It has always felt strange to call this day ‘Good’.
The day when we remember torture and crucifixion and a mother watching her son die from an agonising distance. It was a day of utter darkness, literally as the Bible tells it.
Jesus’ last words were “It is finished” (John 19:30).
I imagine His followers, having watched the day unfold in disbelief, reaching a moment of utter despair as they heard those words and watched their Leader die. And die with such hopeless words.
They had seen with their own eyes that He had miraculous power. They had seen him confound death itself by raising others. Why wasn’t He doing it now?
Surely He knew that this was the time to show His power, to show that He was the Son of God. Surely He knew how afraid His followers were and would not leave them in their terror!
And yet He did.
Good Friday was the day when things did indeed seemed finished… in the worst way.
Those who loved Jesus watched their hopes die.
The disciples had given up jobs to follow a man who seemed to hold the key to what really mattered. They had followed Him passionately, listening and questioning, arguing and learning. They believed they were just at the start of something incredible.
But now. Now, in the darkness, all they had staked their lives on seemed finished.
They found themselves alone and not only that but potentially under attack from the powerful who wanted their revolution crushed.
I imagine despair and confusion. How had the power and presence of God they had known so keenly, suddenly disappeared?
Either the whole thing had been a elaborate ruse or He had simply abandoned them
Did they still believe that Friday night as they returned home?
Did they start to question all they had seen?
I know some of that feeling. Not as desperately as Jesus followers that day, I don’t think. But I have known despair and confusion.
I’ve wondered why, when I’ve tried to follow God faithfully, He seems to have abandoned me at times. He seems to have let circumstances, outwith my control but surely within His, march on and crush my hopes. Agonisingly so, at times.
That’s the thing about life – it’s hard. Not always. But often. For everyone.
But when we feel despair, we don’t speak it out in case it gets bigger. We dare not confess it in case we really are alone. And we face attack. We quietly sit in Friday darkness wondering if there is anything left to hope for. And wondering why no one else seems to feel this.
I do speak mine out. Not in public but I shout it to God and I believe He hears. Yet sometimes He doesn’t answer.
It makes no sense to me, having known His power in a very real way, why He should choose not to act when I need Him to.
I know without a doubt that He is there. I am certain that He loves me. I am confused by how these facts sit with His silence when I sit in the darkness.
And this is the hard work of Faith. Faith is not joining a club and singing songs. It is not finding a purpose and feeling good about life.
Faith is the gritty work of clinging on to what you have known to be true when the darkness seems to have won.
Faith is not for the faint hearted. And sometimes, when I am tired and frustrated by all that I see wrong in the world, I wonder if it it is for me.
But then I remember who I am. Just a person, who really doesn’t know very much. Who has felt this before and has watched the answers unfold. Not always fully but enough to keep going.
And I remember who He is.
God, the creator of everything that has ever been and ever will be. That I would think I could direct Him to make things better. My arrogance is embarrassing really.
What the disciples couldn’t see that day was that the Friday they hated was indeed Good. In fact, good doesn’t even begin to cover it.
What Jesus had finished was in fact the work that He came to do, the work of making people right with God.
His cry was not giving in, it was triumph!
It was too much for the disciples to understand. That work, even after 2 centuries of theological consideration, is still too much for human minds to fully understand. That one perfect man could really take the punishment of the whole world for all eternity and change the direction of all human existence away from judgement and towards Grace.
The disciples had no notion of that. They had not really listened when Jesus told them he would die and be raised again 3 days later. They heard what he said, then and now, through their limited capacity to understand.
I think we all see God through our limited capacity to understand.
Acknowledging that might be the start of seeing Him for real.
Jesus didn’t set up false hopes, warning “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). This life was not promised as something easy.
It is full of wonder and joy but it also has its darkness for all of us.
The message of Good Friday is that Jesus has been in that dark place and won. In the dark times, I may not understand how His plans can fit with my experience but one day I will.
And maybe I’ll discover that at the very moment I thought He’d abandoned me, He was actually achieving incredible things.
Sometimes the biggest and simplest job of Faith is believing, in the dark times where there is no understanding, that hope will rise again.
If you feel finished, at the end of yourself, I hope you find a seed of Faith to sit with in the dark place and wait for the sun to rise. The rising is coming and, if history is anything to go by, it’s going to be spectacular.