When I was a little girl, I did not understand why Good Friday was so “good.” When I attended Good Friday Church services with my dad, everyone looked so sad and somber. I remember a cross with a statue of Jesus “nailed” to it was placed at the top of the middle isle and people crawling towards the cross, on their hands and knees, to kiss the statue’s feet and hands, then stand up to go sit in their pews. As a little kid, I didn’t no if Jesus died again on every Good Friday or what was going on with all the “unhappy” faces all around me. Later in life, when God opened up the Scriptures to me, I found out that Jesus had to only die once, and that He died for me. Not only did Jesus die for my sins, but He also rose again to set me free from death’s grip. Not only did He rise from the dead, but Jesus is also coming again to put an end to death permanently. I praise God, especially on Good Friday, for what He has done for me on the cross, and for continuing to reveal His Truth to me about our relationship; Who He is and who I am in Christ..
“The death [Jesus] died, He died to sin once for all [for me]; but the life He lives, He lives to God.” (Romans 6:10).
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people [including mine]; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him [me included]” (Hebrews 9:27-28).
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous [me], to bring you [and me] to God” (I Peter 3:18).
Another thing that puzzled me as a little girl was this whole give-up-meat-on-Friday-thing. People “gave up” eating meat on Friday and said it was a “sacrifice” in honor of the Crucified Christ. Instead of eating meat, people went out to eat and ordered lobster, scallops, shrimp, fried whole-bellied clams, salmon and other seafood entrées, along with partaking of an all-you-can-eat salad bar. But they did not get any desert, they‘ll have you know. I just didn’t understand where the “sacrifice” part came in. I wanted to shout, an often quoted Vince Lombardi quote, “What the [heck] is going on around here!” To begin with, the whole idea of sacrifice was turned backwards. Jesus is the only one Who can and did provide the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus already did it. God doesn’t need us to sacrifice anything but our hearts to love Him for Who He is and what He has already done for us and enjoy being in relationship with Him. If we choose to give up meat or a meal or even fast for the whole day, do it out of a thankful heart and for God’s glory and honor and praise. Instead of eating, use that time to pray or read Scripture, go do an “intentional act of kindness” or feed someone else. Have lunch with God, feeding on His Word and a sandwich at the same time. It can be done. It’s called multi-tasking. Whatever we do, it is only between God and us.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, Who is unseen; and your Father, Who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18).
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).
“You [God] do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers [and sisters], in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2).
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16.)
Good Friday is a good day to meditate and reflect on all that Jesus went through on the cross for us. Some say it’s not about us per say, but it’s all about God. But, why did God send Jesus to die? John 3:16 tells us why: “For God so loved the world [us], that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I can exchange the “whoever” with your own name: Because Lydia “believes in Him [Lydia] shall not perish but have eternal life.” It is about us because God made it about us. Nothing would please Him more than to have us live with Him and enjoy a right relationship with Him for all eternity. Jesus has accomplished this for us on the cross. Isaiah 53:3-5 says, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed by our iniquities;the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”
When I look at the cross, in relation to how much I have been forgiven because of Jesus’ Perfect Sacrifice for all my sins, as the hymn writer wrote, “Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble!” (“Were You There?” by Charles Turner). I can become involved in philosophical discussions and ask questions like, “What about the tribe in Africa who never heard about Jesus and the cross? What about the Hindu or the Muslim or the…” But, until I ask, “What about ME and Jesus and the cross? And until I realize how much I need God’s forgiveness, the philosophical discussions will not get me any closer to where I need to be. On the other hand, when I can identify with the woman of whom Jesus said, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little [in his own estimation] loves little,” that is where God wants me to be. Only then can I enjoy God’s forgiveness and grace (unmerited favor) and enjoy Father/daughter relationship with God and exclaim from the rooftops, “Sometimes I feel like shouting GLORY, GLORY, GLORY!” (from the same hymn as above).
To know Jesus as only “ the Man of Sorrows” is to know only a part of Who He is. The writer of Hebrews tells us “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, Who for the JOY set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2). Jesus’ joy came from knowing He would soon be with His Father, and that is what motivated Him and gave Him strength to do His Father‘s will. When Jesus walked the earth, He did not live His life as a monk or guru living high on a mountain top, away from the maddening crowd, living a life of solitude and continual meditation, in search in search of the meaning of life and the truth behind all things. Jesus knew the meaning of life: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…[and] Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37a, 39b). As far as finding the truth, Jesus is the TRUTH (John 14:6). Jesus exuded true happiness and was empowered by the TRUE JOY of His Father. Jesus enjoyed life. He enjoyed people. He enjoyed telling stories; sometime humorous stories. He enjoyed parties. In fact, Jesus was the life of the party! Jesus desires us to enjoy life as He did. Jesus epitomized Nehemiah’s instruction to the people of God, after they had found the lost Book of God‘s Law, read it and were reminded of their utter sinfulness. They must have behaved like the people at the Good Friday church service I described above. Instead of weeping, Nehemiah instructed them to, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the JOY of the LORD is your strength” (8: 10).
