The Cross or What’s So Good About Good Friday?

Mar 10, 2013

Cross in Ghana

March is beautiful somewhere. But not here. I’ve always been a big defender of the month nobody loves because I was born right near the end of it. Hence the name, Robin, as in “first sign of spring”, although with global warming the robins have become confused and disoriented, showing up in January with beach chairs. Also, on my 36th birthday I received my best birthday present ever, my little Jake the Giant, born eight minutes after midnight. So we rally during March in my family. It’s a month of great promise if you choose to look at it that way.

They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I’m looking out my window right now and it’s downright dismal. It’s like it can’t decide whether to act like winter or spring so it’s “sprinter”; a soggy, slushy mess thrown in your face at 40 MPH. There are daffodils out there, behind the fence, under the slush, shivering their little frail stems off. It’s a brutal month, coming in more like a rabid dog this year than a lion.

Yet it could be 60 tomorrow, evaporating memories of today, and we would all be at Home Depot buying seed starter kits and lawn fertilizer. We are wired to hope. Teens will be crowding around basketball hoops with their shirts off and a few motorcycles will blast down the street. The daffodils will shake it off and push upward.

This March is a hideous commercial event with Easter and Saint Patrick’s Day sharing the shelves, only two weeks apart. Leprechauns leaning on bunnies and shamrocks in the jelly beans. Not just the robins are confused! I wonder if Jesus and Patrick find it amusing or terribly sad. Religious folks prepare by putting dirt on their foreheads and giving up Dunkin Donuts for a month. Parents are required to fork out gifts for their kids, along with the overstuffed Easter basket because the kid next door got a Wii last year for Easter. Corned beef and ham dinners raise the American blood pressure even higher.

My mom used to boast that I was born on Maundy Thursday, which I thought for years was “Monday-Thursday”, like it took four days. As I grew, I realized I was born on the day celebrating the Last Supper, which preceded Good Friday, the day they crucified Jesus. I didn’t understand why either of these days were celebrated or called Good. My mom baked hot cross buns as if that explained everything.

The cross was confrontational to me even then. It seemed like everyone wanted to sing about Christ being risen but we kind of skipped over the cross. I knew that Jesus died there, a long agonizing, brutal death. He knew all about it when they ate together the night before. Betrayal, greed, denial. He carried his own cross the next day to his own death, “enduring the shame for the joy set before him.”

The older I get, the more terrifying and beautiful the cross becomes. And consequently, the more triumphant and glorious Easter Sunday is. The power of His resurrection should fuel every moment of every Christian’s life. Jesus IS risen, the stone is rolled away, defeating death, tearing the veil that separated us from perfect love, freedom, and life eternal. It is the most astounding act recorded on earth, too marvelous for words.

Yet the cross still haunts me because it is where humanity collided with God and it is messy and mysterious and unfathomable in suffering. The same shame that Jesus bore for me, where He was broken and his blood poured out for me has become my escape to joy unspeakable. I shake my head in disbelief, staggered by this love.

I like that Easter is in March this year, and I like that my birthday (and yours, Jake) falls on Good Friday. I can celebrate my entry into this world fifty seven years ago, my parents filled with wistful dreams and fragile love for their first little girl. Thirty years later, God led a broken, dirty woman to the foot of Calvary’s cross. There I was born again.

We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work. We had nothing to do with it. It was all his idea, a gift prepared for us in Jesus long before we knew anything about it. But we know it now. Since the appearance of our Savior, nothing could be plainer: death defeated, life vindicated in a steady blaze of light, all through the work of Jesus.  (2 Timothy 1:9 the Message)

March will usher in April. Strange how God determines that the death of things would bring new life. Creation is proving it right outside my window. My son, Spence had clipped these words from a page to “Calvary Road” by Roy Hession and tacked them to his dresser, right beside his pillow.

When we put pride to death, God imparts power and implants hope. We rise renewed. But when we revert to our self-sufficient ways, the Spirit presses in. And so we must return to the cross, mortifying the martyr in us, destroying the self-display. As we hold fast to the cross, God offers the spirit of humility. Stray from the cross and humility recedes, pride returns. It is simple; it’s the cross. Again I say the cross. I didn’t say it was easy, just simple.

There are days that I’m uncertain of why I am here, darkness descends into a private pain that is shared only with God and my heart is restless. It is then that I turn to the cross, and my darkness is swallowed up in its shadow. Jesus no longer hangs there, there are no crowds; it is silent. But I am reminded of what love truly means. In the midst of his exquisite pain, forgiveness was granted and even his mom was taken care of. I don’t have to stay there, but I can return there and remember who I am without it, that His grace still flows from it, and covers me. This is the Jesus I can never understand or explain. This is the Jesus I will follow all of my days…until death brings again, new life.