I have had a problem with calling this day Good Friday. From my first impression I have to say: So, what’s good about the day that Jesus is crucified. To me it’s always seemed like more of a dismal and dreary day, as it was for the early disciples, a day of grief, a day of sorrow. That is, until I begin thinking about the message, the words and the focus of Jesus, not only by what he said, but how he lived his life as an example for us to follow.
What does it mean that he led his life for us to follow in his footsteps, to participate in this life and death experience, not just to observe? What does Jesus mean by bringing the Kingdom of God from Heaven to earth? Let’s look at a few of those earth shattering statements.
- If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Luke 6:31)
- The first will be last and the last will be first. (Matthew 20:16)
- Don’t worry about tomorrow. Live one day at a time. (Matthew 6:34)
- Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slaves to all. (Mark 10:44)
- Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, and thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you? And the King will answer and say to them: Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to me. (Matthew 25:38-40)
The gospels are loaded with these types of messages from Jesus. What do these messages all have in common? They represent an active faith, not a static faith. It’s not only what we believe with our heads that count. It’s not really faith until we put the words of Jesus into action in our lives. Following Christ, participating in “The Way”, is designed to be pro-active. It is a simple faith in Christ that tells us that Christ leads and models for us a participatory lifestyle. We follow Jesus by participating in this journey of the cross called “the Way”. (Acts 9:2; Acts 24:14)
Jesus displayed his participation in the Last Supper. He celebrated communion with his disciples in a common meal that also included bread and wine. He was sharing his last communion with them on earth, but he instructed that every time they share the Eucharist table in the future, He would be there with them. When he washed his disciple’s feet his message to them was this: “I have come to serve you, not to be served. This is my style of leadership. Yes, I expect you all to pick up your cross and follow me to Jerusalem”. He knew this was not an easy statement to make to his disciples and it also applies to us. Many of them would someday follow his footsteps into martyrdom.
Is it so different for us 2000 years later? Perhaps some of us will be killed for our faith, but probably not. None of us know the future. But, if we are disciples of Christ, the decree “to pick up our cross and follow Jesus” still stands. And, if it does not mean death what does it mean? It means that we need to proactively challenge those things in our world that violate the Kingdom of God. That means standing up against things when it’s not popular or standing against principles that fly in the face of how Jesus expects us to live our lives. As we say in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”.
We not only remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but let this be out prayer, just as it was the apostles Paul’s: “I am crucified with Christ, never the less I live yet not I but Christ lives in me. And, the life that I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave His life for me”. (Galatians 2:20)
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen