By Randy Millwood
Have you ever wondered, “Why would you call a day set aside to commemorate the horrible and tragic crucifixion of the Christ as good?”
Whether the question comes from a seeker, a skeptic, a cynic, or a child, we often settle into our good theology of salvation and offer the sort of answer that would make our seminary professors proud!
The problem is, more times than not, they are not asking a theological question. They are just asking a question. And, sometimes our right answer sounds to them like saying that 9/11, or Hurricane Katrina, or COVID-19 is good.
Those who ask are like the real people of Jesus’s day – the ones who shouted on what we call Palm Sunday, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD.” The ones who commented once that, unlike the scholarly teachers in their religious systems, “He spoke with a kind of authority.” The ones who loved His real-life stories that connected to real live people.
So, why is the crucifixion good?
I asked myself that question a few years ago, wondering what it would be like to approach it as a real person. So, I did what real people do (I googled it!). I found (1) there is no consensus answer; and (2) there are at least four main theories…
At one point in language development, good was a synonym for holy. Certainly, those of us who follow Christ consider the activity of God on the cross, remembered this Friday to be holy.
A second theory holds that it was a secularization of the phrase “God’s Friday”.
A third theory traces the similar pronunciation of good in English, to words in other languages that mean holy, or sacred, or bleak, or weighty, etc.
And, finally, the fourth theory holds that Good Friday is so-called because something unspeakably good came from the most horrific of circumstances. (This, of course, is the gist of our theological answer.)
I do not know which one of the theories is historically correct. But, I do have a favorite – one that makes the most sense to me.
In my own story, when tragic things happen, good is not the word I often choose in the moment.
Only as our Father works in the midst of those circumstances to shape more of the Image of Christ back into my life, do I see something good emerge. And, most of the time, it is a long time before I see the good.
This experience of life with God moves me to see Good in what is remembered on Good Friday.
The circumstances were certainly tragic in the moment. An innocent man was abandoned by His ‘band of brothers,’ subjected to a kangaroo court, mocked and abused by so-called ‘religious people,’ and executed in the most grotesque of methods reserved for the vilest of offenders.
This single event was followed by crushing grief, paralyzing fear, and deafening silence among those who had followed Him, And, finally, a tomb.
But, on this one occasion, there wasn’t time to erect a grave marker.
As you, your family, and your church walk with Christ from the upper room to Gethsemane, to the portals of government, along the way to Golgotha, and to the tomb…I want to invite you to walk at His pace.
Often, we want to rush past the acts of Good Friday and Holy Saturday so we can get to the triumph of Resurrection Sunday.
But it is only at His pace that it can all make any sense. It is only at His pace that we can see His shaping work in our own lives. It is only at His pace that we can uncover the totality of what makes Easter good.
Apart from the journey of Holy Week, there is no Resurrection Sunday.
Use this time to allow God’s Spirit to examine your own soul, maybe even show you the good in all that is happening around us right now.
May you have sacred moments in these hours as you and I join all Christ-followers and wait, bursting at the seams for the chance to shout HALLELUJAH on Sunday morning!
Dr. Randy Millwood serves as a Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware church services consultant.
Cover photo from open art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.