Friday, 18 April 2014

What's good about Good Friday?

I don't usually write about my faith...but today, I feel it's pretty important to do exactly that.

Today is Good Friday. Yet when you look at what the Christian church 'celebrates' today, there really isn't much good about it at first sight.

A case of political intrigue, the flexing of religious muscles, the betrayal and execution of an innocent man... and two thousand years on, we still see similar things happening around the world. Nothing's changed.

Well, one thing that has definitely changed is how we mark Good Friday.

When I was a child, there was a sense of awe for me about Good Friday. The shops were shut for the Bank Holiday but there were always hot cross buns (the only time of year you could buy them), there was nearly always a biblical epic or re-telling of the crucifixion on the telly in the afternoon, and in the evening: church. The service was always a sombre one with all the linen and flowers removed - the only 'decoration' was often a bare cross, draped with purple fabric and a crown of thorns.

More recently, I attended a Walk of Witness through town, when I was very aware of how the approach to Good Friday has altered...diminished in some way by our secular society. On that particular occasion, a crowd of us followed a man - carrying a cross and escorted by 'soldiers' - through the busy marketplace, enacting various scenes from the Bible which culminated in a 'crucifixion' outside the Town Hall.

I was struck by how many people ignored us as they carried on shopping. I wondered if that was how it was when Jesus was crucified? Was the sight of men being led to a grisly death by crucifixion so commonplace that normal life carried on around it? Or did you ignore it because to show any hint of compassion or interest might tar you with the same brush and land you in trouble with the authorities? How many turned a blind eye and opted for the quiet life?

With the benefit of hindsight, I know how the story ended - or rather, how it continued. As a Christian, I can 'celebrate' the events of Good Friday because I know there is something beyond the death of Jesus that opened up a whole new world of possibility for a personal relationship with God.

In spite of how any of us mark this day, the essential truth of why it happened remains the same; that's what's good about Good Friday.