Friday, April 6, 2012

Why This Friday is Called Good

I've seen several comments on Facebook and elsewhere today related to Good Friday. Many ask the question why it is called “Good” when it commemorates the death of Jesus. Certainly on one level the label doesn't seem to fit.

But it does fit, because for humanity this day marks the beginning of the process by which the entire story of the universe was transformed. The event we commemorate on this day will culminate on Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. No better, no more significant, no more meaningful event has ever happened in the history of the world. Yes, the opening scene appears to be a tragedy, loaded with grief and sorrow. We should grieve. But we should keep in mind that today is only the opening scene. And we know the end of the story. As Tony Campolo reminds us, citing a sermon he once heard, “It's Friday, but Sunday's comin'!”

In the events of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday we, everyone, all humanity, receives the opportunity to live in freedom. Freedom from sin, freedom from shame, from injustice and bondage (and there are many types of bondage). The death and resurrection of Jesus announce the redemption of the world from its fallen state, from its brokenness and all that accompanies this. This redemption is of course for us humans, but it also touches on the whole creation. With the resurrection of Jesus we see God's Kingdom break into the world in a new, radical and powerful way. 

By accomplishing his purposes for creation through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God demonstrates that her ways are not the ways of the world. God could have acted with power, with violence, with dramatic signs to overthrow the powers of this fallen world. She could have established her kingdom through methods that we could more easily understand. But God didn't. God chose to work through weakness, through humility, through dying in order to bring new life. And more than 2,000 years later we still struggle to grasp and accept that and how much more so to actually live it ourselves. 

God's people—the Church—proclaims this amazing, profound message that in the dying of God we have salvation. The restoration of the world has begun. But we all recognize, in ourselves and in the world around us, that the process is not yet complete. This is one of the mysteries of Christian faith, because we proclaim that in fact it is complete. Jesus did it all. At the same time it is on-going. We and the world are still being transformed. We who respond to God's invitation are now the very ones he uses to continue this work of transformation. As N.T. Wright powerfully states it:

“We are now called to be the people through whom the unique victory of Calvary and Easter is implemented in and for the whole world.”

We call today “good” because today we remember the death of Jesus, which marked the first step toward the redemption and transformation of the world. On Sunday we will celebrate the victory of Jesus over death, over corruption and brokenness and all that is not as God intended it to be. And beginning on Monday we will once again go out into the world and seek to live as people through whom this victory continues to be proclaimed and implemented to the whole world. 

And that's something to celebrate.

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