Why Good Friday is So Good

It seems ironic to call it “Good Friday.” Jesus Christ died a horrific, demoralizing, painful death on this day. But I have came to understand that if I look at what He actually accomplished, I can see how “good” this day actually is.

When I saw the movie “The Passion,” directed by Mel Gibson, I could hardly breathe watching Jesus being flogged. It felt like I was there and the cinematography was so graphic I felt ill. I remember Him being made to carry his own wooden cross to Golgotha. It was the ultimate humiliation. He could barely stand after his beating and so someone else was made to carry the cross while he walked the streets of Jerusalem towards his destination. How he made it to Calvary is a mystery to me. He had to have super strength physically and determination beyond comprehension to willingly comply. Last year I walked this route, the Via Dolorosa, in Jerusalem. I saw all of the Stations of the Cross and even put my hand on the wall where Jesus was known to have stopped to rest. It was surreal touching where that event took place some 2000 years ago. Every nationality you could think of speaking dozens of different languages were all there doing the same thing as well.

Station of the Cross where Jesus was to have rested

What touched me most deeply was standing in the cave cell where Jesus was thrust after conviction. I had the realization of how he was unjustly accused, convicted and abandoned by everyone in that moment. He KNEW suffering in a physical AND psychological sense. The despair one would have under those circumstances! And then he had to go through with the inhumane flogging by the leather strips having metal barbs. The psychological pain prior of knowing what was to come had to be unbearable. It makes complete sense He would pray in the Garden of Gethsemane for “this cup to be taken from me, but not my will, yours be done.”

Garden of Gethsemane

Peering at the cross were the eyes of Golgotha or the “eyes of the skull.” Jesus was hung on the cross there and we were able to touch the stone on which He was known to be crucified. We now know that the end was not the end. It was actually the beginning! Because as scriptures foretold, He rose again on the “third day.” He conquered death, physical suffering, psychological torture, and emotional loss of relationships. He experienced firsthand everything painful any of us could ever experience. He overcame everything and redeemed us in the process! Even the Roman executioner saw afterwards that He was the Son of God. The reason it is such a GOOD FRIDAY is because we are redeemed for eternity by His grace and His suffering. He conquered death and sin for us all. It is a very, very good day!

As an old textbook from many years ago attested, “Good Friday is good because with it, Jesus purchased for us salvation and with it, every blessing.”

Site of Calvary Stone

My Helper

It is impossible for that man to despair who remembers that his Helper is omnipotent.
Jeremy Taylor

Flower near Sea of Galilee

I cannot fathom existence without divine life support. It is overwhelming to manage the mundane, much less the fear of the what ifs and what might actually occur to go without.

One of my sons once quizzed me on my faith. He is in college and had recently taken a Comparative Religion course. Wanting to answer him honestly but not sound preachy, I took time formulating my answer. Finally, it came to me and I said, “Because I like it and it works for me.” I could tell he wanted to debate the subject but my simple explanation warranted none.

I understand everyone’s need to question and find their personal faith. I also understand it is everyone’s right to choose. As I once read, “God is a gentleman. He won’t impose Himself on anyone.” This is true. I just hate for people- especially my loved ones- to miss out on this marvelous, mystifying, meaningful power source.

Watching my children suffer, hurt, or struggle is particularly painful. While I can intercede with prayers and support, I cannot force or impose my faith onto them. It’s their free choice. Their quality of life and ability to dig deep down within is completely out of my control. I won’t stop praying for the Holy Spirit to disturb them some, however.

Meggido, Israel

Traveling to Israel recently, it stuck me how very simple Jesus’ message was. It has been man and our interpretation of His message that has created the complications of religion. So, I don’t talk about being “religious” but rather “spiritual.” People are created so complex and unique it’s no wonder there are so many ways to worship. I don’t judge anyone’s choice as God is a big boy and can handle meeting us all where we need Him.

To boil it all down, I was driving this week and was behind a car with a bumper sticker reading “If you have breath, speak LOVE.” I would like to practice more of that.

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem

LIVING STONES IN ISRAEL

Abraham’s Gate

Staring at 4,000 year old ruins bent my mind into a new shape. I was literally walking through the Old Testament. Item one on my bucket list was checked off. I was finally in Israel and on a pilgrimage through the Holy Land.

Ancient Road

It seemed the timing was perfect and I felt drawn there. Having declined an opportunity to go years prior, I decided I wasn’t letting this chance go. One of my sons wanted to go too so we signed up together. Classes were attended in preparation and 9 months of anticipation followed.

Roman Vomitorium

The first day we overlooked azure waters of the Mediterranean while sitting in a Roman amphitheater- otherwise known as the “Vomitorium.” Next door were palace ruins of the Roman Centurions. Pontious Pilate was one. Progressing inland from Israel’s coast, we traveled through time going back four millennia. The toppled remnants of ancient cities whispered their stories both sad and shocking. One site, Megiddo, was a layer cake of ancient city upon city that literally stacked on top of the other. The valley below was Armageddon and we wondered if all would one day end there?

Megiddo

Our guide was unusual in that she comprised the last remnant of Christians living in the Holy Land. Less than two percent are left in all of Israel, including Palestine. She shared that when she asked her mom why they stayed when others moved away, her mother said, “We have to stay. Otherwise there will be no more living stones in the Holy Land.” That saying inked itself on my heart. I realized as a Christian, I also am called to be a living stone- wherever that may be.

Mount Arbel

The landscape of Israel was glorious as wildflowers in brilliant yellow, red and lavender peeked between ancient stones. The lush, green valley of “milk and honey” was blooming with fruit and olive trees. I could easily understand why it was the “Promised Land.” Israel was achingly beautiful.

Mount of Beatitudes

Our sacred site visits included history and geopolitical lessons that increased our understanding of the past and present. Scripture readings added to the spiritual significance of each location. The Bible suddenly became three dimensional. Stories were no longer fable-like but tangibly real. All of a sudden I wanted everyone I knew with me. Instead, I did the next best thing and posted pictures each day on Facebook.

Station of the Cross on the Via Delarosa

Our schedule was extremely tight allowing for little rest. It did not matter, however, because as our guide said, we were pilgrims, not vacationers. Rain was a mere inconvenience and didn’t stop the day’s schedule. Danger was never a concern — the most dangerous thing about Israel was walking while looking down at your phone. You were sure to trip or fall over something if not paying attention. No, I was not once scared and yes, I will go back, God willing.

The Dead Sea

My “aha” moment occurred while in Jerusalem. I was down in the Sacred Pit where Jesus was thrown after being wrongly convicted. He was beaten, deserted by all His friends, and thrust into a pitch-black, cavelike prison. He must have fallen 20 or more feet against the cold, hard stone. All of a sudden His pain, suffering and loneliness hit me. HE KNOWS, I realized. HE FELT EXACTLY HOW WE DO BUT WORSE…I began to cry and couldn’t stop. (I am not a cryer, for the record.) Recognizing He felt every imaginable human suffering and knowingly went through it all gave me gratitude beyond measure. It was comforting to know that even though He experienced extreme, human suffering, He loved us enough to die on the cross. He became the ultimate sacrifice and sin was defeated. There was nothing left to fear, I realized! My heart nearly exploded with gratitude.

The Sacred Pit

Once we reached Golgotha, tears dried as I knew the triumphant outcome. Jesus wasn’t in the tomb, nor would He ever be. He arose and ascended to be with His (and our) Father. The stone, skull facade of Golgotha peered at me but I didn’t feel dread. I had received the hope-filled message. I needed to bring Israel with me and become a Living Stone.

Eyes of Golgotha