Jesus, unbeknownst to the many who surrounded Him, was God eternal. An peaceful prince painted into a landscape consisting of the creatures who bore His image. Wanderers—drunken with oblivion. God’s very own people were so self-absorbed that they couldn’t see the prized and phoenix image of God. The flawless witness of God incarnate. A king more than worthy of praise. Jesus was the perfect image of God:
“He is the image of God of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”
–Colossians 1:15 (ESV)
Good Friday is liturgical in nature. A liturgy that allures us to mourning, confession, and worship. A rhythm that leaves us sorrowful, but always surprises us with hope. It’s a season to meditate upon a Jesus stricken with agony; surmounted with a thorn-ridden crown. The savior who wept for His accusers while receiving the blows of their sins. One by one, with insult after insult. Mocked and spat upon by ferocious mercenaries. The kind of people that He came to save.
It’s about a hero who traveled through the cords of death, appearing as if He is on the losing side of the match. He’s tried by religious leaders (John 18:19-24) and abandoned by His friends (Mark 14:50). But he didn’t only feel the sorrow of being abandoned by those He loved. In His humanness, Jesus felt abandonment by His father:
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?””
This is what makes Jesus’ death so powerful. He was still God. His deity was still immaculate. What’s so incredible is that He was one who was infinite and at the same time showcasing vulnerability.
Many Christian traditions practice what are called Tenebrae services. Tenebrae is Latin for “darkness”. Often, Tenebrae observance is also referred to as a “service of shadows”. On Good Friday, churches will gather as a community to sing hymns of lamentation and praise. There is a candle stand that sits at the front of the sanctuary containing candles that surround the candle placed in the middle, which is referred to as the Christ candle.
As the service progresses, each candle that surrounds the Christ candle in the middle is extinguished one by one, representing the nearing of Jesus’ death. As the services come to a close, the Christ candle is extinguished, signifying the death of Jesus. It’s a time to contemplate the wondrous hope of Jesus taking on weight of sin on our behalf, but also a time to recognize that Christ died just as a human experiences death. It creatively tells you and I that the people that knew Jesus, spent time with Him and loved Him, felt despair. They believed their friend and their king was done for. They were convinced that death had the final say.
Good Friday was the moment in history where our deepest transgressions and our greatest hope were displayed to the world at the same time—at the cross of Christ. Jesus displayed His humanity and His divine nature. There are experiences that are profoundly mysterious, and at times, we can feel emotions that seem so drastically opposed to each other. We know that tears and laughter compliment the other so well, we just don’t know how to explain why on paper.
Lamentation and joy, rather than being opposites, go hand in hand. My prayer is that you would not only sing psalms of praise this Good Friday; that you would also invite tears and weeping. Not as one without hope, but as someone who partakes in the sufferings of Christ.
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