In the beginning – yes, the very beginning – a path began toward a Sunday in Jerusalem. The Sunday to end all Sundays. The Sunday to begin all Sundays. The Sunday that we celebrate this weekend. The Sunday that we celebrate because our Savior rose from the grave.
But before Sunday came Friday: the day he was placed in the grave. I have to confess that I’m rather fascinated with Friday because we coin it “Good”, and yet it is one of the darkest days for Jesus’ closest friends. And in my many years of church attendance I’ve always felt the tension from the services that aren’t quite comfortable ending on a dark note. Something makes it hard for us to talk about what happened that day. We’d so much rather talk about Sunday.
My fascination with Good Friday started several years ago as I sat in a church service listening to some beautiful (and appropriately dissonant) choral music. It struck me that Friday, when it’s boiled down to its essence, is this: utter and complete disappointment. Shock and devastation. With seemingly no room for a happy ending. The biggest possible let-down of all time happened as the disciples watched their Messiah be arrested, crucified, and buried. As I realized this simple truth, I had no idea that I was on the verge of a season with God that would absolutely rock me. That would strip down my theology just like Friday rocked Peter’s. I had no idea that I was entering a season of death, disappointment, frustration and loss. I had no idea that my very own “Friday” was on the horizon.
Sitting from our vantage point in history, I think we’re quick to want to jump to the answers that Sunday brought; but Friday brought the questions, and the questions are what make the answers matter. Even though some of the answers are devastating (like Peter realizing that he WAS in fact capable of denying Christ), I think we have a lot to learn from Friday. My Friday opened up the real questions for me, the ones that were too deep and too dark to look at until I was forced to. Questions like Is God really sovereign – as in, over ALL? Is God really and truly good? Is it possible for something ugly to still be “good”? Is it possible for life to come out of death? On Friday, Peter had to decide whether he’d actually take God’s answers over his own expectations.
If we’re honest, I think we all know what Friday looks like in our own worlds: when we thought our theology and our faith was enough to get us through (Peter: “I will go to the death for you!”) turns into fear and confusion and maybe even denial (Peter: “I don’t even know him!”). When we had to face some hard things about our God, who does in fact let pain and ugly coincide with beauty. And then we have to face some hard things about ourselves – like how we respond when we don’t get our way. Like discovering that we had a way of our own after all.
Some of you are there now, on a Friday. A time when your theology is clashing head-first with your heartache. Let me just say this: There’s no way to make Friday un-painful. We can call it Good Friday now, but I have a suspicion that if we had walked up to Peter on that fateful Friday and called it good, he would’ve punched us in the face. Friday hurts.
As I sit here today, I’ve come further in reconciling the truth of both Friday and Sunday. Of both pain and beauty. Of both loss and Redemption. I’ve learned that the Gospel is both. I wonder what would it look like if we could embrace both with more freedom: the lows of Friday-disappointments and heartaches, and the highs of Sunday’s restorative work.
Redemption is what happens on Sunday. Redemption is Jesus conquering every disappointment. Redemption is what we will sing about for all time. But for something to need redemption, it means there is something broken. Friday is what we need to be Redeemed from. In fact, redemption means very little if we don’t take stock of what needs to be redeemed. So today, take stock. Be honest and real with your Savior if there are disappointments crowding out your heart’s space for joy. And take stock if there are broken pieces that have already been redeemed.
And then share. Maybe share here. Maybe share at Church. Maybe share with a close friend. But share. Share if you’re on Friday, because you’re probably not alone. And share if you’re on Sunday, with a story of redemption and beauty coming out of ugly.