What Was So Good About Friday?

 

Lights on HilltopsThe western churches are celebrating the beginning of Easter season, while the Orthodox Church marks the beginning of Holy Week with Palm Sunday, a matter of differing calendars. At the same time, Jews have been marking Passover, which Christians believe to be both a historic event and a prefigurement of the events commemorated in the highest holy days in the Christian faith. While we are constrained by government, for the first time in modern history, from gathering together in fulfillment of religious obligations and in communal affirmation of our faith, congregations are still celebrating the ancient truths, perhaps more than ever, as “virtual” attendance anecdotally exceeds the usual physical attendance. Our current circumstances may make us reflect more closely on the habitual rituals and readings.

Recall that the first Passover found families sheltering in place in their homes. On the instruction of their leaders, each family had selected a lamb, killed it, painting the doorposts and the lintel, the cross-member framing the top of the doorway, with the lamb’s blood. The family was eating the roasted lamb with their traveling clothes on, ready to move out when ordered, after the Angel of Death had passed them by.*

So, that first Passover would have been quite dark, quite scary. After all, they were warned of a great plague, and had only the blood-stained doorway between themselves and that killer. Yet, that darkest night was also a time of hope based in a promise. They were all dressed for a speedy departure because they were promised liberation in the wake of the plague.

In the same manner, the first disciples of Christ were sheltering in place, fearful of the Roman sword and the local authorities who collaborated with the occupiers. They had actually been told that something good would follow, but simply could not fully process what they had been told by their leader, who lay sealed in a tomb, guarded by Roman soldiers, having been publicly executed in the Romans’ especially, spectacularly cruel manner. That was Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Yet, even the local Jewish authorities knew of the promised spectacular start to a new week.** That is why they had warned Pilate to seal and guard the tomb for three days.***

While the followers of Christ were feeling hopeless, liberation and new life were about to appear with the dawn of a new week. The basis for this hope was spelled out by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth, concluding with the oft-repeated jeer at death:

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

— 1 Corinthians 15: 54-55 KJV

The message of this season is one of death and darkness being defeated by light and life. In the face of a plague far less rampant than that which was visited on Egypt over three thousand years ago, we have a basis for looking forward to light and life.

* Exodus 12:1-13

** Matthew 16:21

*** Matthew 27:62-66

While my own pastor at St. Luke in Mesa preached on Matthew 28: 1-15, I also watched the Tenth Presbyterian Church Easter service in Philadelphia, both for the music and the message, which is how I reflected on 1 Corinthians 15.

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  1. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    They’ll never be able to squelch it. Though in recent years, even before the virus, I’ve felt like we might end up once again meeting in secret and scratching a fish shape in the dirt.

    • #1
  2. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    They’ll never be able to squelch it. Though in recent years, even before the virus, I’ve felt like we might end up once again meeting in secret and scratching a fish shape in the dirt.

    For where two or more are gathered  . . . there will be police.

     

    • #2
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