For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. ~Romans 5:6 NRSV
Good Friday is sort of a weird day in the church. Or at least it’s weird to me. It’s a bit morbid, gathering together to remember Jesus’s death. I remember a few years ago I had a youth ask me, “Why are Christians so obsessed with death?”
And I thought for a moment – well…we’re not obsessed with death…we’re obsessed with Jesus conquering sin and death. And maybe sometimes that gets lost in translation.
In Remembrance of Me
Many churches on Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday), have a service observing Jesus’s last supper. It’s the night Jesus washes his disciples feet. And it’s the night of the last supper, the first communion. Jesus takes the bread and wine and tells his disciples that these ordinary things are his body and his blood, broken for the sins of the world. And Jesus tells them to eat and drink and do this in remembrance of him.
That’s a big part of why we observe this kind of morbid Good Friday service. Because we are remembering Jesus’s death. We are remembering the promises that Jesus made to his disciples and makes to us. And even though we remember in some form every time we take communion, once a year we take the time to observe and remember.
I’m not going to lie, we do talk about death a lot in the church. We talk about Jesus’s death a LOT in the church. But our entire faith tradition lies in the miracle of Jesus. Jesus as the Son of God, the virgin birth, Jesus’s ministry of healing and subversion, and yes, his death.
And even though it might seem nicer not to think much on the experience Jesus had, I do think it’s important for us to attempt to wrap our minds around what has been done. Because the Son of God going through terrible suffering, pain, and even death, in order to save us from our brokenness – is sort of a big deal.
And I’m going to confess something here, I never saw “Passion of the Christ”. I know a lot of people did. I know that many people think it’s the best way to understand what Jesus went through. And that’s fine. I personally don’t need to see a film that depicts the suffering of our Lord (especially when I recognize that there are some difficult anti-Semitic undertones and a LOT of graphic violence). But I do think it’s important that we try to understand why Jesus suffered.
Observing Good Friday is leaning into the necessary awkwardness of a savior who dies on a cross. Because in this hopeless, shameful, morbid moment, us Christians find hope.
Pointing towards Sunday
Because in the midst of this observation. Through morbid moments, through the awkwardness of focusing on death. Through the sorrow in Jesus’s suffering. In all of this, we find hope in the coming Sunday. In Easter. We find hope in Jesus’s resurrection.
I don’t think Christians are obsessed with death, but rather we are obsessed with life. We are obsessed with the new life Jesus gives us in his conquering of sin and death. When Jesus goes to the cross he experiences the brokenness of the world in order to bring this world something entirely new.
And it’s this new life, that we experience right now, and we hope for in our future, that leads us to this weird and incredibly meaningful day in our church.