Mark 15; Matthew 27
Recently, one of my children heard someone mistakenly call “Good Friday,” “Black Friday.” And you know, that seems appropriate enough.
It was a dark day. Jesus – betrayed and denied by those who were close to him – was arrested and unfairly tried, brutally beaten, mercilessly mocked, spat upon. Stripped of his clothes and all respect, Jesus hung on the cross between bandits. Passersby insulted him, taunting and deriding him for not saving himself.
The righteous, holy God-Man, Jesus, suffered not only cruel physical torment but also the emotional anguish of his friends’ betrayal and denial. He looked upon the crowds of people who had less than a week before hailed him with Hosannas. That black Friday, they shouted, “Crucify him!”
His mother stood watching, weeping. He could not comfort her. In agony, Jesus cried to his Father God, “Why have you forsaken me?”
The sky turned black. The earth rattled. Rocks split open. All of creation groaned as Jesus, God Incarnate, gave up himself to death. It certainly seemed like a Black Friday, devoid of light.
C.S. Lewis’ colleague and fellow member of the Inklings, Charles Williams wrote the novel “Descent Into Hell.” In it, he wrestles with the idea of a “terrible good.” One of the characters asks, “I don’t see how goodness can be dreadful. . . . If things are good they’re not terrifying, are they?”
Throughout the novel, Williams’ characters grapple with the notion of surrendering themselves to God, relinquishing their individual wants and trusting that whatever God has for them is wholly good, even if the notion of submitting themselves to God is terrifying. It’s a good that is wrapped in terror. It’s a terrible good.
In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky describes a beauty that is an “awful thing…mysterious as well as terrible.”
Yes, the hours from sundown after the Passover Feast until Jesus’ body was taken from the cross and carried to a tomb were agonizing hours. The sky turned black in the middle of the day. The ground shook. Beaten, bloodied, wearing a scornful crown of thorns, Jesus died. It was terrible. It was a Black Friday.
But Jesus willingly submitted himself to the beatings. He humbly carried the cross. Jesus chose to surrender himself to death so that he could, once and for all, proclaim forgiveness for everyone. As Jesus heard the scoffing cries of, “Save yourself if you’re really God!” and the angry shouts of, “Crucify him!” – Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them.”
The goodness of forgiveness was wrapped in the dreadful, brutal, terrible cross. Jesus died. It was beautiful. It was a Good Friday.