In South African, the Easter Weekend is traditionally the busiest and bloodiest time on our nation’s roads. A four day weekend is the perfect time to escape to the Berg, or even get in a few good swims on our sandy beaches. With the temperatures beginning to abate it’s a reminder that winter is just around the corner. Yet in the frenzy to relax or escape the city for a few days, fatalities will be out of all proportion with the rest of the year, or in fact the rest of the world.
So why this long weekend? What is this day all about?
Today, Good Friday, is in fact the holiest day in the Christian calendar. It is around this day, this weekend, that the whole Christian year pivots. But not just the year – the Christian faith itself. Today is the day that Christians remember that Jesus of Nazareth was tortured and executed. He died the most excruciating death that mankind could devise at that time, and he did it for us.
The Good Friday account is a story of blood and sorrow and murder. A mother was forced to watch her son die naked before her eyes. One cannot even imagine the heartache, the gut wrenching sorrow she would have endured that day. But as horrendous as the historical accounts are, the gospels tell us that there was a purpose, a plan, in all of this. Jesus, the four evangelists tell us, gave his life willingly out of love for us.
Alongside this story of horror and shame runs another story, one of love and rescue.
From the cross comes a powerful invitation. Jesus, who knew rejection and shame, opens his arms in acceptance and love. The heart of the Christian message is not shape up or ship out. He who was without sin took on our sin. He who knew what it was to be scorned, abused, offers us a place of safety and love. It is an offer that reverberates from the throne, from the very heart of God. But it is laid bare, in all its blood and gore, on a lonely hill away from the city. It’s not a horror story – it’s a love story.
This is why the holiday. The day was traditionally set aside so that people could take the time to worship, to remember. My intention in writing this is not to beat you up for not going to church this morning, or invite you to attend a service this evening. No. I would invite you to take the time that is given to us to appreciate the gift that is today. Not the gift of a day off but the gift of a life given.
Will we come to read the story and to enter into it ourselves? The invitation is to find our place in this story.
Read the story and reflect on your own story.
As you read, perhaps journal some thoughts. Bring those thoughts to the Father in prayerful reflection. And above all hear the invitation from the cross. A heart laid bare, that we would live.