Today is the day Christians all over the world remember and reflect the death of Jesus. We call it Good Friday, which seems odd, since it was such a very dark and horrible day. The Savior of the world, the only good king, the only good person for that matter, was tortured, mocked, hung on a cross, and died. That doesn’t seem good.
And it wasn’t, sort of. Why’d he do it? Well, that’s pretty simple, because though he is good, we are exactly the opposite. You don’t think so? Think on it some more. You might not have killed anyone lately, but don’t kid yourself. You’re capable of it. I am too. And a thousand “less” sinful sins. As if there was such a thing. We’re not good. And since God is very good, perfect actually, he couldn’t abide by that.
Basically there are consequences for the “ungoodness” that is our sorry selves. The twist in the story is that instead of making us pay for it (the clear option) God decided to take the consequences himself. By punishing his own perfect son in our place. We call that substitutionary atonement. (huh? Check it out here or talk to my husband, he knows this stuff). He took our place. His death on the cross satisfied the consequences of our sin. Then his resurrection broke the hold that sin had on us for good. It’s a long story. It seems weird, and it is actually sort of weird, but it’s true. And I’d love to talk about it with you sometime.
It’s been interesting over the past few weeks as my home church has done the sacrament of communion each week for the last month or so in preparation of the Holy Week and Easter instead of a typical once a month schedule. Coming from a rather traditional Southern Baptist Church, even the once month seemed rather excessive compared to the once a quarter communion I’d grown up with. So once a week? Wow.
But over the weeks I’ve begun to notice something. It seems like each week as I take the bread and drink the juice it takes on a very deep meaning to me. And each week it’s been something different.
The first week it tasted like hope. It had been a discouraging week without much victory. I felt like a failure in every way- I’d been arguing with my husband over stupid things (something I actually do each week, because I’m awesome like that), and had been spiteful and thoughtless when I should have been thoughtful and full of grace. My times with the Lord in his Word had been sporadic at best, and my prognosis was bleak. As I held the bread and the comically small cup in my hand, asking the Lord for forgiveness it was as if he whispered in my heart that forgiveness was mine for the asking. And it would be granted to me that day, and every day, not because I deserved it, but because he’d already paid the price. There was hope for me yet. And the communion we took was a tangible piece of that hope for me.
The next week I came in battered and bruised in my heart. My grandmother had been so sick and the outcome had been rather uncertain, my parents were away and out of touch, and I felt so vulnerable and alone (despite my husband’s constant support, what can I say- I’m needy and I’m working on it). The bread was comfort to me that day. The very present help in trouble, never leave you nor forsake you type of comfort. And it was like a warm bear hug to my heart. I couldn’t eat it fast enough. It tasted like home and everything that was good. It tasted like grace.
Another day it tasted like healing. Another time it was peace.
Today is Good Friday. And you know what, it is good. Painfully heartbreakingly good. We watched a video in the lunch service I attended and my heart again is moved with gratitude- not the “thanks for the cookie” kind of gratitude mind you…the “holy crap I definitely did not nor will ever do anything to deserve what you’ve done on my behalf” kind. But it was interesting, as I prayed in my seat, asking the Lord to show me the word of the day for communion on today of all days, it wasn’t comfort or forgiveness or hope that came to mind. It was victory. The battle charging, flag waving, glorious joy bubbling over and spilling out kind.
For by his stripes we are healed. The things that are so very bad are coming untrue (as Samwise would say). The hold of death is broken and we are free. Good Friday and the Easter Sunday that follow it are the best things, the most necessary things, that have every happened. Ever.
May we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him (crazy huh?) endured the cross on this day, so many years ago for me and for you and for all of us, despising it’s shame, and has now sat down in victory.
And his victory has become our own. I held the cup and the little cracker in my hand, representing his body, broken for me, and it tasted like beautiful, resonant victory. And that’s a good thing.