What’s So "Good" About It?

Of course, we can get into all kinds of semantics and say that they didn’t really mean “good”, they meant “holy”, but when I was 8 years old and was taught about “Good Friday” for the first time, I didn’t know from semantics  then and I’m sure there are others who don’t now, as well. So let’s just stick with the term we all know. “Good”.

Good Friday isn’t one of those Holy Days that’s widely celebrated, such as Easter and Christmas. In fact, I don’t recall going to many churches, if any, that even had a special Friday service for it. Instead, all the time and celebration go to the Sunday two days later. Easter Sunday.

So, why isn’t there much mention of it? Why is there no special commemoration. Had there been no Good Friday, there couldn’t be an Easter Sunday. You see, that Friday… that “Good” Friday… was the day that Jesus was crucified and died.

So… was it really “Good”?

For the family, friends, and disciples of Jesus… no. It was the worst possible thing that could have ever happened.

Imagine it.

This man, who had been teaching in a way no one else had dared to teach and who had been healing the sick, making the lame walk, causing the blind to see… this man who could chase demons into a herd of pigs and could calm a roaring sea just by saying, “be still”… this man who claimed to be the very son of God and, as such, should have had no problem dealing with anyone who dared say anything different, was arrested, beaten, tried, beaten some more, taken to Pontius Pilate, beaten yet again and brought before the very people who just a week before had celebrated his entry into their city, only to now cry out demanding his death. No. This was not good for those who were closest to Jesus.

They were left to grieve the loss of their son, brother, uncle and friend. And they were left totally confused about who he truly was, because… why would God allow anyone to kill His only son? If he truly were as he said he was. It was more than they could wrap their heads around and in the hours Jesus hung on the cross and died, his disciples were scattered and one, Peter, even completely denied he ever knew Jesus… three times… before the sun came up on Saturday. And the thing is, Jesus knew he would and told him as much!

Jesus also told all of them not to sweat his death, that on the third day, Sunday, he would arise from the grave… resurrected… and go to be with his Father and prepare a place there for all of them.

And it’s not like they hadn’t seen him perform miracles. He changed water to wine. He fed 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish and still had twelve baskets full of food left over after everyone was full! They even watched as he raised his dear friend, Lazarus, from the dead. But that was different. He was alive then. How do you do anything once you’re dead?

No. He was dead. He was laid in a tomb. The tomb was sealed shut. It was over. He was gone. Definitely not a “Good” Friday. Not for them. And because of the Sabbath, they couldn’t even properly prepare Jesus for burial. Thus the borrowed tomb as a place to put him until Sunday when they could properly care for him and prepare for his burial.

So… Sunday.

Mary Magdalene, and another one of his followers also named Mary, go to the tomb with all the things necessary to clean and prepare Jesus’ body for burial. When they get there, there was an earthquake and they saw that the stone that sealed the tomb had been rolled away from the entrance. They run inside and find… nothing. Well, nothing but the cloth that had been wrapped around the body, but Jesus was gone.

Then, before them, an Angel appears and says, “Don’t be afraid, for I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.”

But the question remains… was that Friday “good”?

You have to know why Jesus died in the first place.

While the Sadducees and the Pharisees and Pilate, everyone at that time would say it was because he was a blaspheming radical that caused too much trouble and unrest, there was far more to the story.

You see, God sent Jesus to this earth to cause all that trouble and unrest, to be a radical, and specifically to die on the cross. But not for any crime or sin people thought he committed. No. He sent Jesus to die for crimes and sins that everyone else had committed… or ever would. And Jesus came here willingly, knowing full well what would happen to him.

There was a purpose… to remove the need for an intermediary when we go before God. And to cleanse away all sin with a blood sacrifice to end all blood sacrifices.

When Jesus died… At that very second in the Temple. the veil that separated the Tabernacle from the Holy of Holies was ripped in half… from top to bottom. 60 feet in height and 4 inches thick… from top to bottom.
God himself reached down from Heaven and tore that veil in two and He was saying, you can come directly to me now. No more priests. No more sacrifices. The ultimate debt has already been paid by my son on your behalf. Come directly to me.

Jesus died bearing all the sins of all humanity from that very day to… eternity. Then he conquered all the sin, and then death itself when he arose from the grave. And most importantly he gave us direct access to his Father and forgiveness of all our sins, and all we have to do is ask for it. It’s a free gift.

So… looking back… that Friday was very good, indeed, for all of humanity.

And it deserves more than to be just an afterthought to illustrate Easter. There could have been no resurrection without, first, the sacrifice.

This year, instead of just coloring eggs and buying chocolate bunnies… think about that sacrifice and what it really means.

And then thank God that he loved the whole world so much that he offered his only begotten son to be that sacrifice.

That is real love.

Have a wonderful Good Friday…

Happy Easter and God bless you all!

John 3:16
John 12:1-John 21:25

How An Atheist Found Faith… Again.

