I’ve had a word for the Church that has been stirring in me for a couple years now regarding the way that Christians view/celebrate Good Friday. Allow me to preface all this by saying that I, myself, do not think much of the church calendar, in general, but I recognize that much of the Church does. I say this to communicate simply that this post is neither an endorsement for Good Friday (or any other holy day/season), nor is it meant to be a criticism of it. I just humbly offer what I believe is a helpful correction for those who do choose to celebrate it.
For much of my Christian life, I understood Good Friday to be a time for remembering and mourning Jesus’ death (emphasis on mourning). It was characterized by deep, somber reflection on the gruesome way in which Jesus suffered, inviting every Christian, in a sense, to either put themselves in Jesus’ shoes to imagine the sheer pain and shame he must have experienced, or to take on the role of his beloved followers as they watched these events unfold in horror, despair, and confusion. Either way, the point (as I understood it then) was basically to feel as bad as possible, in hopes that this would produce something positive, like repentance.
Now, rather than insert my evaluation or analysis of this perspective (I am certainly not lacking in thoughts I could share.), I do not feel compelled to do so in this post. Instead, I’d like to look at just one Scripture, which I believe contains the message that God has put on my heart. In doing so, I hope everyone reading this will be encouraged to do the same, humbly letting the word of God speak into our lives.
(Note: It is likely that plenty of Christians see a different purpose for Good Friday than that which I have described above, in which case, this article may or may not be of service to them. But even as a leader in the church, this was my general experience and understanding of Good Friday until just a couple of years ago. Thus, I’m inclined to believe that there are others like me.)
Do Not Weep For Jesus
And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ (Luke 23:26–29, ESV)
Okay, did you catch it? Do you see how this scripture corrects the “Good Friday” mindset that I addressed above? Here’s my quick breakdown.
Jesus is in the middle of his death sentence. He’s already been beaten to a pulp, mocked, humiliated, and mutilated in a variety of ways. As far as we understand, at this point, he may have been hard to even recognize. He had already suffered so much, yet, as all of them knew, he had not been through the worst of it. So here are some women who obviously loved him, gazing upon their Master, their Hope, their Leader, their Friend, in utter grief at the events unfolding in front of them. In the midst of such a spectacle, their emotion is easily understandable, but according to Jesus, it is unfortunately misguided.
If we are going to enter into the experience of those who witnessed Jesus’ death, then let us receive this word which he gave to them at that time: “Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” This is the word that has been stirring in me for the Church regarding Good Friday, and I honestly believe it applies to any time that we look to the Cross. Do not weep for Jesus. To do so is to entirely miss the point. Instead, I believe we are to weep with Jesus.
Jesus does not want our sympathy; he wants our eyes opened to the reason that he suffered. His suffering was never meant to be a guilt trip, but an invitation to see the world through his eyes. What on earth could ever compel someone to give their body and shed their blood so selflessly? Love for those whom he came to save.
As Jesus went through this great trial, I believe that he had no time for self-reflection. The only way for him to willfully endure through such suffering, without calling on the Father to send for his rescue (see Matthew 26:53; 27:39-43), was to be totally, completely, compelled by love, which is selfless by nature.
Therefore, if we were to enter into the heart and mind of Jesus on that day, I believe we would find ourselves thinking not of ourselves at all, but of the world ruled by darkness and in such great need of light. We would find our hearts filled with compassion for lost sheep. We would feel an unfathomable burden for freeing people from all forms of captivity and oppression. Though the flesh might be screaming in pain from the nail-piercings, the mind of the spirit would be weeping for those who don’t know the Father.
If you think that the nails kept Jesus on the Cross, think again. Love is the reason that he didn’t come down. The only way we have any chance of imagining, let alone experiencing, his suffering is to feel what he felt for this lost and broken world, seeing others (ourselves included) through his eyes of perfect love.
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