Two years ago today my youngest son was recovering from his second invasive brain surgery. This time, to place a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt into the right rear side behind his ear, to constantly drain cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the ventricles in the brain where it is produced, into his abdominal cavity via a catheter tube running internally down his neck. This device, though far from perfect in its design, with something like a 50% fail rate in the first year or two after placement, is a life-saver for children with hydrocephalus. It stops the fluid, which has trouble draining naturally, from building to the point where it squashes the brain against the skull, leading to brain damage and eventually (if left untreated) death.
Way back then, when he was just three months old, we were amazed at how resilient he was and how he had bounced back from his first brain surgery like a champion, but there were so many unknowns about how much his conditions would impact him as he grew and developed.
Today is Good Friday. Yesterday I attended a Maundy Thursday service and as the pastor began his welcome and call to worship he touched on the unusual name we give this day – ‘Good Friday’. It seems that what it commemorates is something so brutal that ‘good’ almost feels like the wrong descriptor, and yet we know that for those whose faith is in Christ and his sacrifice on the cross some 2000 years ago, the outcome of Good Friday is most certainly good. Jesus’s death on Good Friday was one of two central defining moments in God’s salvation plan to redeem his people from bondage to sin and death and transferred us into his Kingdom, laying our sin on Jesus, forgiving us by grace through faith in Him and adopting us as His own.
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:13-14 (ESV)
The pastor said something like “It might seem strange that we call it Good Friday, in fact you might even wonder why we don’t call it Bad Friday…” He went on to explain the good that came from it, which is obviously the most wonderful truth to behold, but it seems to me there are a number of helpful words to use in front of the word ‘Friday’ – words that might help us to approach the commemoration of Jesus’ death with appropriate wonder, awe, grief, humility, joy and thankfulness.
Today was Christmas Eve. I spent it driving an hour each way to and from my old church to fill in on bass for their Christmas Eve carols service before picking up my wife and son to begin two days of visiting family, giving and receiving presents and eating lots of food.
I generally love Christmas. I mean, I grew up loving Christmas and in many ways I still do. I love what it means and represents. I love the fact that after all the craziness in the lead up, people sort of relax for a few days. I love giving and receiving gifts and I don’t mind carols… when they’re done well. As I drove from my new hometown to my old hometown and back today though, I thought about a sort of small and insignificant aspect of Christmas; the wrapping paper.
Following on from Good Friday’s thoughts about the beautiful collision between humanity’s depravity and Christ’s divinity at Calvary, I got to thinking about what it must have been like for the disciples during the Easter weekend. Talk about a roller coaster of emotions and experiences both leading up to that time and throughout Easter! They’d heard the prophesies about the Messiah, but they didn’t want to accept the fact that He had to die. They’d heard John the Baptist telling people to repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand before Jesus started His earthly ministry (Matthew 3:1 – 6) and yet they were confused as they had been expecting an earthly political kingdom to release them from Roman rule rather than a spiritual Kingdom set up by a suffering servant. They were finally understanding who Jesus really was and then His life and ministry turned towards the cross. Within the space of a few days they experienced the last supper, prayer in the garden, betrayal by one of their close friends, the brutal floggings and mocking of Jesus by the soldiers, accusers that wanted to pin Peter down as a close friend of Jesus followed by Peter’s denial of that fact, the crowds demanding Jesus’ death, the disciples’ Lord and master carrying His cross and having to be helped by another on the side of the road because the brutality had already tortured his body to breaking point… and then the actual crucifixion itself with darkened skies during the day time, nails through flesh, immense bloodshed, earthquake and the temple curtain being torn in two. Then it is finished. Jesus’ body is buried, the stone seals the tomb and the disciples are left wondering what is to become of it all.
Today is Good Friday. It’s a day that has always carried somewhat confusing or conflicting emotions for me, at least as long as I can remember. It is a day to remember something that is brutal and yet beautiful, horrific and yet heavenly, tragic… and yet triumphant. It is a day that I want to mourn over the way that humans just like me treated the only one who can save us from our depravity and sin, but it is also a day on which I am reminded of how blessed I am to live on this side of the cross. I know that in suffering for my sake, Jesus who was perfect and was in very nature God humbled himself and became obedient to death on a cross, paying the price that bought me out of slavery to sin and death and therefore separation from God into a new life that will last for forever.