I write these words from my back deck overlooking the woods behind my house. The sun is shining, the temperature is a majestic 81º, the trees are budding, and the carpenter bees darting around my head are only slightly aggressive. It truly is a good Friday.
But why is this particular day, the Friday before Easter Sunday, formally dubbed Good Friday? This is the day we commemorate the brutal torture and execution of Jesus Christ. Historically and biblically, this is not the good day. Good is the resurrection. Good is life winning out over death. Good is an empty grave.
But good is not the pain, not the betrayal, not the loneliness, not the silence. Those are the things we push away, avoiding them at all costs. Such things cannot be good.
What if Jesus knew that the hard things and the good things are the same? What if Jesus, from day one in that filthy manager, was always about showing us a different way? What if every word that dripped from his tongue like bitter honey was pointing us to new way; a beautiful and sacrificial way through, not an easy way around?
I recently spent a number of weeks slowly studying and teaching through the Beatitudes. These were among Jesus’ first recorded words of teaching, found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Chapter 5.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.
What the world mocks or avoids, Jesus blesses. What the world call weakness, Jesus exalts as strength. Mourning, persecution, meekness, humility: when such things characterize our hearts and lives, Jesus himself - the one who dies and then lives - says we are supremely and eternally blessed.
When the world sees Jesus having a really, really bad day, God sees all his own goodness, righteousness, and justice about to break through. We can’t feast on the sweetness of resurrection without first tasting the bitterness of death. Make no mistake, death is death. It is painful. It often means enduring far more than we think we can handle. But this is the blessed path, and so we must walk it.
If I’m being honest, this is hard for me to grasp. I have given my life to Christ, and I have certainly had seasons of grief and pain and continual surrender; yet, my life feel most often like back-deck-sitting, 81º and sunny, trees budding. When those moments of suffering come, however, as they always do, Good Friday is a comfort. Whether you are enduring a tortuous circumstance right now or smiling in the light of the resurrection, take comfort in knowing that Jesus, who was himself The Way, has gone before you, and He has called it “good.”