Passion Week 2013: Good Friday

An innocent man is arrested, then harassed all night long at a travesty of an inquest, presumed guilty before the first false witness even testifies.  The governor, though finding no basis for a conviction, sentences him to death anyway to appease an angry crowd.  The prisoner is humiliated and beaten, then subjected to a slow, torturous public execution, abandoned by friends and mocked by hecklers.

So why do we call Good Friday “good”?  We can be sure that on that day, Peter and the other disciples found nothing to celebrate.

Nobody knows for certain the origin of the name.  An easy answer, of course, would be that Friday is “good” because what happened is good for me: Jesus died to rescue me, to save me from my sins.

True enough.

But let me suggest something less self-centered.  Good Friday teaches us what it means to call God good.  He alone is truly good (Mark 10:18); ultimately, anything we can know of goodness derives from God.

As finite beings trying to grasp the infinite, we know God by analogy.  If he is said to be loving, we take what we know of love, intensify it, and project it backward onto him: God is more loving than the greatest love we can know or imagine.

But sometimes the analogy breaks down, as Paul suggests here:

While we were still weak, at the right moment, Christ died for ungodly people. It isn’t often that someone will die for a righteous person, though maybe someone might dare to die for a good person. But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us. (Rom 5:6-8, CEB)

Sacrifice yourself for someone worthy?  Yes, we can imagine that, though only at the distant margins of heroism.  But give your life for the unworthy, the ungodly?  The Son of God dying in humiliation for the love of sinners who don’t appreciate what he’s doing?  For cruel soldiers, religious hypocrites, corrupt politicians, thoughtless hecklers?  Even disciples that run like rabbits?

What kind of love is that?

The love of a good and holy God, the love that makes Good Friday good.

Lord, today is a dark day, of mourning sin and injustice of every kind.  We know what it means to lose hope.  But teach us also to see past evil, past suffering, to the stunning goodness of your incomprehensible love.  In hope, we await the fulfillment of that love.  We await resurrection.  Amen.