SAN DIEGO, April 15, 2011 —Good Friday. Where on Earth did they come up with a name like that? The second in a trilogy of holy days making up Easter Week, (Psalm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter itself) the purpose of Good Friday is lost on many.
Yes, Easter week is fast approaching. There was a time when such holidays were just that, holidays! But in this fun, current, colorful era of American history, far more comes to mind than the fact that Christians will have a meaningful time of worship or that non-Christians can shrug their shoulders and say to themselves, “If they want to believe in Jesus, who cares?”
Bible based celebrations invoke different images for different groups. Certain atheist activists use religious holidays to promote their own understanding of “Separation between church and state.” Just a few years ago, the Atheist Coalition reserved a popular Easter sunrise service site on San Diego’s Mt. Soledad to hold a morning program of their own as if they needed that exact spot and that exact day for a meeting. But then, they were merely trying to make a point, as so many others do this time of year, and the point is quite different depending upon who is doing the talking.
The point Jewish people want you to understand is that it was Roman soldiers and not Jews who nailed Jesus to the cross. For them, this is an important distinction inasmuch as the term “Christ killer” has been used throughout history to promote pogroms and other despicable acts. Others will point out that the Romans killed Jesus only because the Jewish Sanhedrin asked them too, missing entirely the question of whether it was Jesus’ purpose to die, making all of us guilty, Jew and Gentile alike.
And how about the point of many in our mainstream media? Turning on the TV, one could easily conclude that Christians are the stupidest people on Earth, synonymous with Fascists and any others who wish to violate freedom or common sense.
Lost in the sea of confusion and politically charged rhetoric is the Easter message itself, intended to bring people together, rather than apart, and to make people feel forgiven, rather than fearful that their civil liberties are about to perish if they tend to glance at a cross up on a hill or if that hill happens to be government owned land. Sadly, some who object to Christianity do not understand its real meaning. If they did, they would realize that the purpose of the gospel is neither to force doctrine nor encourage blind faith. Better comprehension would mean less objection to Christian words and symbols even for those who personally do not share the belief.
The feelings associated with the Son of God are supposed to be good, which returns us to the question we began with: What exactly was good about Good Friday? It sure wasn’t a good Friday for the disillusioned followers of Jesus. They wanted a king, somebody who would push the tyrannical Romans off their conquered land, not a disappointing impostor who was going to allow himself to be executed by the most shameful, painful torture that the world had ever known.
Naturally, they cheered up on Sunday. You know the rest of the story. To some, it’s just that; a story. Many do not believe in the Sunday Sequel, but Sunday’s impact on the subsequent two thousand years of history cannot be denied. Face facts: Something unusual must have happened, unusual enough even for non-Christian historians and teachers of the time to acknowledge the trial, death, miracles and (in some cases) even the resurrection of Jesus (Josephus, Tacitus, Talmud).
Just think: This common man from a poor family, a simple carpenter who never fought a war, never ruled as king, never encouraged a violent revolution and never wrote a book, influenced the world so much that we even count the calendar differently. (You can say “Before Common Era” instead of Before Christ, but everyone knows this is no different than calling Easter Vacation “Spring Break” or Christmas Vacation a “Winter Carnival.”
Even people who do not believe in Jesus use his name constantly to the exclusion of other religious figures. When is the last time you heard somebody accidentally catch his finger in the door and cry out, “Krishna!”?
Yes, something happened on Sunday. But back to Friday. What seemed like an unforeseen tragedy turned out to be the very plan of God. Jesus did not fail in His mission by dying on the cross, He intended from the beginning to die on the cross. He did this as a way of paying for the selfish deeds and selfish natures of human kind.
The message of Christianity: Love, mercy and forgiveness.
What Christianity is NOT about: Judgment and condemnation. This is not to say God won’t judge the world someday or that we will not answer to Him in the next life. It is instead a reminder that the whole idea behind the cross was a savior who wanted to spare us the judgment we deserve by taking it upon Himself. Nothing you have done; no word, no action, no thought, can separate you from the forgiveness of God, if only you will let Him forgive you. Yes, we must also repent. But so many have refused to change their torn lives only because they thought God wanted nothing to do with them.
How unfortunate that people listen to the gospel and somehow hear the opposite of its message. They think Christians are yelling at them about not being good enough for God or insisting on imposing religious conformation. Sometimes the communication breakdown springs from the damaged, wounded, discouraged soul who thinks he/she is at a point of no return. But all too often, tactless Christians are responsible, coming across as holier than thou or better than everyone else. The message of Jesus is that we are all in the same boat, all selfish (or sinful as the Bible calls it). We are not people who have earned favor with God. We are people who gave up and threw ourselves at the mercy of the court, hoping for a pardon, while the judge himself pays our fine. As I once heard it put; “A true Christian is just one beggar telling another beggar where the bread is.”
That, according to the New Testament, is what Jesus had to accomplish on the cross before He could rise from the dead. And that is why Good Friday is good after all.
NOTE: A brief portion of this article was inspired by the anonymous poem in Public Domain, One Solitary Life.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net. Comments to posts are discussed by Bob over the air where anyone is free to call in and respond/debate. Call in toll free number: 1-888-344-1170. Read more Forbidden Table Talk in The Washington Times Communities.
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