The Day After Good Friday

They shifted around listlessly. Through the walls they could hear the soft sobbing and occasional wail of the women in the next room. The men would look at each other briefly before ashamedly diverting their eyes.

How could they be so wrong? Everything had seemed so right.

Peter dabbed at the corner of his eye, but even he did not have any words for the moment. He sat and ruefully ruminated on the events of the the last day. In that amount of time, he had witnessed his hope, his confidence, and his future literally die.

Thomas’ voice cut the silence. “What do we do now?”

Peter broke out of his trance and stood up. “I’m going fishing,” he said as he gathered his cloak. “You guys can sit here, but I’m going crazy staring at these walls.”

“You can’t leave!” exclaimed John, “Everyone knows we were with Him. You’ll be ridiculed by everyone who sees you! The High Priest may even be looking for us!”

“John is right,” James chimed in,  “We should lay low and stay here until the dust settles. Let everyone forget about last night, forget about us. Some new scandal or news is bound to crop up soon enough. In the meantime, we can think about what to do next.”

“Next?” retorted a bewildered Peter. “What do you mean next? The man we followed and devoted our lives to the last three years is lying in a grave. Jesus is dead. We move on, that’s what we do next! Maybe there’s a Messiah yet out there.”

I’m not altogether sure this is what happened the day after Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, but this is the scene that plays in my mind. A band of disheartened, broken disciples sitting around, asking themselves, what happened? How did things go wrong so fast?

Just earlier in the week, Jesus had ridden into the city heralded as a King and now He lay wrapped in strips of cloth and returning to dust. Just two days earlier, they were confident they were following the Christ, the One who was to rescue Israel and establish His throne over the earth. Now He was just another teacher, a prophet maybe, and a failed Messiah. Messiah’s don’t die before they accomplish their purpose.

We who live in the future know the outcome of the story, what happens soon enough: the glorious resurrection of Jesus and His ascension! The fulfillment of numerous prophecies, the theological implications of the death of the Son of God, and the realization of where His Kingdom was. We have 2000 years of theology and study and speculation. The original disciples did not.

The feeling of defeat is something that is familiar. We know what it means to be broken, to be disappointed, and have our dreams and hopes crushed. We set our expectations high, and down and down they tumble from their lofty place. Things don’t always turn out as we thought they would.

A lost job. Failed relationship. Disease. The death of a loved one. Natural disaster.

And hopelessly, we cry out, Why? What do I do now?

What do you do when hope has hidden herself from you and despair blankets your heart? When depression and disappointment become your late night companions? Sorrow certainly may come with the night, but sometimes joy doesn’t show up with the morning. Or the morning after.

For the disciples, “Friday night” must have been a night of shock and tears and bewilderment. But “Saturday” would have been when the reality of the death of Jesus and the heaviness of defeat sunk in. “Saturday” was when they had to face each other and figure out how to pick up the pieces of their lives.

In the darkest nights of our lives, we can press on, knowing that though we don’t know what the morning brings, God on high does. When we’re bitter and lonely, heartbroken and upset, we trust in the sovereignty and goodness of our faithful Father. And we can trust this: our sorrow is not in vain. We know that for those who love Him, God works all things, seemingly hopeless things included, for our joy and good, and His glory.

All thing. All things.

Like the murder of His innocent Son.

Our suffering, our sorrow, our valleys of the shadow of darkness of death are not without purpose in the hands of a sovereign God. It’s a lesson in patience and trust. And patience and trust are hard.

We may not know what the future brings…. but we know that the story of Good Friday does not end with Saturday.

Easter is coming.

a tale of two Fridays

I’ve never made a big deal of Black Friday. This is mostly because I don’t have it in me to wait in line for hours in the cold to get a TV. Look, I understand the appeal, I really do. But I understand more deeply the appeal of my mattress and warmth, and I’ve always had an aversion to engaging in a scuffle at Best Buy. We’ve all heard the stories of death and injury from over-eager, crazed shoppers fighting and clawing to get the best door buster deal,  and I don’t want to appear on the evening news because some middle school kid got to the latest Super Mario Bros game before I did. (Mario is still a legitimate gaming character, right?) I decided I’d go the safe route and go to a bookstore for their crazy Black Friday deals. They’re wild.

I figured not a lot of people would stand outside Half Price Books on Friday morning, so I grudgingly got out of bed and rolled into the parking lot at 6:45 AM. There were already over 120 people in line. For a $5 gift card. Seriously. I didn’t get the gift card, but I went home with some consolation in knowing there are bigger nerds out there than me.

