Tag Archives: Good Friday

This is a good Friday

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“I’ll do it when I’m good and ready.” “It’s just not the right time. I need more time.” But in matters of faith, we are never truly good or really ready. Filthy rag righteousness, we could never clean up the mess we’ve made on our own. The Apostle Paul tells the truth and shames us devils, writing to the Romans, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”[1] Sinners never clean up real nice, which is why we need Christ’s push broom- cross.

There is waning interest in the kingdom of God and less and less time to pursue it as we spend much of days building our own. Likewise, we behave as if we can put God on a waiting list, as if God is comfortable to remain on the back burner, as if our getting right with God can be rendered in installments, as if we are on a payment plan. A little here, a little there, we attend four Sundays in a row and then our affection grows cold.

We talk of our relationship with God as if we have all the time in the world. We speak about life with Christ as if there is time to spare. We rob him of years that could have been given in service to his ministry but instead, are wasted playing church or worse still, playing God. William Willimon offers this confession for us: “God forgive us for selling out our great intellectual treasure—the gospel of God with us—for a mess of psychobabble and pragmatic, utilitarian, self- help triviality.”[2]

Because we have been told by popular culture that we are good people. Michael Horton writes in Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, “It is easy to become distracted from Christ as the only hope for sinners. Where everything is measured by our happiness rather than by God’s holiness, the sense of our being sinners becomes secondary, if not offensive. If we are good people who have lost our way but with the proper instructions and motivations can become a better person, we need only a life coach, not a redeemer.”[3]

But, the words of the penitent thief change the conversation on conversion. Like Judas, the decoy disciple who fakes it until he can make a deal with the Pharisees, he is a pickpocket, a bandit, a robber. We don’t know his name and he was not long a Christian. A new member of the body of Christ, he wasn’t baptized, didn’t join a church, didn’t attend a new member’s class or a single worship service.  But he did what really mattered in the end. He saw a future after death and life beyond the grave. He was a late bloomer, but he bloomed, nonetheless.

“No cross, no crown,” the thief is a follower, not an admirer, a distinction made by Soren Kierkegaard. He says, “Admirers are only too willing to serve Christ as long as proper caution is exercised, lest one personally come in contact with danger. They refuse to accept that Christ’s life is a demand. In actual fact, they are offended by him.”[4] Thomas a Kempis said, “The cross… is unavoidable. It waits for you everywhere. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go, you take yourself along. Turn where you will—above, below, without, or within—you’ll find the cross. … (But) if you willingly carry the cross, it will carry you.”[5] If we are to get to heaven, then this is the price of admission.

There is no way around the cross.

The thief only lived for Jesus for a few hours. Nor theological red tape, no right hand of fellowship, no business meeting, no Robert’s Rules of Order, no vote, still, Jesus extends the invitation, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23.43). The thief is Jesus’ personal guest. There is no waiting period.

If you don’t know Jesus in the pardoning of your sins, then this is a good Friday to be introduced.

End notes|

[1] Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 10-11.  It is part of his foreword for the book.

[2] Romans 5.8

[3 Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 15-16.

[4] The Editors, Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, (Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2003), 57.

[5] The Editors, Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, (Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2003), 40.

Be of Service

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The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.”
| John 13.2-5, NRSV

What about me?  It is the priority of the ego.  What about me?  It is the preoccupation of the self- seeking.  What about me?  It is the cry of the self- centered, needing to put ourselves up front and center, caring more about ourselves than the outcome.  And it has no place in Christian service.

Tullian Tchividjian said, “To focus on how I’m doing more than what Christ has done is Christian narcissism.”  Because we cannot be self- absorbed and self- emptying at the same time, as the Apostle Paul says of Christ,

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.[I]

Instead, we are full of ourselves and seek to protect our image and our interests above all others.  It is the “survival of the fittest” but what about Jesus?  He has to die for our souls so why can’t we die to our selves?

We take up our cross and follow our noses, follow our hearts, follow the crowd.  But, Jesus’ death is hard act to follow.

We help ourselves to his identity, taking the parts we want as our own, taking them home and hanging them on our walls.  Because Christianity makes for a good decoration.  Jesus serves us well here.

Confined to a frame, positioned right where we want him to be.  Nailed to a wall for all visitors to see.

Self- serving, we use Jesus for what we want: to keep up appearances, to peddle our agendas, to get my vote and yours, to maintain power and sanctify our control.  We do it all in the name of Jesus.  We serve him up in conversations to make our words sound true, to make an argument and to score points, to prop up our social profile, to shame and embarrass others.  Because my relationship with Jesus is better than yours.

