Friday, March 29, 2013

"Good" Friday?

Although we are celebrating the Good Friday holiday at the university where I teach, I am sitting in my office working.  To be honest, I am not really sure what to make of this particular holiday.  First of all, is it really a holiday?  If we are referring to the original meaning of “holiday” (that being “holy day”) then every single Christian or non-Christian seeker should be worshipping today.  Whether it is an elaborate liturgical service at the community cathedral or a small, private vigil in the village chapel, all people of faith should be gathering to remember Christ dying on the cross for all humanity.  However, today is more of a civic holiday for those of us who are employed in institutions that are religiously affiliated, giving many a three-day weekend so that consumers can take advantage of some extra spring sales while their business counterparts pine away for 5:00 to come.  In this reality, the only good to occur will be the green that is exchanged in bookstores and boutiques across our land.  Sure, a pretty dress or handsome tie may be purchased for Easter Sunday worship.  Yet, is that really a reason to call today “Good Friday?”

Second of all, is it really “good?”  This word is an odd duck in the Bible.  God defines “good” as something that He creates to proclaim His majesty and compel humanity to seek Him for life and purpose.  Creation is the beginning of Gospel.[1]  This, then, becomes the theme of the Hebrew Scriptures—“For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).[2]  Therefore, it should not surprise us when Christ questions the motives of the young politician who refers to him as “good:” “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone” (Luke 18:19).  Jesus asked the young politician if he really understood what divine goodness means.  As Kierkegaard once said, the acceptance of God’s goodness compels us to “fear and trembling” because we realize that nothing is greater or more good than God.[3]

Also, how can we remember this particular day as “good?”  When God created, he referred to his work as “good.”  Yet, on this particular Friday, I struggle to see goodness.  I am writing this around noon.  By this time, Jesus, exhausted physically and spiritually, has endured an all-night trial, been beaten and spit on, shuffled between the palaces of Pilate and Herod, whipped to the point of death, paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, nailed to the cross, and abandoned by just about everyone who knows him.  “It was not about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’  Having said this, he breathed his last” (Luke 23:44-46).  What is the “good” in this situation?  “This has to be the Son of God,” comes the feeble cry from the back of the room.  What is that?  Speak up!  What was that you said?  “Truly this man was God’s Son” (Mark 15:39)!  Ah, perhaps there is something “good” about today after all.        

[1]Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982), 20, 26.

[2]Robert Davidson, The Vitality of Worship: A Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge/Edinburgh: Eerdmans/Handsel Press, 1998), 327-328.  

[3]Soren Kierkegaard, Training in Christianity and the Edifying Discourse which “Accompanied” It, trans. Walter Lowrie, ed. John F. Thornton and Susan B. Varenne, Vintage Spiritual Classics (New York: Vintage/Random House, 2004), 75.

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