At our annual family Thanksgiving dinner, my uncle quipped that Black Friday is when we trample over each other to get cheap stuff exactly one day after being thankful for everything we already have. It’s a cute line, but I think it points to a deeper issue: consumerism and materialism are the altars at which we worship. The United States has never been a “Christian nation,” but we’ve always flirted with the goddess of “stuff.” Thanksgiving isn’t even over before retail employees have to report to their workplaces to prepare for the madness of Black Friday, some even opening Thanksgiving night. It’s been said that the day after Thanksgiving has been called “Black Friday” because, as the first official shopping day for the Christmas holiday, it is typically the day that most retailers begin turning a profit on their merchandise, going from being “in the red” to “black” in their ledgers. But this definition is more recent than the original, darker implications of the name. Black Friday. It isn’t just a happen-chance, economic term.

There isn’t anything wrong with Black Friday shopping at all! If you have the strength and energy, and more importantly, if you have the funds, to wait and get a great deal on electronics or clothes or other goods, go for it. I’m slightly envious of the massive TV you got for the amount of money I spend on coffee in a year. I like new stuff. I love my new iPhone 5 (sorry Fandroids, I jumped ship). But Black Friday, the day that kick starts the festivities for Christmas, when we celebrate our Savior’s birth, is an indictment on how materialistic, consumerist-ic, and selfish we are every day. We’ll spend money we barely have for stuff we hardly need. Stuff that becomes more obsolete, more worn, and less valuable the moment we get it. E-readers make a joke out of my library of physical books. Technology evolves and improves at an exponential rate every second. Fashion trends change every season. And credit card debt is more of a problem now for Americans than ever before. We build treasuries of  stuff that are on their way to the garbage dump. We gather treasures that are destroyed by moth and rust and stolen by thieves.

Black Friday.

But there’s another Friday that also has a special designation on our calendars. Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday, the day most Christians set apart to remember the day Jesus of Nazareth was crucified upon a Roman cross. That Friday, a truly black Friday, was the day when the Son of God willingly submitted to injury and death, absorbing the wrath of God meant for rebellious sinners. Sinners who disobey the authority of the trinitarian God of the universe, who have affections that are prone to wander, who worship the created things instead of the One who created everything. Sinners who deserved the punishment of a holy God. On that black Friday, God showed the extent of His love for fallen people whose counterfeit gods are money, image, sex and self, by allowing sinless Jesus to die — but not letting death have the final victory. Three days later, Jesus showed His power and authority over even death by His resurrection, proving Himself as the Savior of a needy world, saving them from their sin and death. And that is why we call that black Friday “Good Friday,” because on that day, the “red” in our ledger of righteousness and right standing before God the Father has been wiped clean by the red of the blood of Jesus Christ. That Friday signaled our crossing from being “in the red” to moving into “the black” and into the everlasting Kingdom of God. We don’t have to be enslaved to consumerism and materialism and selfishness and idolatry. We don’t have to hoard treasures that will either rot or get stolen. We’ve been saved to amass treasures in heaven that can’t be destroyed by moth or rust, or stolen.

Good Friday.

I hope you got good deals on Black Friday. I hope they still hold your attention. But more so, I hope you’re not looking to satisfy yourself with stuff, because trinkets and clothes and goods won’t satisfy the deepest desires of your heart. You can’t purchase your way into the Kingdom of God. Satisfy your soul with the One who has purchased you.

sorrow saturday

They shifted around listlessly. Through the walls they could hear the soft sobbing and occasional wail of the women in the next room, and the men would look at each other briefly before ashamedly diverting their eyes.

How could they be so wrong? Everything had seemed so right.

Peter dabbed at the corner of his eye, but even he did not have any words for the moment. He sat and ruefully ruminated on the events of the the last day. In the same amount of time, he had witnessed his hope, his confidence, and his future literally die.

Thomas’ voice cut the silence. “What do we do now?”

Peter broke out of his trance and stood up. “I’m going fishing,” he said as he gathered his cloak. “You guys can sit here, but I’m going crazy staring at these walls.”

“You can’t leave!” exclaimed John, “Everyone knows we were with Him. You’ll be ridiculed by everyone who sees you! The High Priest may even be looking for us!”

“John is right,” James chimed in,  “We should lay low and stay here until the dust settles. Let everyone forget about last night, about us. Some new scandal or news is bound to crop up soon enough. In the meantime, we can think about what to do next.”

“Next?” retorted a bewildered Peter. “What do you mean next? The man we followed and devoted our lives to the last three years is lying in a grave. Jesus is dead. We move on, that’s what we do next! Maybe there’s a Messiah yet out there.”

I’m not altogether sure this is what happened the day after Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, but this is the scene that plays in my mind. A band of disheartened, broken disciples sitting around, asking themselves, what happened? How did things go wrong so fast?

