By Thehil Russelliah Singh
As a child growing up in the Church, I have always wondered about this pivotal event in the Christian calendar. Good Friday is the day that marks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, so what is so “good” about that? Christian family and friends have always told me, the “good” does not refer to the crucifixion, but it is “good” because it led to his victory over death and sin and his Resurrection which we celebrate on Easter, the pinnacle of Christian celebrations.
And in my mind, I know all of that. And in a way, that does make it good. Sort of.
In India, the Good Friday service is one of the longest services of the year. The pastor, deacons or other senior members of the congregation with the gift of preaching take turns and preach on the seven words spoken by Jesus on the Cross. I remember the first sermon I ever preached was at a Good Friday service. I spoke on the 4th word of Jesus on the cross: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Since then, I have preached on the 1st – Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do and 7th – Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. All of these sermons required in-depth exegesis and all of them have only served to prove to me that Jesus died a horrific death. A long, drawn-out painful death. A shameful death. A criminal’s death.
There is nothing “good” about that.
I remember the last Good Friday Service I spent with my father in April 0f 2009. My father had a PhD in Old Testament. He had learned Biblical Hebrew and Greek, French, German and several other languages. Yet in the last year of his life, he developed dementia and could hardly remember his family members, let alone all that he had learned over the years that he had spent studying. That year, I had stayed home from Church to keep my father company. I remember us watching the movie, the Passion of the Christ on TV. Suddenly, in the scene where Jesus was being flogged, my father turned to me and asked: “Who is that man? Why are they beating him?” Tears were rolling down his cheeks as he tried to remember….tried to understand. I couldn’t hold back the tears myself as I tried to explain to him what he had explained to me as a child.
That afternoon, I re-taught a minister, a pastor, a theologian, a man and my father about the significance of Christ’s death on the cross, his resurrection and what that means to all those who call him Savior. I have never had a more meaningful conversation with my father. As we talked, some of his memories resurfaced and we spent the rest of the day laughing and crying with each other.
That was truly a “good” Friday.
My father passed away one month later. Since then, I have tried to spend my Good Fridays reaching out to someone I love. Telling and Re-telling them what Christ’s work on the Cross means to me. This Friday, as we remember Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, let us not be hung-up on the sadness aspect but also reach out and share our experiences of Christ to those we love. In that way, Good Friday will truly be good.