But, who is this Jesus, who sits at the right hand of the throne of God and yet, has become our right- hand man?

Who is this Jesus, who likes everything about us and wouldn’t change a thing?

Who is this Jesus who demands nothing from us and everything from everyone else?

Who is this Jesus that sees us as his example, the model disciple, the only spitting image of God?

Who is this Jesus and where did you find him?  Because this is not Mary’s baby?  He is not from Nazareth but from your hometown?  This Jesus is new, familiar, acceptable, which makes him suspect.  Because those who knew Jesus ran him out of town, tried to kill him, sold him out, denied him and fled from his presence when things got too hard.

Yes, Jesus is the friend of sinners but time and time again, his disciples have proven to be fair- weathered friends to him.[i]  So, pardon my suspicion of those who have no problems with Jesus.  Because I have not met this Jesus in Scripture or in Spirit.  Both challenge me, humble me, agitate me, chide and hound me.  How is it that you get off so easily?

Because we cannot follow Christ with our noses in the air when he was humiliated.  Are we not humiliated with him?  We cannot claim to walk with him and expect better company than sinners, prostitutes, the demon- possessed, the blind and deaf, marginalized, ostracized and the poor.  Jesus didn’t hang with and wasn’t welcomed by the well- educated and well off.  They had no need of him as a physician.[ii]

How can we serve him and behave as if we are entitled to anything more than what he received?  We do not follow him because he was a successful businessman, a celebrity or even popular.  We follow him because he suffered and he served us through his sacrifice.

Hands stretched out on a cross, he will continue to give.  Interceding for his accuser and abusers, Forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23.34).  Offering eternal salvation to the thief on the cross: “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23.43).  Placing his mother in the care of one of his disciples, he says, “My mother is now your mother” (John 19.26).  He makes sure that his affairs are in order and that he has helped everyone that he can before he turns his attention to his own feelings, “Why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15.34)?

Jesus knows that he will die, that his time is running out.  But, he also knows that will soon run into his Father and return to life eternal.  Judas is preparing to betray him yet he remains faithful.  He wraps a towel around him; he will cleanse and take on the filth of their journey.  Charges are being brought against him and Jesus is giving pedicures.

Peter represents so many of us.  “What are you doing Jesus?  ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’  This is not appropriate!  This is not necessary!  This is beneath you!  This is not what leaders do!  I won’t have it; it will never happen.”

But, Jesus did it to set an example and to model the conditions of discipleship: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  Jesus will not be remembered for what he did for himself but what he did for others.  He is getting ready to die and he is not asking, “What about me?”  He has come to be of service.  What about you?

 ______________________

[i] Matthew 11.19

[ii] Mark 2.17

[i] Philippians 2.5-8, NRSV

We Call This Friday Good

Good-Friday1The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood–
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.
~ T.S. Eliot, From “Easter Coker,” 1943

It is both strange and mysterious that we call this day of remembrance good. Jesus has been betrayed, abandoned by his disciples, mocked and beaten.  He has suffered a very public humiliation.

More than a hashtag or a trending topic on social media, we have been reading and hearing and telling his story for thousands of years.  “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”  We have repeated the intimate details and private moments that led to his death because it bears repeating.

We are certain that this is love.  In all ways, it is public and for the record. Explicitly stated, there is no way that Jesus is going to take this back.

After all that he has endured, he is then forsaken by God and publicly executed (Matthew 27.46).  It is the story of Job compounded.  If he had not died from heartbreak or humiliation, the nails seal the tomb.

Still, he died a good death not because of the way that he died but for whom he died.  His death saved our spiritual lives. One Friday changed eternity.  That’s a good day’s work and that’s why we call this Friday good.

Thank God for Good Friday!

8812217-good-fridayWe call it Good Friday.  It might be considered an oxymoron given what happened to Jesus more than two thousand years ago.  He was falsely arrested, savagely beaten, mercilessly mocked and crucified without apology.  He looked out and the crowd of more than 5,000 that he had fed were not there.  He looked down and the women did not include the woman caught in adultery.  He looked around and not one of the ten lepers was present.  It seems that it did not matter what he had done or what he was doing now.  Today, we care that he was crucified but this was not so on that day.

Still, it is good because of what he did for us– not what the disciples or the Pharisees or the Roman soldiers did to him.  It is good because of the sacrifice that was made.  It is good because of the reason for that sacrifice.  He died a lonely death so that we might be friends with God and a part of God’s family.  He stretched his arms on a cross to bring us all into the household of faith.

Jesus came to save humanity.  This is the moment.  This is the hour that salvation has come to us.  It’s a good day and a good time.  Thank God for Good Friday!