Good Friday is a difficult holiday. Like Yom Kippur, it’s not something one “celebrates.” It’s something one “observes.” Tenebrae services are somber, yet once they are over, it’s easy to go home and return to “normal” life.
That day, and the day that follows, should be ones of solemn contemplation. Yet we get up and go to the grocery store or whatever and carry on as if nothing had happened.
We go from bearing witness to the crucifixion to shopping for Cheerios as if the most important thing in the history of the faith weren’t going on around us.
The first-century disciples were in hiding that Saturday. They feared for their lives and believed their beloved Rabbi was dead.
Of course, we know better. We know how the story ends, so it’s easy enough to kick back on Saturday afternoon and watch Mythbusters reruns. Then we rise on Sunday morning, again, knowing the end of the story. We put on our fancy hats and sing “Up from the Grave He Arose” and eat Danish and coffee in the fellowship hall.
All of that is great. We are New Testament people who know our Redeemer lives. Easter is a time for celebration.
But Good Friday…it’s still a day to mourn.
I learned this keenly one year when I played Mary the mother of Jesus in a Good Friday worship drama. I didn’t have any lines, as such. The whole of my part consisted of crying. Of mourning. Enter, wailing. Collapse center stage, weeping (quietly, while the choir sings the anthem). Exit, sobbing.
I have no great claim to any acting skill at all, just a few years of high school drama classes. But I knew that to get in character for this part, I couldn’t fake it. I had to really be crying and sobbing. In real life, I cry at the slightest provocation, but when over a hundred people are watching, it’s hard to keep it up. To sustain it, I’d have to mentally put myself in Mary’s head.
I had to imagine my son—my own flesh and blood son—crucified.
To this day, the thought upsets me.
It’s a horrific thing to imagine.
But it happened.
Mary’s son—her own flesh and blood son—crucified.
I’m brought to tears just imagining the possibility. She must have been shredded to the core of her being.
I’ve heard preachers say God the Father knows what it’s like to lose a child, because his Son died. I don’t believe it. The Father knows the end of the story. He knows how it will turn out.
Mary did not. As far as Scripture tells us, she had no angelic visitation to tell her everything would be all right. She spent that Saturday mourning like no one else on earth.
After that Good Friday service, I ducked out of the sanctuary and drove straight home. I didn’t want to see anyone. I could not speak into the aftermath of it. I broke a date with the neighbors because I could not bear the idea of eating Chinese food and watching Battlestar Galactica while I mourned my crucified Lord.
So I holed up at home and grieved. I think it’s the only time I’ve ever truly spent the time from Good Friday to Easter Sunday mourning.
That experience, that perspective, gave me a new appreciation for what Jesus has done for me. It gave me a new outlook on Holy Week, and especially this dark time between the crucifixion of our Lord and the dawn of Resurrection. I hope my sharing it will do the same for you.
So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.—Matthew 27:59–61