devotion, Good Friday

Good Friday!Why do we call this day Good? When it is a day in which we commemorate the crucifixion of the Lord? Because, ultimately, the crucifixion was good – through it God redeemed all of us! In the end he took the worst that human beings could do, and turned it into the redemption of all humanity. God can redeem our worst days – perhaps we will not go back and call them "good", but eventually, we can look back and say "God has taken the bad and made something good of it!"

Luke 23:44-49

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

The gospels record seven different phrases Jesus spoke, or shouted, while on the cross – from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon. Matthew, Mark, and Luke say that it was dark for three of those hours, from noon until three – and there was an earthquake which tore the curtain of the temple in two. The curtain separated the Holy of Holies, what was believed to be God’s throne room, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, from the remainder of the temple. Only the high priest could go into that space, and then only rarely, and only after making offerings of atonement for his own sins and those of the people. Perhaps the tearing of the curtain represents God’s becoming available to all of us, opening his throne room to all humankind, through the atoning sacrifice made by Christ.

There are many different ways of understanding what Christ did for us that day – none of them quite explains it, but each has something to offer. He is the atoning sacrifice that brings forgiveness for all our sins; but if he is the atonement, he is also the high priest who offers it, for he offered himself willingly. As the author of Hebrews says, “We have a great high priest in heaven”. He is also a friend who offers his life for a friend, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.” But then he includes all of us as his friend. He is also God, the divine Son of God, who came to live among us, as one of us. It is in the incarnation that I find the greatest understanding of his death. He chose to live as one of us – and human beings die; he chose to suffer, as we do, or perhaps more than any of us do – so that we might know in the end that he is with us; he understands where we go and what we feel.

In these words in Luke, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit”, Jesus again quotes a Psalm, Psalm 31. He expresses trust, faith that the Father will take his Spirit; faith that God will ultimately redeem what he is doing there that day.

The attached photo is a mural of the crucifixion within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

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