Good Friday! Who ever came up with that name? It’s not what I would think of if someone would say to me, “Have a good day.”
Was it such a good day for Jesus? From a human perspective, not so much. His “bad day” actually started the evening before. He celebrated the Passover meal late Thursday and had to deal with the fact of his betrayal by one of his best friends.
Later that evening as he prayed in the Garden, Jesus underwent what I believe was the greatest emotional and spiritual suffering a human ever experienced. In prayer, he was surrendering himself to the will of the Father to submit himself to the death penalty and all the other abuse he would take from the Roman soldiers. The death he was facing was not for his own offense but as a substitute for all we sinners who would believe on him through all time. He was voluntarily accepting the punishment for all of our sin. He was putting himself under the wrath of God for us. This agony he suffered in prayer was so intense that he sweat blood. Literally. Not a euphemism.
The betrayal was realized later that night at the Garden of Gethsemane when Judas identified him to the Roman soldiers who took him away to be humiliated.
What was undoubtedly the greatest agony of all happened around 1 PM Friday afternoon after he had been hanging on the cross since about 9 AM. This is a mystery I don’t pretend to understand. Somehow, the Son of God, the third person of the Trinity, was forsaken by his Father, the first person of the Trinity. How is it that God can forsake God? I don’t know. I can believe that whatever this forsakenness means, it far exceeds any forsakenness any of us have ever experienced. He can empathize with you in your forsakenness.
The Triune God who from eternity expressed love among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit somehow experienced forsakenness. This is the God whose name is “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin… (Exodus 34:6-5).” This God of steadfast love and faithfulness, finds himself forsaken. That was not a good day for him.
It was, however, a voluntary act. It was done because of the joy that was set before him. Shortly after this agonizing cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Later that day he was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
But then, there is the rest of the story!
Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus along with Joanna and the other women went to the tomb to minister to the body of Jesus with spices and ointment. It was a small crowd of women who were shocked to find an empty tomb. The great stone had already been rolled away so they could enter the tomb. There an angel told them that he is alive, he is risen, go tell the disciples.
The women ran with fear and great joy! Even with the testimony of these several women, the disciples did not believe them. They had to see for themselves. John says they still didn’t understand the Scripture that Christ must rise from the dead. While Peter and the others were in the empty tomb checking it out for themselves, Mary Magdalene stood outside where she witnessed another man whom she didn’t recognize until he called her name, “Mary.” Then she knew it was the Lord.
Tomorrow is Friday, but Sunday’s a-comin’! Rejoice, he is risen, he is risen indeed!