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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Good Friday: Night, Agony and Beauty

A continuation of my musings on Lent . . . .

Tomorrow is Good Friday. I told my children this morning that it wouldn't surprise me if a large percentage of Americans didn't even know why it is called that. "Oh Good Friday?  It's a day off work before Easter, that's why it's good!" I wonder how many realize that the price for their sin was paid on that day many years ago. Do they even comprehend that it is the day that the covenant was sealed with Christ's blood, that they can escape Hell because of what happened on a horrible Roman cross?

May I never forget that day or that Cross! It is a sacred, holy thing and the day we remember Christ's sacrifice is a hallowed one. Though I have pondered the observance of Lent and its place in church history, I would never deny the glory of the cross. It is a solemn symbol, to be sure, and not to be taken lightly. How can one look upon the blood soaking into the rough hewn wood and hear Christ's agony in His death throes and not be rendered speechless at the magnitude of His love for humanity?

Some of the comments on my post about Lent referred to the cross and our need for reverence and appreciation for it. I most heartily agree with those sentiments. We must never be "put off" by the Cross, but rather be drawn to it and hold it in high esteem. What was once viewed as an extreme instrument of torture and death is for us an emblem of deepest beauty and unending life.

Perhaps those who choose to enter into the denial practices of Lent feel it helps them, in a very small way, more clearly identify with the sufferings of Calvary. I can see how that could be. My question merely was "Is that what Christ wants us to do? Does it bring Him glory or pleasure for us to do so? Would He tell us to do this or is it a human tradition, not necessarily wrong, but neither clearly Scriptural?"

I'm still not sure of the answer, but one thing I do know - every Christian should bow in thankfulness on Good Friday and remember the cost of his or her salvation. What an appropriate time to look back at His suffering and thank Him for drinking that cup to the full! What a wonderful day to partake of the Lord's Supper and remember the "new covenant' in His blood! What a thrill to recall His promise that the next time He drinks the fruit of the vine will be with His bride in the New Kingdom! These are some of the thoughts I will be having as I join in communion with others at a Good Friday service. It will be a melancholy time as we contemplate His pain, but we will not weep because we find joy in a gloomy religion; we will weep as we remember that it was our sins that put Him there, that He died in our place.

The Cross is culmination of the price, but it is not the end of the story, of course. Still, without it, there would be no garden tomb shining and empty. For there to be new life, there must first be death. And Christ was that corn of wheat, planted in the ground in death, which would soon spring back to life, bringing forth much fruit.

In His garden sufferings, I imagine dread and submission and commitment and the power of evil rising toward crescendo. In His betrayal, I glimpse sadness and disappointment and aloneness. In His trial, I see agony and shame and obedience to death. In His Cross, I find a terrible beauty in the pathos and love in the pain. As the Son of God allows His human life to slip away, He holds onto His commitment to you and to me. He reaches out to place us back in the Father's hand as He gasps "It is finished." And as darkness shrouds Golgotha, Hades becomes strangely light as the Conqueror shatters the gloom and snatches the keys. Calvary's work is done; night is receding, morning is on the way.

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