It’s Holy Week and that means that all the church folk are gearing up to attend a Good Friday service, or at the very least post an Instagram meme about it. Without a doubt, everyone will be at Easter, because everyone believes that Easter is for everyone. And it is. It most certainly is. Jesus came to save the lost, and that is the whole lot of us, it’s me and you and your neighbor and the people that we’ve never met. His resurrection is the promise that our Christian faith stands upon. It is the utter and complete joy of the Christian heart to celebrate Jesus as the Risen King. The empty tomb is the Good News come true, it is the reason we have hope, ability to forgive and the capacity for love.
And it’s also the very reason that churches all over the country are renting out big buildings, hiring extra band members, and passing out flyers while hosting large Easter egg hunts. They want everyone there to hear the Good News that Jesus is risen and death has been defeated. And amen to that, right?!
But I wonder what that experience is like for non-Christians? I was basically a Christian out of the womb and while I’ve had my own “come to Jesus” moments during an Easter service, it’s all be within the context and foundation of the Gospel. I’ve known it my whole life, so I’ve never experienced the empty tomb as a first timer.
Looking at this day from an outside perspective, I see that the joy we are feeling on Easter Sunday is only because we journey Holy Week with Jesus and experienced the weight of Good Friday. The sunrise on Easter is only breathtaking to us because we remembered the crucifixion of Good Friday. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand why you are choosing Easter for the invitation. Because, if you are bringing a non-Christian to Good Friday, the brother you’ve been praying for, or the person who once felt accepted within the church walls but no longer doesn’t, scenes of Jesus being hung on the cross isn’t necessarily a conversation starter.
Because after an Easter service everyone celebrates and has a fancy brunch and wine and cakes and egg hunts and chocolates and hooray we are eating and drinking and all is well. But after a Good Friday service, most of us leave in silence and then spend the evening contemplating and praying. After a Good Friday service, nothing you do feels quite right. Food is a bit bland, everyone in the world is too loud, and you aren’t sure what to do with yourself. So if you bring a friend, you may not talk with them after, and you may go your separate ways.
So I get it. Good Friday doesn’t feel like the highlight reel that Easter or Christmas has to offer. It doesn’t end well; at all. It literally ends in death. And mourning and weeping and silence. There’s nothing to highlight about it. But what if, what if we threw that highlight reel out the window and we remembered that the broken and hurting, they don’t need a celebration or a brunch to feel safe and accepted and loved. They need a savior. And we need one, too.
Good Friday is the day that actually, everyone gets to see and understand that Jesus is for everyone. It is the one day that the hurt and the broken and the lost feel heard and hope for a chance to be put together and found, because they finally realize they are not alone. While Easter holds a place for triumph and victory, Good Friday holds a place for the darkest hurts and deepest pains of us all.
The Bible says that Jesus empathizes with us all, and when I read the Passion Narrative, I see it. From John 18 and 19, I see people who are hurting and afraid, alone and angry, confused and unsettled. I see all of us. If you have ever wondered what the Good News actually is, or if it can be Good News to you, then Good Friday is for you. If you have celebrated Easter so many times that it’s routine, but you are wondering if these present hurts will ever be healed, then Good Friday is for you.
For any one of us who has ever been betrayed, Good Friday is for each of us. (John 18: 1-8)
For any one of us who have ever betrayed ones we love, and we hold guilt and shame about it, Good Friday is for us. (John 18:1-8)
If you’ve ever struggled with anger, you lash out or act like you don’t want to out of hurt, anger, or fear, Good Friday is for you. (John 18: 10)
If you’ve ever been abused in anyway, Good Friday is for you. (John 18:1-8, 10)
For those among us us whose friends did not stand by us, even when they said they would, Good Friday is for you. (John 18: 15-17, 25-27)
For those among us who have left our friends and family because we were embarrassed, ashamed or afraid, Good Friday is for you. (John 18:15-17, 25-27)
For those among us whose integrity has been called into question, leaving us feeling anxious, betrayed, and hurt, Good Friday is for you. (John 18:19-21)
If you have ever been wrongfully accused for something, or wrongfully thought to be someone you are not; for those of you that deserve to be heard but are not, Good Friday is for you. (John 18:18-38)
If you have ever been mocked for who we are, who God created you to be, then Good Friday is for you. (John 19:1-6)
If you’ve ever tried to understand who Jesus is, but the crowd overcomes and says He’s different, then Good Friday is most definitely for you. (John 19: 8-12)
For the parent who has ever had to watch their kids be bullied, hurt, or go through unimaginable pain and felt like there was nothing they could do, Good Friday is for you. (John 19: 25-27)
Good Friday is a call to be vulnerable, bare, and raw about the things that hurt us and the way that we have hurt others. It is an invitation to enter into the pain of the crucifixion with Jesus and to finally face our deepest hurts and shortcomings that life has given us. Good Friday is the space that we are given to grieve the many things we thought life would be, and sit in the pain that it’s not. It is the call to both the Christian and the non Christian to be uncomfortable that things are not ok; to realize and understand that there is so much pain and hurt in this world, and that they are not alone. Good Friday is a reminder to us all that it is ok to grieve loss, to shed tears about what is broken inside of us and the world, and to remember the things in our past or present that are hurting and give space for them to breathe.
And so while Good Friday may not be etiquette, it certainly can be healing. It can finally be the opportunity for the Church to be who we are designed to be: a place for everyone to experience the comfort of the Spirit in the midst of the pain. It is the place that we are with Jesus on the road to the cross, both in awe that He was hurt for us and also the realization that we are not alone.
So let us take a new road this Easter. Let us invite our friends on to rejoice with us on Sunday, but lets do so because we sat with one another in our pain on Friday. Let us watch the sunrise on Easter because the heaviness of it setting a few days prior felt more than we wanted to bear. Let us take the invitation of the cross to be vulnerable and let us sit there for a little bit. May we make others feel safe to bear their souls because we are brave enough to bare ours. May we be a people that is real about the twists and turns of life, and the parts of the Bible that go with it. May we offer up a true picture of Jesus and Church by walking with one another through the valleys and mountains, the highs and the lows, the Good Fridays and the Easters.