I became a Christian in 1978 when I was 12 years old. My stepfather’s parents dragged me to church with them and one Sunday I heard a message that made sense to me, and kneeling at an altar with members of the church surrounding and praying over me, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.
By the time I was 15, however, though I still attended church with family, I had come to renounce what I once believed and declared within myself that Jesus was just a wise teacher but not the Son of God and, furthermore, that there was no God. I became an atheist.
This decision hinged on arguments that have plagued mankind from the beginning. How could an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving God allow evil to exist? Why does God allow suffering?
Those questions came up for me almost immediately because of things I was dealing with in my own life.
I had a perfectly miserable childhood filled with every form of abuse you can imagine. I was physically and emotionally abused by my stepfather and sexually abused by my maternal grandfather and many others who were strangers.
I guess I thought that, as soon as I became a Christian, God would protect me and all the abuse would stop. That didn’t happen, and over time I lost my new found faith in God and Jesus Christ. When I lost it, I knew I had lost something very profound and I missed it. I missed the love and the peace I felt. It was the only genuine feeling of love or peace that I had ever found in my life. But I just could not accept that evil and suffering could exist in the presence of a loving God.
Many troubled years went by and I was well into my adulthood and had gone through even more terrible things including 3 suicide attempts and an 18 month stay at a state psychiatric facility where I was diagnosed with mental illness. At first I was diagnosed with Chronic Major Depression, but that has since changed to Bipolar II Disorder.I was also told I have Borderline Personality Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
While, on one hand, it was a relief to have a diagnosis, on the other hand, it made that longing to feel that love and peace in my life again almost unbearable. But I still could not bring myself to believe.
Then one day, while still in the mental health facility, during a group session, something happened that changed the way I looked at the whole situation. One of the other “clients” was worked up about having to take medication and be in the group, or in the facility at all. Suddenly, at the top of his voice he said, “No once can tell me what to do! I get to choose for myself! I make the decisions, not you!” And then a thought occurred to me…
We all make our own decisions.
God gave all of us free will, starting with Adam and Eve. God told them not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But He didn’t stop them when they did just that even though He already knew what the ultimate consequences would be.
Yeah… free will. It’s one of God’s greatest gifts to us. The right to choose. Will I use my life, my talents for the good, or will I use them to do things that I know are wrong? Will I love God or will I refuse to believe He exists and turn my back on the gifts He has offered.
When God gave us free will, He had to step back. He had to let us stand or fall for ourselves, just like any other parent must eventually do with their children.
Once I realized that, I began to read the Bible again and came upon the story of Job. Now, this was a man who had every right to denounce the existence of God. Everything but his life was taken from him. His family, his friends, his home and property, his health… all of it gone. Through it all, His faith in God never wavered. He continually cried out to God to help him in and through his suffering, but he never once said, “There is no God, because a loving God would not allow this”. The kicker of Job’s story is this. it was the result of a bet. A wager between God and Satan, if you will.
You see, Job had a wonderful, large family, he also had a great deal of property and possessions. He was wealthy by the standards of the day. When God pointed Job out to Satan and said there was none more righteous than, none more devoted to God than he was, Satan said, of course he is, you’ve given him everything, why wouldn’t he be? Take it all away, though, and he’ll curse you to your face! (Job 1:8-11) So God gave Satan permission to do whatever he wanted, without causing physical harm to Job, himself, to try to prove his point. (Job 1:12) In one fell swoop, Satan took away everything from Job. His livestock were slaughtered along with his servants who tended them and his sons and daughters were killed when the house they were all in fell in on them. All of these losses in a very short span of time, yet Job didn’t curse God,,, He instead BLESSED God. (Job 1:13-22) And it didn’t stop there! When God said, see? You did all of that and he is still faithful to me. Satan said, maybe so… but he’s still healthy. Take that away and he’ll curse you for sure! So, God allowed Satan, once again, to do his worst without actually taking Job’s life. He endured every kind of physical and emotional suffering imaginable. He didn’t know why it was happening. He couldn’t imagine what he might have done to cause it. He could have, at any moment told God to kiss off, he wasn’t having the notion of their being a loving God anymore… but he never did. Satan did his absolute worst, yet through all the losses, illnesses and captivity Job still kept his faith! Does that mean he never questioned why these things were happening to him? No. He did question. But he never ceased believing that God was there and would see him through in His time. Job suffered greatly and he did curse many things… but never God. In the end, because he did remain faithful, God blessed Job with twice as much as he had originally lost. He also blessed him with more children.
I’m not saying that every incidence of suffering or every evil act is because of some cosmic wager between God and Satan. Most things we see today are directly related to an act by a human being or a group, thereof.
It goes back to free will.
We all get to choose how we will live our lives. God gave us that gift. Why? With the hope that we would choose good over evil and choose to love and follow Him.
A gift far greater than free will was given when God knew that we would sometimes choose not to do good. That we would, in fact, choose to sin and that the act of sin would cause a separation between Him and us that could not be removed without intervention and atonement of that sin.
In comes Jesus Christ…
But that’s a topic I will discuss on another day,

My discovery of the concept of free will helped me to finally reconcile how a loving God could exist despite the evil so prevalent in this world. God exists, and I try to live each day in such a way that I am deserving of His grace.
I’m not perfect. I still make mistakes and doubts do creep back in. But I pray for strength to keep my faith in the face of day to day struggles, mistakes and doubts. So far, God has been good. That’s all He can be!

copyright 2011 Michelle Wampole.(Ordained April 13, 2011)