The Christian tradition uses the week before Easter to read and reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross. The events move quickly from a time of excitement and celebration of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem but conclude with the gloom of Good Friday, the day Jesus died.
Sometimes it’s hard to understand why we remember Jesus’ death as something good. For us, death isn’t generally something we celebrate.
In the time leading up to his death, Jesus sat down and had one last meal with his friends. Over the course of that meal he predicted his own death and informed his friends, Judas specifically, he would be betrayed. Jesus knew that Judas had already arranged to hand him over to the very people who would make Good Friday a reality yet Judas denied it to Jesus’ face.
Later that night when Jesus had returned from a time of prayer, Judas was followed by a crowd of soldiers. To no surprise, Jesus’ response to Judas was surprising. “Do what you came for, friend” (Mat. 26:50 NRSV) and Judas handed him over to the police.
I’m sorry, what?! Jesus just called the man who signed his death warrant a friend. I couldn’t.
But this was the whole point. Jesus came to show humanity what it meant to be in full connection with God. To love in the broken and messy places. Jesus forgave Judas before he even had a chance to ask. Jesus is the model friend.
While approaching his death, while onlookers yelled to crucify him, Jesus displayed this radical friendship once again. He asked God to forgive those who acted in hate because we didn’t know what we had done (Luke 23:34). Jesus forgave us even though we got it all wrong. Jesus forgave us before we even asked.
On this day we remember Jesus’ mighty act of forgiveness as Good Friday. It’s good because though the events surround his death were terrible, we remember this precious act of grace that paved the way for us to have the kind of relationship with God he showed.
In two more days we will celebrate the fact that while Jesus gave everything at this moment, death would not defeat a friend like this. A friend so incredibly devoted to the relationship would not be held within the confines of the tomb they put him in. Jesus would return.
It is my hope that you find a place to celebrate that this year. To realize that no matter where we are in our faith journey, Jesus has already given us the pieces we need to start fresh. We don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to have the Bible memorized, and we don’t have to pretend like our life is put together. Whose really is anyway?
If you’re in my area, I’d love for you to explore this story with us at Ashley Ridge Church. If not and you’d like help finding a place to visit, feel free to send me a message and we can work together to find a church near you.
I believe this is a story that changed the world and I don’t want you to miss it. Have a very happy Easter!