Friday, April 22, 2011

He Died! The Great Redeemer Died!

Today is Good Friday, the most solemn day of the Christian calendar. It doesn’t fit well with pastel bonnets, or spring animals, or chocolate eggs. You don’t say “Happy Good Friday” the way you wish friends a “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Easter.” Because Good Friday is not happy.

It is not happy, but it is Good.

It marks the day when the lights went out, when the earth shook and the heavens wept, when the God of nature died. It was a day of betrayal, abandonment, loneliness, and despair. It witnessed the greatest injustice, the deepest suffering, the cruelest irony, and, in all creation, the most consuming love.

Good Friday, too often overlooked, is a crucial step on the road to Easter, for the joy of Resurrection Morning came only in and through the wrenching sorrow of Gethsemane and Golgotha. With transcendent events, as with mundane ones, the realities of life can best be understood by contrast to their opposites. We must taste the bitter, that we might know how to prize the sweet. Easter Sunday could not be a holiday unless Good Friday were a funeral, for only in the context of overwhelming sorrow does transcendent joy have any meaning.

I've walked the streets of Jerusalem before, from Gethsemane to the home of Caiphas, the court of Pilate, the hall of judgment with its whipping post, and finally to Calvary's awful hill, and wondered what it must have been like for my Savior to walk through those streets, weighed down by the awful burden of the sins of His children, the horrors of this world and the aggregate agony of the fallen-ness of man. I'm sure His heart broke to see the path to Golgotha littered with discarded palm branches, brown and withered in the harsh sun, trampled underfoot by the same crowd that held them aloft a few days before. I'm sure he wept as he heard those who had cried “Hosanna!” instead shouting “Crucify him!”

On Good Friday, the world was turned upside down. The redeemer of worlds without number was "judge[d] to be a thing of naught" (1 Nephi 19:9). The Creator was condemned to death by the creatures He had given life. He who had been hailed as the promised Deliverer now carried His own cross. The hands that had healed the lepers and the blind were pierced with iron nails.

Pilate hung a sign above the head of Christ. Meant to mock the one crucified there, it unwittingly proclaimed his authority, "This Is Jesus, The King of the Jews." And as the King of the Jews, the King of all the world, hung dying, abandoned by His followers, reviled by His children, deserted by His God, He cried out in agony, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

But at that anguished cry, the heavens were still, and the Son of God, the Creator and Redeemer of worlds without end, died without an answer.

He died; the great Redeemer died,
And Israel's daughters wept around;
A solemn darkness veiled the sky,
A sudden trembling shook the ground.

Come, saints, and drop a tear or two
For him who groaned beneath your load;
He shed a thousand drops for you,
A thousand drops of precious blood.

Never before or since has triumph looked so much like defeat.

For more on Good Friday, click here.

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