By Sandi McReynolds
“MomMac, why do they call the day they killed Jesus ‘good’?”
It’s Good Friday, and I’m taking my granddaughters shopping when the conversation turns to Easter. Skye, age 10—excuse me, almost 11—is seeking truth. Jesus is whispering to her heart. Her questions are perceptive and sincere. Her cousin Lilly, age 13, has known Jesus since she was Skye’s age. Her answers are gentle and insightful. They love each other and I am proud of them.
“I’ve often had that same thought,” I tell them. “Seems like it should be called something else when you think of what they did to him.” They nod a solemn agreement, and the conversation becomes profound. We speak of his love and how he died so we could have forever life with him. Lilly smiles, “That’s what makes that Friday good.” We talk at length about what it means to be a Christian and I tell my beautiful blue-eyed Skyeler I’m praying she’ll claim that name soon.
But her question is instructive. I’ve always thought of the Friday Jesus was crucified as the darkest day for his disciples. They’d just watched their hopes and dreams for their nation’s future, and theirs, die on a cross of shame. They knew his promises. They’d seen his power up close and personal. They’d experienced his love “in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). Then he was gone, and everything for which they’d hoped and worked was gone with him. I can’t imagine the terror and confusion they felt. It just didn’t make sense, and these followers who’d sat at the very feet of the Master cowered in the dark and asked the questions that often trouble our own hearts: Jesus, where are you? If you really love us, why?
Now I wonder if their darkest day wasn’t actually the one after he died—that vacuum of time between the horrendous day we now call “good” and the glorious day of life resurrected.
Light of the World
This morning I sit in my sun-lit study, relishing the springtime chirps of baby wrens outside my window, thankful that for now God has answered my “why’s.” It’s that time between—neither good nor bad, just a day of anticipating what is to come. I relive yesterday with Skye and Lilly, grateful that Jesus is working in their hearts.
Historically it’s a day of confusion and violence, but last night was sweet—a celebration of Christ’s love at the Passover Seder/Lord’s Supper we attended with our daughter and son-in-law. I cherish the Jewish traditions God has so graciously woven into our heritage as Christ followers and often wish we understood their significance better, so we welcomed the chance to celebrate them.
Last night we worshipped Messiah, the light of the world, as Passover candles were lit at beautifully appointed tables. Next our leader blessed the cup of sanctification, recalling how Jesus blessed the cup at his last Passover and commanded, “Take this and divide it among you” (Luke 22:17). At the ceremonial washing of hands we were reminded that Jesus went beyond tradition to wash his followers’ feet as well. Then our host revealed three matzah loaves representing God’s triune nature. Breaking the middle loaf and wrapping half in a napkin, he hid it for the children to find, warning we must always come as children to the Lord. To Christians, the broken bread symbolizes Christ’s body, broken for us. Hiding it wrapped in a white napkin denotes Jesus’ burial and being returned celebrates his resurrection.
But as bitter herbs dipped in salted water commemorated the bitterness of Israel’s oppression and our separation from God, we couldn’t have known that soon our own family would feel the bitterness of earthly separation from one we loved. I wish they’d recorded that ceremony. The ensuing months defeated all other memories, though they brought even greater appreciation for God’s perfect plan.
Finding God Faithful
“Jim has fallen and hit his head. Please pray!”
The text came out of the blue; it was uncharacteristically anxious for our daughter, Kim, who’s weathered so many storms with incredible confidence in the Lord.
Our larger-than-life, full-of-energy son-in-law was at his oil lease in Kansas. Normally Kim would go, but it was only a quick check and she wasn’t feeling well. We’d lived with tacit awareness that their 15-year age difference might eventually mean Kim could find herself without her closest companion and encourager. She’s amazingly strong and competent, but for over 30 years they’d shared every adventure. Jim had nurtured her pro-life leadership, partnered silently in the founding and growth of LifeChoices Clinic, endured years of commuting while Kim restructured Focus on the Family’s sanctity of life division, and then advised her in her consulting company. Very few had any inkling of the time and energy—and prayer—her husband invested in her. But we knew, and sometimes wondered how she might face life without him. That sad day we discovered she’d wondered too, but she fell on her knees before her Father and surrendered their future to him; then she said, “I have faced my greatest fear and found God faithful.”
Soon word came: Jim had suffered a massive stroke. He was on his way to Kansas City where he’d remain for the next three months, fighting for his life. For those months, and the final weeks in hospice, Kim never left his side. Never did a woman fight harder for the one she loved. She talked to him, prayed over him, monitored his care, posted daily updates, and slept every night holding his hand. Friends and family brought food and clothes and went away stronger.
The last few days with Jim were true celebrations of life. Children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends and family came and went, sharing stories and laughter and tears. Every surface overflowed with flowers and tokens of affection. Funny drawings and messages of love the kids left on his windows blessed caregivers and visitors alike. Then he was gone, and we watched our daughter take a deep breath, firmly grasp her Father’s hand, and begin life anew.
It’s Good Friday again, and resurrection’s promise holds more meaning than ever before. Jesus has welcomed Jim home. Also, a few weeks after her grandfather’s death, Skye was joyfully baptized; and her Uncle Kyle’s fiancée, for whom we’d all prayed, jubilantly joined God’s family too. Jim had prayed for her most of all and would have celebrated with exuberance their wedding at the family farm, centered in Christ just as he’d dreamed.
Now as I sit on this Saturday, it is once more the time between. It’s anticlimactic. No revelations or celebrations bracket this day. It’s simply a day of awaiting the promise; for, as an old preacher famously said, “Sunday’s a-comin’!”
Tomorrow is Resurrection Sunday, when death was “swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4). We’ll celebrate with family—cherishing traditions, watching children search for treats, wishing they wouldn’t grow up so fast. We’ll join the throngs in grateful praise and worship. Tomorrow Skye will be there with us and we’ll rejoice that life is working in her heart and other hearts we love. Tomorrow is the day it all makes sense.
Tomorrow Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!
Sandi McReynolds is a freelance writer living in the Joplin, Missouri area.