Saturday, March 22, 2008

God's Friday

Today, we call it Good Friday. It is likely that the name came from the earlier English name, "Godes Friday," meaning "God's Friday." It was a day roughly 1,980 years ago that many still struggle to understand.

On that day, a man convicted of blasphemy and treason was led with two others to a public execution, crucifixion on a wooden cross. He had been scourged, beaten raw till he was barely recognizable. He was forced to drag a heavy wooden cross beam up a hill, where there his hands were nailed to that beam, and his feet nailed to the supporting post. As the wooden cross of crucifixion was raised, the weight of his body strained against his pierced flesh and ligaments. The crowd looked on, most in amusement and fascination of this torturous spectacle that never failed to provide a show.

But for all the thousands that had gone to the cross before him, and for all that would follow, this crucifixion was different. Followers of the man had proclaimed him a healer, a great teacher, even, The Messiah. He had alternately demonstrated commanding knowledge of the Law of Moses, and a propensity to challenge the religious understanding of that law. He had been loved by most that heard him, but hated by many who ran the Temple. And so, on this day, he was convicted and hung from the cross of his death.

This, all were sure, was the end of His story. There he hung, wracked with pain and in the final throes of death. Oddly, the sky had darkened, even though it was a cloudless mid-day. For three more hours he had hung in the gloom of that afternoon, while the onlookers watched and waited for his final moments. Evil satisfaction raced through the hearts of his critics, who were now free of this troublesome impostor. Had he been who He claimed to be, this could never have happened. "Save yourself!" they called in derision. Ha, listen to him cry! "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" Finally, he admits the error of his ways! He surrenders to God's judgment!

And then, the mystery for the ages. The man, this man called Jesus, with his dying breath, called out for all to hear, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." Another moment of perfect silence, and then, in a quiet, peaceful voice, these words: "It is finished."

Yes, yes, it is finished for you all right, thought the accusers. Go to your grave of the wicked, join your brethren in hell, where you belong, you accursed man of sorrow. Now you have been stricken by God, now you know his wrath!

But others wondered, what did he mean? What is finished? He didn't seem defeated in death, he seemed oddly at peace. "Surely," said the centurion at his feet, "this was a righteous man." And then, as if to accentuate the moment in history, the earth shook so violently that nearby tombs were opened, and buildings were damaged. Awe struck those with the courage to remain. The cry was taken up, "Surely, he was the Son of God!" And as they left the scene, as the body was carried away, the question lingered over the place...what had happened here today?

Many still doubt and mock. Many more just wonder. And yet, history has proven that this was, and is, God's Day. He, not Man, has prevailed. His children have carried on the Message of Christ, and God's days have been prolonged. His Way was established for all to follow, or to reject. This dark day, this Friday of God, God revealed Himself to us all.

Next: The Black Sabbath

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