Richard Neuhaus begins his book Death on a Friday Afternoon with the words:
Good Friday is not just one day of the year. It is relived in every day of the world, and of our lives in the world. In the Christian view of things, all reality turns on the “paschal mystery.” [Paschal refers to the Passover meal that was instituted in Egypt. For Christians, this paschal mystery is also embodied in the sacrificial death of Jesus.] As Passover marks the liberation from bondage in Egypt, so the paschal mystery marks humanity’s passage from death to life. Good Friday cannot be confined to Holy Week. It is not simply the dismal but necessary prelude to the joy of Easter, although I’m afraid many Christians think of it that way. Every day of the year is a good day to think more deeply about Good Friday, for Good Friday is the drama of the love by which our every day is sustained…If what Christians say about Good Friday is true, then it is, quite simply, the truth about everything.
I particularly like the phrase: for Good Friday is the drama of the love by which our every day is sustained. The self-giving love of God is what sustains our every moment. The events we remember on Good Friday are the clearest and highest demonstration of God’s love. This is why Paul writes about actually boasting in the cross (Gal. 6:14).
The death of Jesus was unique; it was singular. The writer of Hebrews says Jesus’ death and what it accomplished was “once for all” (chapter 9). On the other hand, it is the quintessential expression of what happens every day. God reaches out to creation in self-giving love, and creation snubs God. Ever since God walked through the Garden calling out to Adam & Eve “where are you,” we have been fleeing. The story hasn’t changed much over time.
The cross says some uncomfortable things about us. But it says some wonderful things about God. Good Friday is not a necessary hurdle on the way to Easter. It is, quite simply, the truth about everything.
Jim KelseyExecutive Minister—American Baptist Churches of New York State