DON’T SKIP GOOD FRIDAY (OR THIS APRIL)
If I’m honest, there’s a part of me that wants to skip Good Friday. Not in a theological sense but in an experiential sense. Commemorating Good Friday is painful. I hate picturing Jesus being whipped, mocked, and crucified. And when I go a step further and recognize that my sin is the reason He was nailed to a cross, it’s almost too much to bear. It’s tempting to numb myself with the news and Netflix and just wait for Easter morning.
However, if I skip Good Friday, then by default, I’m also skipping Easter morning because unless I feel the emotional weight of Christ’s death, I won’t be able to understand the joy of His resurrection. The crown of thorns must precede the empty grave.
Through God’s divine timing, my attitude toward Good Friday mirrors how I feel about the situation our world finds itself in. The worst of the novel Coronavirus is likely yet to come, and frankly, I want to skip it. Can’t I skip April and the grief it will bring and wait for the joy that will come with a vaccine and the return of in-person church services? But just like with Good Friday, there are several reasons the answer is, yet again, “No.”
For those of us fortunate enough to fully social distance, work from home, and not yet know someone infected with the Coronavirus, the magnitude of what’s taking place is hard to grasp. While everyone’s lives and routines have been affected in some way, not all of us are on the front lines. But even if you are in a position where you can insulate yourself from experiencing the pain resulting from this virus, the incarnation of Jesus should make you wary of doing so.
By becoming 100% human, while remaining 100% God, Jesus fully entered the human experience. He ate, He slept, He was tempted, and He felt pain. From mourning the death of Lazarus to suffering on the cross, Jesus’ experienced true pain as a human—pain that he didn’t have to endure. He could’ve stayed in Heaven and remained distant from the messiness of life on Earth after the Fall. Yet, He willfully entered His creation, knowing the pain that awaited Him.
As we seek to imitate Christ, we should enter the pain of this fallen world, too. I’m not saying to go mingle and disregard social distancing—but rather, let’s not avoid being aware of the reality occurring in the world around us. Let us weep with those who are weeping and mourn with those in mourning. Doing so is the first step to love the broken and the vulnerable like Jesus did.
Typically, death is hidden in the corner of society. It makes us uncomfortable, so we try to get through life without facing or thinking about it. However, that’s no longer an option. Through stories and statistics, death seems to be everywhere. As we grapple with this reality, we can be thankful that the Bible is far from silent on the topic of death.
Scripture reveals that death was not a part of God’s original creation. It was only through the Fall that death entered into the world which helps us understand why death feels so unnatural and why it upsets us so much. Death is not a part of how things are supposed to be, but it does not have the final say because we know Jesus conquered the grave.
Resurrection and the reversal of death, where death is not the end but is actually a beginning, is a theme seen in Scripture. Galatians 5:24 says we must crucify our flesh and our passions. Then, in John 12:24, we see Jesus say, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” These verses demonstrate that not all death is bad. Certain things, like our sinful desires, must be killed in order to make way for God’s new creation.
Right now, we’re seeing deaths of a similar sort. From cultural assumptions to church practices, many parts of daily life in America have died in the past month. While these changes are uncomfortable, God may be using them for our good. Maybe we’re better off without some the ways of life that have died during this time. Maybe these changes are making way for spiritual renewal and revival—only time, and intentional reflection, will tell.
Times of uncertainty, crisis, and death (like right now) are often times when people are uniquely open to spiritual conversations. Since the Coronavirus is currently coinciding with Holy Week—another time that causes an increase in spiritual openness—there are currently millions of people more open to talking about the Gospel than normal.
I don’t want this to sound insensitively opportunistic, but as Christians, we should be angered by the reality that we live in a world where the immense suffering we’re seeing is possible. And this is exactly why we need to realize and act upon people’s current willingness to hear the Gospel. It’s not to take advantage of people’s pain; it’s seeking to free people from pain by pointing them to the Great Physician and Comforter. Evangelism is important not because of what we can gain but also because of what we can give which is an introduction to the Creator and Savior of the universe. So, while it’s tempting to want to ignore the pain taking place right now, if we do so, we’ll be ignoring opportunities to share the hope of the Gospel with others. In a time where we can’t physically interact with people, this will take some creativity. We must be compassionate, wise, cautious, and passionate. Sharing the Gospel will look different at this time, but as long as we’re sharing the true Gospel, that’s what matters.
These are uncomfortable and painful times, but if the Church is going to fulfill its calling to imitate Christ, bring about redemption, and share the Gospel, then now is not a time for the Church to lurk in the background. Now is the time to stand up and share the Truth with the world.
We have a peace that surpasses understanding and a hope that cannot be shaken. Now is the time to act like it. So, even though it’ll be hard, don’t skip out on how the Lord wants to use you this April.
No matter how dark it gets, Easter is coming.