“May I ask you a question?” my postal delivery woman asked, on a spring Friday. “Sure,” I said. “Why is today called ‘Good Friday’?” she wanted to know.
Perhaps you also entertain that question. You, like many people today, live in a world removed from religious people, practice, and life. Religious terms sound like a foreign language; their meaning, which, you chide themselves for not knowing, escapes you. I suspect my postal delivery woman and her coworkers fell into that category. Evidently, someone had said, “Today is Good Friday.” But my worker, perhaps, didn’t want to let her ignorance show, so said nothing. Instead, aware of the kind of mail I received (I am a minister of the Gospel), she asked me, her customer.
I felt very gratified to be asked. “It’s called ‘Good Friday,'” I said, “because Jesus died for our sins on the cross on this day.” I found an opportunity to explain what Christianity means in one sentence. I could have said more, but that question was all she asked, all she wanted to know. Now she knew.
On the one hand, today is Bad Friday. Jesus of Nazareth went about healing the sick, delivering people from the demons that tormented them, and even raised the dead. He welcomed as friends the hated tax collectors and the despised “sinners”–people who not only broke God’s laws of morality, but also, simply because of their occupations, could not devote their life to the study of Torah, the Hebrew Scriptures. That Jesus should be the recipient of so much hostility from the religious leadership, who saw him as a deceiver, someone who was leading people astray, roused their fears. They were responsible for keeping the (religious) peace. A popular rebellion, and there were many during that time, would bring Rome down on them with a vengeance.
On the other hand, today is also Good Friday. Jesus’ execution as a trouble-maker, makes available to everyone the good news of God’s forgiveness for our sins, yours and mine. Because he died, the just (that’s him) for the unjust (that’s us), we can find forgiveness, freedom from our sin, and experience God’s love. In other words, on Good Friday, God wrote us a love letter in human blood.
Welcome to Good Friday.
[Painting by Travis S. Courtesy www.flickr.com]