A time to remember where the good stuff comes from
Rev. Torey Lightcap
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Today is Good Friday. That may mean something to you, whether a whole lot of something or a little something, or it may mean nothing at all. I would like to assume that it means practically nothing to you, and build you a picture from the bottom up.
Given that it is the day that Christians formally observe the crucifixion of Jesus, the name “Good Friday” might appear to us as rather bewildering, at least on its face.
What’s so good about it? The term itself could be an altered form of the English phrase “God’s Friday,” but in any case the day goes by many names throughout the world: Great Friday, Holy Friday, Long Friday, Sad Friday. These are all instructive in their own way, yet it seems useful to return to the original question: What’s so good about it?
I promise to turn fully to that question, but let me first tell you what happened on the very first Good Friday. It’s going to take more than a sentence to do that.
Jesus was a man from the town of Nazareth in the region of Galilee. He had been visiting Jerusalem with his followers while continuing to spread a countercultural message that tweaked the local nose of the Roman Empire and attempted to return his own faith system to its heart and spirit. With a program such as this, and with many miracles attested to him as he went along, people began to see that he might be something more than human ” a sower of God’s word, yes, but even more besides.
You can imagine that he must have attracted quite a bit of attention along the way to Jerusalem, and that when he got to this big town (which was already bustling and on edge as it approached the Passover holiday), his reputation may have even preceded him. In any case, he used the last several days of his Jerusalem visit to make pointed and public observations about how things were, how things differed from God’s vision for humanity, and what it might take to get things back on track.
As history often demonstrates, it proved easier to make this Jesus a scapegoat than to actually listen and respond to him. On Friday of that week he was brutally beaten, forced to carry a heavy beam through the streets of town, and taken to a site just outside town where a cross was assembled. He was cruelly attached to that cross and left to die, which, at least according to Mark and Matthew, occurred at around 3 p.m. His body was taken down and buried in a tomb hewn out of rock.
If that were it ” if that was the end of the story ” then “good” would be a terrible title indeed for the events of this day. Christians would be the followers of a philosophy embodied in the life (and perhaps the death) of a person, a storied individual who made hard choices, told the truth, and helped a lot of people. But this particular Friday would never have been good. It would be a hard thing to reconcile.
And if we were to concentrate only on the depths of humanity, then there would indeed be no further justification of this day as good. Presented with this rabble-rouser, we put him away, put him down before things got out of hand. We quelled insurrection and preserved order, but these things were bought at a price: our complacency in violence … our willingness to let people die rather than listen … the perpetration of a mighty injustice in a world desperately in need of justice.
To see the good that’s at play here you have to look past Friday, to the Easter morning, when humanity’s understanding of death was permanently altered and suddenly Jesus was shown to have been resurrected from the cold of the grave.
Thought dead, he walked, talked, and even ate among his friends before leaving the earth.
So even though it was a day of pain and death; even though the earth shook in darkness; even though it brings a lump to the throat of the believer to consider it, that is why this day is still called good and always will be. It was the day that no death could ultimately contain, and this is very good news indeed.
It’s my privilege to present this perspective. I know that in being allotted this space on this day, I am in essence speaking for many. So I hope that you’ll want to expand on what you’ve read here in the next few days by checking it out for yourself.
A beautiful Easter to you, then, and a very good, Good Friday.
The Rev. Torey Lightcap is priest-in-charge of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glenwood Springs (www.saint-barnabas.info). Torey and his wife have two children and live in New Castle.
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The Glenwood Springs-Rifle sports rivalry goes way back for GSHS baseball coach and former Demons multi-sport student-athlete Eric Nieslanik.