Believers of Jesus Christ have done well in the last 2,000 years to remember Good Friday. Around the world, the Friday before Easter Sunday is commemorated as the day when Jesus died on the cross. We are not very clear about the origin of the word ‘Good’ in ‘Good Friday.’ Some say it is from ‘Gottes Freitag’ (God’s Friday) or ‘Gute Freitag’ in the German language. In Denmark, the day is called ‘Long Friday.’ In Germany, it is called ‘Karferitag Friday” which stands for ‘Suffering Friday.’ I am not sure, then, why this day is called good. What is good about God dying on a Friday?
Imagine you went to see a doctor on a Friday, and are informed that you are suffering from terminal cancer. What is good about such a Friday? What is good about a Friday when you’ve lost your job or your marriage has broken down?
The day after God died on the cross, that Saturday morning, heaven was silent.
I can only imagine what it must be like the day after a doctor has informed you of your sickness, or your employer has informed you about the loss of your job. A day like this can make very little sense.
Believers of Jesus Christ have also done a wonderful job of celebrating Easter Sunday. All the angels must have gotten together that day and shouted ‘hooray’ as Jesus came back from the dead. It is ineluctable to be wounded on a Friday, and it is easy to rejoice on a Sunday. But what about the time in between a Friday and Sunday? Who wants to wake up the day after a tragedy and a day before the miracle?
The story of Lazarus, in John 11, has such a ring to it. Throughout the Bible, when Jesus learned of a sick person, he was quick to respond. Lazarus was Jesus’ close friend. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, were well known to him. John writes: “Jesus loved Martha and his sisters and Lazarus”. One day, Lazarus’s sisters sent word to Jesus, saying, “Lord, the one you love (Lazarus) is sick.”
I would have assumed that Jesus jumped from his chair and rushed to Lazarus upon hearing this news. Jesus’ actual response, though, is a bit bewildering. John tells us that, “When he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
With this in mind, next time someone comes to you, seeing your need, and tells you, “Don’t worry. God loves you,” try to remember Jesus’ response here. God’s love does not necessarily mean speed. Think of this when you exit the doctor’s chambers or your (former) work place on a Friday, looking for a miracle but getting no response.
Have you ever asked God to move and then felt like nothing happened? Did it seem to you that God was in no hurry to give an answer?
Having lived through a few Saturdays myself, I have come to realize that the God I serve acts in ways that do not always make sense.
Consider the following:
Lazarus eventually died and Jesus raised him from the dead. You, too, might think that it would be great to be raised from the dead. It seems wonderful until you realize that later in Lazarus’ story, “the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.”
When Lazarus surely thought himself dead, God made him alive. When Lazarus then thought himself alive, the high priests said, “You will be dead!” For Lazarus, this is his Saturday. It is a day when God does not make sense.
“How great it would be,” you think, “to see Jesus feeding 5,000 people.” It feels wonderful till you realize God is taking your few fish and loaves to make this happen. For the boy in this story, this is his Saturday. He needed to suffer a loss, before finding abundance.
It would have been wonderful to be in the boat and see Jesus standing up and rebuking the winds and the waves. However, to see the storm become the calm, you first need to go through the storm. As you go through this storm, the confidence in your own abilities is shattered. You are scared and crying out, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ If you have the confidence to endure such a Saturday as this, you will discover a Sunday where God performs a miracle.
It would have been wonderful to be John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus. Imagine how great it felt to have such a close relationship with the Lord. Wouldn’t it have been amazing if Jesus came to you to be baptized? Think about John’s Saturday. It must have been the day before he was going to be beheaded. Think of all the uncertainties he faced.
It would have been wonderful to be one of Jesus’ twelve handpicked disciples. You would have had a balcony seat as Jesus performed the most spectacular miracles. You would have seen it all up close and personal. The cost of that closeness is initially hard to understand. You would have had to leave your family and career, and then travel alone to distant countries to declare Jesus’ death and resurrection. What would you have gotten as a pay packet for all of this? You may have been beaten, imprisoned, or savagely killed.
If you had been one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, you ran the risk of dying an unnatural death.
If you had been Joseph and seen the future in a beautiful dream, you ended up in the dungeon.
If you had been Noah and God told you to build an ark when there was no sign of rain, let alone a flood, you stood before an entire community mocking you for what you were doing.
If you had been the choicest nation of God (Israel), you went through 400 years of oppression and slavery.
If you had witnessed the parting of the red sea, you endured 40 years of wilderness journey.
Here is what the Bible teaches you while you are facing your Saturday. God’s timing is perfect, but it does not always make sense.
On Saturday, you realize that His ways are higher then your ways. That is another way of saying that, for us mortals, it does not always make sense.
In John 11, the story of Lazarus, we get an idea of why God operates the way that He does.
Verse 4: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
Verse 15: “For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”
Verse 25/26: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Verse 40: “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?”
We all experience a Friday where our dreams and hopes are shattered. We all find ourselves stuck in a Saturday where God does not make sense. Jesus reveals to us his reasoning in verse 42, “I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Sunday is when we celebrate healing and restoration. But remember, even Jesus had to go through Golgotha (place of his suffering) on a Good Friday, and heaven had to be silent on a Saturday, before God’s glory was revealed on a Sunday. If today is your Saturday, the underlying question begging an answer is simply, “Do you believe in such a Jesus?”