What's So Good About Good Friday?
When I was in college and things got a little crazy, mixed up and strange, a friend of mine used to tell me, “Irony can be so ironic!” That quirky phrase stays with me today. And now, when things in my life don’t quite add up – when things get a bit crazed and don’t appear to be as they seem – I think back to what Perry would always say, “Irony can be so ironic.”
One of the most ironic titles that we use in the church is Good Friday. I never understood why we would refer to the day that the Messiah was denied by his friends, humiliated in front of his followers, and then crucified on a cross as Good! The question begs to be asked: What is so good about Good Friday?
Thomas Moore tells the story of a pilgrim on the road who comes across a group of monks working on a stone building. The pilgrim stops and begins a conversation with the abbot who is watching the monks work. “It is good to see a monastery going up,” says the pilgrim.
“They are tearing it down,” says the abbot.
“Whatever for?” asks the traveler in utter disbelief.
“So we can see the sun rise at dawn,” replies the abbot.
The irony of Good Friday smacks us right in the face when we consider tearing down a monastery in order to have a clear view of endless sunrises. As people of the resurrection it is easy to skip over the difficult work of Lent, and the pain and suffering of Good Friday. But without enduring the cross and the crucifixion, we cannot truly understand the ultimate beauty of the Easter sunrise.
Frederick Buechner, one of the most prolific theologians of our time, points out that other religions and faith traditions lift up as their symbols the beauty and light of a six-pointed star, a crescent moon, and a lotus. But the symbol of Christianity, a faith that boasts of love and kindness, is a cross, an instrument of death. What could be more ironic?
But Buechner goes on to point out that the cross suggests, at the very least, hope. The hope of a people longing to see the dawn of a new day. A new day that brings with it opportunities for resurrection and reconciliation. A new day that brings with it the hope that death is not the end of the story but rather just the beginning.
May your life be filled with eternal Easter sunrises!