Just earlier in the week, Jesus had ridden into the city heralded as a King and now He lay wrapped in strips of cloth and returning to dust. Just 2 days earlier, they were confident they were following the Christ, the One who was to rescue Israel and establish His throne over the earth. Now He was just another teacher, a prophet maybe, and a failed Messiah. Messiah’s don’t die before they accomplish their purpose.

We who live in the future know the outcome of the story, what happens soon enough: the glorious resurrection of Jesus and His ascension! The fulfillment of numerous prophecies, the theological implications of the death of the Son of God, and the realization of where His Kingdom was. We have 2000 years of theology and study and speculation. The original disciples did not.

The feeling of defeat is something that is familiar. We know what it means to be broken, to be disappointed, and have our dreams and hopes crushed. We set our expectations high, and down and down they tumble from their lofty place. Things don’t always turn out as we thought they would.

A lost job. Failed relationship. Disease. The death of a loved one. Natural disaster.

And hopelessly, we cry out, Why? What do I do now?

What do you do when hope has hidden herself from you and despair blankets your heart? When depression and disappointment become your late night bed buddies? Sorrow certainly may come with the night, but sometimes joy doesn’t show up with the morning. Or the morning after.

For the disciples, “Friday night” must have been a night of shock and tears and bewilderment. But “Saturday” would have been when the reality of the death of Jesus and the heaviness of defeat sunk in. “Saturday” was when they had to face each other and figure out how to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Amidst the darkest of our nights, we must press on, knowing that though we don’t know what the morning brings, God on high does. When we’re bitter and lonely, heartbroken and upset, we trust in the sovereignty and goodness of a faithful Father.

It’s a lesson in patience and trust. And patience and trust are hard.

We may not know what the future brings…. but the story does not end with Saturday.

Jesus’ Friday

Today, Christians remember the death of Christ. We celebrate it, argue over it, dismiss it, glorify it.

I grew up in a denomination (and culture) that did not place emphasis on religious holidays.

“Christmas? Psh, we celebrate the birth of Jesus every day. Easter? We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection every day. Halloween and Mardi Gras? Those are Satan’s days!”

Where other Christian groups spent time on Good Friday remembering that Jesus was unjustly crucified, we would mention it, but not usually dwell on it. And a sort of spiritual pride crept into me as a kid, this thought that I didn’t need a specific day to remember any event in the life of our Lord or Christian history. You do what you need to do, but I don’t need to dwell in the past; Jesus is coming, and I’m going to be ready!

And what was lost in all this is the realization and wonder of what happened when Jesus came into this world. There was a moment in time when GOD stepped into history. GOD walked among regular people, people who constantly sinned. GOD sacrificed Himself for our wickedness and overcame death!

What does it even mean that Jesus died for our sins? We say it so much in Christian-speak that we gloss over whenever it is said. What really happened on the historical Good Friday?

You and I, we have this uncanny propensity to sin. Even in our attempts at goodness, we do so out of selfish reasons, or pride will creep in. And God hates sin. One of the things that confuses most people about the story of the Garden of Eden is the fact that Adam and Eve (and all of humanity) were cursed and banished because they ate a piece of fruit. What’s the big deal?! It’s just a piece of fruit.

Isn’t it?

The deal is they disobeyed the God of the Universe. They looked at what God offered and what Satan offered, and chose what was in Satan’s hand. And that is what we do when we sin, we choose what something else has to offer over the goodness of God.

And so the wrath of a holy and just God was coming towards us, and fast.

Jesus Christ, who is very God of very God, lived a perfect, sinless life, even though he was also fully human and tempted and tried just as we are. So “the wages of sin is death” didn’t really apply to Him. But He willingly walked toward the cross every day of His life. He allowed His very creation to torture, ridicule, and falsely accuse Him. And on the cross, he who knew no sin became sin.  Wrap your mind around that thought. Jesus took on the sin that condemned you and I, and bore it on Himself. That’s why He sweat blood in the garden, why He cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”

For the first time in His life, Jesus, who had forever been in community with the Father, was separated from the Father. And the wrath of God that was headed toward us was satisfied.

It was more than physical pain. More than mental torture. It was spiritual anguish.

Many since Jesus have died in worse ways. There are stories of people glorifying God and singing hymns as they were repeatedly dipped into vats of boiling oil. How’s that for suffering well? Many martyrs died more “glorifying” deaths than Jesus. But what set Jesus apart was the fact that He bore the weight of sin and that sin was crucified on the cross.

And He did it because He loves us. And more importantly, He did it for His great Name.

Take some time and reflect upon that. Go through the Gospels and read Jesus’ time in the garden after the Last Supper, His betrayal, and His crucifixion. It is incredibly humbling.

But remember, the story doesn’t end there.