As a child I could never understand why this was called “Good Friday”. What was supposed to be so good about it?
I had spent year after year as a young boy being taught in the wonderful Sunday School of one of the local Presbyterian Churches in our town, even though my family weren’t even Presbyterians. My parents didn’t go to church much at all at that stage, but I am so glad they still felt it important enough to send me along to a Sunday School every Sunday afternoon. And it was there from a very early age that I sang songs and was told the stories about Jesus with all the other kids, and I loved Him. I really did. If there was anyone in the world apart from my Mum and Dad, who I wanted to be around more, it was Jesus. He sounded so great. So good. So kind. So amazing. Even now as I write this I am remembering those days…the feel and smell of that big old wooden hall where we all gathered to sing together and then broke up into smaller groups around the edges where little clusters of chairs awaited each class and their respective teachers. Truly halcyon days I think.
Although I can only really remember generalities of feelings about those younger days, there is one day I do remember very clearly indeed. The particular building of the Presbyterian Church that housed my Sunday School was a relatively new building at that time (I’ll leave you to guess my age…but let’s just say that my life is ambling ever closer to the stage when I will be closer to being one hundred years old than to when I was one.Yikes!) and the venue where we would have our classes was on the first floor where it was actually one of two halls, a smaller one to the left as you came up the stairs and a much larger hall to right which had a full built-in stage at the far end and into which all of us little kids would be eager to get to, because this was the hall where all the older kids met for their classes. It was in this larger hall, having finally completed my right of passage (basically I got old enough for them to send me there, but it doesn’t sound as cool as saying “right of passage”) and found myself in another cluster of chairs of one of the older classes placed just inside the door of the big kids hall, that I had a particularly memorable moment of realisation.
It was an afternoon in particular in this class that I remember still very clearly indeed as it was the moment it dawned on me that Jesus had been killed. Now I’m pretty sure I must have heard about this before at some stage in the little kids hall but must not have properly understood what I was being told. For some reason however, at that very moment the reality of what our Sunday School teacher was telling us hit me like a truck…they had killed Jesus! And when it did hit me, I remember feeling sad. Very, very sad.
Why? Why did they kill Him? He hadn’t done anything wrong? He only ever did good things. He loved people, made people better and really seemed to like hanging out with us kids. So why did they kill Him?
I remember feeling angry and frustrated too as I struggled to understand why this had happened and I felt like I wanted to cry, feeling kind of helpless and very, very cross at the adults for being so stupid for doing this to Jesus. Why would they do that? I distinctly remember going home still very troubled and fantasising that if I was like one of the comic book superheroes that I loved, I would fly back to that time and kick some serious first century butt to save Jesus, and then everyone would thank me and we would have the most humungous, bestest party the world has ever seen. So there.
I really did want to save Jesus.
Good Friday? Pah! What was good about it?
One day…many years later at the back of a church I had started to go to because I really fancied this girl who went to the same school as me (a whole other story with a pretty good ending by the way), I finally got it. I understood. I was sixteen and by this stage had heard the story of Jesus’ death on the cross maybe a hundred times, and now I was hearing it again…and this time it all made sense. As a young boy I had fantasised about saving Jesus from the awful death that cruel people had put him through. Now, as a young man, I realised that saving Him wasn’t the point…He was saving me.
So what was He saving me from?
The very same selfish madness and insanity that made those stupid adults kill him so cruelly way back then. A madness that I have too. A madness that makes me feel afraid. A madness that makes me destroy myself with anger, hate, jealously, lust, bitterness and greed…that makes me a stupid adult too so many times without any real effort at all. A madness that we all have. And it has a name: sin. An old fashioned name I know, but then again so’s “Influenza”, but we never have any issues saying that or trying to look for a cure for it when he have it, and sin’s a much more pervasive and terminal problem.
But it’s ok…our superhero’s already been. You’ll be glad to know I wasn’t able to fly back to save Him from completing His mission. He still died…horribly…but in willingly doing so, saved me and didn’t even need a cape to do it.
I still wish He didn’t have to die and it still makes me sad. But now I understand why it happened. Why He did it. Love. He loves like no one else could ever love. He did it all because He loves you and He loves me. That’s why that awful, horrible, blood soaked Friday actually turned out to be a very good day for us all.
In that memorable moment, as a sixteen year old at the back of that little church, I heard the Pastor ask if there was anyone who wanted to give their life to Jesus…and because I now understood that He had already given His life for me, I put my hand up…and genuinely have never looked back.