in what we have done. Our present is determined by our future, and this future is already accomplished by what Christ did in the past.

And yet in it all we can choose. We can choose to embrace this accomplished future, and thus have a present and past fully transformed by what is yet to be. Or we can accept our past, affirm our present, and reject the reconstructing future thus leaving us without hope at any point in time.

Christianity moves backwards through time. We embrace the past because of what we are told of the future, and we affirm goodness because of what has not yet happened. We are living on good Friday without yet coming to our eternal Easter, yet because the saints have told us of what is yet to be we can interpret our lives as though it had already occurred.

Jesus knew Easter, and so he bore the pain of Friday. We are told to expect Easter, and only with this expectation in our lives can we have the perspective to live as we should. We are told of what is to come and God expects us to live with this reality. Rubens Descent from the CrossEven if our lives are directed in an inescapable forward path through time, our spirits must embrace the eternal reality of directionless time.

It is Easter which makes Good Friday. Easter has not yet come. But we are told it will come. We plan and wait in eager expectation for Easter. In faith we call this Friday good. In faith we call all our lives good, both the blessing and the troubles. Not because we have a misplaced understanding of reality. Rather it is because as Christians we are called to see reality beyond the apparent and embrace the fullness of time in our lives.

All things, everything, must be viewed through the lens of what is to come. It is our interpretive experience which has not yet happened. But, such an experience as Easter made even a day of torture and a day dying on a cross a very good day.

The goodness of the Coming Day will make all the present evils and hurt transformed into wonderful glory. Which is why we were told of it. Which is why we were told to expect it at all times. Jesus knew of Easter. We know of the Day of the Lord.

Easter has not yet arrived. Easter has dawned. And so we celebrate and rejoice in all the days because of what has not yet happened but which has already determined the history of the cosmos. Such is the glory of Easter evermore.

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