Why I Need Good Friday
A story of Discipleship and being Claimed by God's Grace by Bruce Schrott
Originally published in The First Edition, April 2015 Issue
I spent about 3 hours at the cross one Sunday afternoon several years ago. I had sat down to read a chapter in Thank God It’s Friday: Encountering the Seven Last Words from the Cross by Bishop William H. Willimon in preparation for a Sunday school class. I found myself completely absorbed in the book until I had finished it. Reading that book provided for me an experience of God’s grace in a way that I now encounter Good Friday and Easter differently.
Lent was always a difficult season for me. I preferred to avoid that long period of time between Ash Wednesday and Easter. I didn’t like to admit that something in me might need fixing. And I certainly didn’t want to make a commitment to fixing all the things God wanted me to fix. But the thing that made Lent most difficult was knowing that I had to endure a Holy Week that included Good Friday and having to pass by the cross before I could arrive at Easter.
I had previously attended a lot of Good Friday services out of a sense of obligation. I listened to a 40 voice choir sing of the walk along the via Dolorosa. I drove nails in the cross. I hung my sins on the cross and watched them burn. I spent hours visiting the Stations of the Cross. I listened to Jesus Christ Superstar 15 or 20 times. I watched Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ. Good Friday was not fun! Dwelling on the crucifixion was (and still is) very difficult. I thought it would have been much easier to have an Ash Wednesday service and then jump to Easter the following Sunday. Kapow! And “Up from the grave he arose with a mighty triumph o’er his foes!”
I realized that afternoon that I had wanted an Easter with no pain because I had been trying to achieve something that only God could give me. I was longing for an Easter where I had fixed everything in myself so I could be worthy of God! I was seeking to live happily in Christ and pretend everything was fun and easy. But when I considered the constant barrage of war news on the TV, or the ways I had disappointed my wife or close friends, or the people I had chosen to hate over wrongs I thought they had committed toward me, it dawned on me that I could only know God loves me by knowing first that God forgives me. No matter how badly things were going with the world or whatever new ways I had found to disappoint someone, I realized that God was always with me and that God absolutely couldn’t leave me because I am loved so much.
I now seek to experience the helplessness of Good Friday so I can wake up on Easter morning knowing that I am forgiven, that I am loved, and that I am important to God, no matter what! I really, really, really need to feel forgiven so that I can know more fully the deep and abiding love that God has for me. I can only know forgiveness by watching Jesus hang from the cross. When I can own the fact that I am forgiven and loved, only then can I be a full participant in the kingdom that God ushered in at Easter. Only then, can God reach through Jesus and take up residence in my heart. Only then can God’s Spirit work to lead me to love other people the way God would have me love them. Finally, on Sunday morning when the pastor says “Christ is risen!,” I can respond with complete and utter joy, “Christ is risen indeed!”
Bruce Schrott is our Director of Adult Discipleship