Jesus enjoyed celebrations. All you have to do is read about His first miracle performed at the “Wedding in Cana,” recorded in John 2. Jesus and His disciples attended that wedding feast. When the hosts had run out of wine, Jesus’ mother Mary said to Jesus, “They have no more wine” (verse 3). Jesus responded, “Dear woman, why do you involve Me? My time has not yet come” (verse 4). This is purely my own opinion (I not a theologian), but I think Mary saw a twinkle in Jesus eye (Sons have been known to lovingly tease their mothers on occasion.). Why else would Mary say to the “waiters,” “Do whatever He tells you” (I’m just sayin’). Jesus honored His mother’s request and turned panic and embarrassment into joy and jubilation. He not only turned water into wine; He turned water into the best wine. Some theologians try to say the wine was of the non-alcoholic variety, but I don’t think so, and you don’t have to be a theologian to come to that conclusion. Verse 10 records the “master of the banquet” going to the bridegroom and saying, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” This was not Welch’s sparkling grape juice! The religious leaders of Jesus’ day mistakenly called Jesus “a glutton and a drunkard” (Matthew 11:19b). They had no idea Who Jesus was. Jesus was the Word of God . John 1:1-3 states: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” Jesus was able to enjoy all He created. He enjoyed eating food and drinking wine because He knew that they were Gifts that were to be enjoyed and not to be abused or taken for granted. Jesus the Word “…makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate – bringing food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make His face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.” Unlike the religious leaders of Jesus’ time on earth, or some religious leaders in our day, Jesus is no “party-pooper.”
Jesus enjoyed eating at people’s houses. In fact, one time He invited Himself over to the house of Zacchaeus, a hated tax collector. Jesus dined mostly with people at the bottom of the societal totem pole. That gave Him the reputation, according to the religious leaders, of being “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matthew 11:19b). This time the religious leaders were right. Jesus explained his friendships this way: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the [self] righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus had dinner at the house of Mary and Martha and Lazarus (Luke 10:38-41 and John 12:1-3). In Luke’s account of one of their get-togethers, Jesus tells Martha to basically take a “chill pill” and relax about the “many things” that have to get done and just enjoy the “better” thing, like her sister Mary was doing. Jesus did also dine with the Pharisees (Luke 7:36-50 and 11:37-54). The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were the only groups that Jesus made nervous. In Luke 7, they became embarrassed and downright indignant when a woman came in and started washing Jesus feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair. They were appalled when Jesus accepted her “unconventional” form of worship as an act of sincere love and repentance by forgiving her of her many sins. In Luke 11, the Pharisees once again became unnerved when Jesus did not wash his feet before the meal, a ceremonial tradition everyone whose in-the-know must do. This really set Jesus off and He blasted them for their hypocrisy and lack of compassion.
With everyone but the religious leaders, Jesus lightened up the room and everyone was relaxed when He was around. No one felt like they had to walk on egg shells or a tightrope and act a certain way. For instance, Jesus disciples felt free to pick grain when they were walking through the grain fields, on the Sabbath, because they were hungry. Why else would you pick grain? They were probably walking and talking with Jesus and didn’t even realize they were picking grain and popping the kernels in their mouths, just like you would eat popcorn at the movies. Jesus brought out the best in people and helped them to relax and see God as their loving Heavenly Father and not like the ogre some had made Him out to be. For the Pharisees, picking grain on the Sabbath was a NO-NO. This also enraged Jesus because the Pharisees were misrepresenting His Father. Jesus told them, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would have not condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:7-8).
Jesus loved children and enjoyed having them being around. Matthew 19:13-14 records, “Then little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” I wonder how the religious leaders related to children. Maybe they were like W.C. Fields who famously said, “Get away kid, you bother me.” Children were precious to Jesus. I can almost see Him playing with the children. I wonder if they have dreidels back then.
Jesus was known to tell a humorous story or two to teach an important truth. In Jesus’ time, listening to stories would be like watching TV today. People needed to use their imagination more and picture, in their mind’s eye, what was being said. Try to imagine and picture what Jesus is saying in this story: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:41-43). I can see Laurel and Hardy doing this skit. What about this one; picture it: “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24). Then Jesus was quick to point out, after He had the disciples’ full attention, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
On this Good Friday, let us reflect on what Jesus has done for us on the cross so long ago. Let us praise His Name and have our hearts overflow with thanksgiving and praise to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And let us be filled with joy, Jesus’ Joy, as we look forward to Easter (Resurrection) Sunday. Many of us will be pealing colored hard boiled eggs on Easter morning. When we peal our eggs for breakfast, let’s be reminded that Jesus swept the egg shells away: “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12). Let us live our lives with the joy of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, until He comes again. Maranatha!
A peaceful GOOD Friday and a JOYOUS RESURRECTION SUNDAY to you all!