Finding the "Good" in Good Friday
This is the day when we ponder Christ's suffering and death; the day when the cross is draped in black. They day when all the candles are snuffed out and darkness reigns. It's the day of pondering Christ's death, His suffering, His crying out (the 'seven last words'), His reproach. With a narrative like this, one would think that the point is to fully enter in to the suffering of Jesus, empathizing, and responding with a kind of sorrow filled gratitude... He did that FOR ME?
While such sorrow-gratitude has a measure of appropriateness to it, that kind of response would hardly merit this day being called "Good Friday". Black Friday, Dark Friday, Death Friday, perhaps; but not Good Friday. What are we to make of this?
1. It's "good" because this is where Christ became "propitiation". That's nothing more than a fancy word indicating that the breach of relationship between God and humanity was healed through Christ's death on the cross. A careful reading of I John 2 reveals the reality that God's not mad anymore... at anyone. Christ's death absorbed the wrath of God. Sure, you can argue about whether God should have wrath, just like you could argue about whether the sky should be blue, or whether water should be the sustaining liquid for the world rather than the milk of cows. But you're not running the universe, and neither am I, so declaring that we don't like the way God has set it up doesn't ultimate change things. What does change things, if the Bible is true, is Christ's death. It means that no longer is anyone judged on the basis of their own righteousness (or lack thereof), unless, by rejecting God's gift, they demand to be judged on their own merit instead of Christ's. That's always an option, but not one I'd choose.
2. It's "good" because dead people leaving their graves became a 'down payment' on a future world where all death, disease, destruction, war, pollution, greed, hatred, will be destroyed. We're invited to live now in the goodness and hope of the world that will someday come in fullness, and we're given the capacity to do so because of what happened on the cross. Death paved the way for life.
Good Friday marks the convergence of darkness and light, because the darkness of Jesus death marked the beginning of the brightness that IS, and SHALL BE the hope of Christ's Reign, a hope that will heal the world, a hope that could be inaugurated in no way other than by His death.
Good? Yes, like the goodness that comes when someone gives you BOTH their kidneys so that you can live; like the goodness that comes from realizing that someone covered your school debt, so now you're free to serve in the Peace Corp, or dig wells in India; like the goodness that comes from realizing that, through the death of a revolutionary, a regime of darkness has been toppled. It's good, certainly. But it's goodness at a cost. And we distort the gospel tragically if we fixate on either the goodness, ignoring the cost, or vice versa. That's why they call Good AND drape the cross in black.