Jesus, seeing that everything had been completed so that the Scripture record might also be complete, then said, “I’m thirsty.” . . . After he took the wine, Jesus said, “It’s done . . . complete.” Bowing his head, he offered up his spirit.
John 19:28, 30 The Message
Most of our days, death hovers in the shadows. We know it’s there. But like a child, we squeeze our eyes shut against it, assuming if we can’t see it, it can’t see us.1
Eventually, death makes a move. Closing our eyes no longer works, and we must acknowledge grief.
Good Friday has always felt a bit like a splash of cold water or a plunge into an icy pond. We are forced to look at the death of a Man upon whom all of history bends. Each year, Christians are invited into His encounter with the shadow. Because we’ve spent most of the year ignoring death’s reality, it’s a tough pivot.
Most years, I’ve struggled with how to acknowledge Good Friday. It’s not a celebration, as much as an observance. It’s a keeping watch sort of day. Most years, I’ve set my eyes toward the death of this Holy Innocent in some form. I’ve purposed to remember how He yielded to death as the rescue for us all, even as I’ve carried on with regular Friday responsibilities.
But this isn’t the typical Good Friday.
Death has left the shadows, taken center stage, claiming lives on a massive scale through a pandemic. Death is no longer over there, coming just for the elderly loved one or the weary disease fighter or the random accident victim. Death is here, lurking in our midst, claiming the ordinary living.2
And so this Good Friday, as I keep watch over the death of the Holy One, it’s not so much a shock as it is a relief. This One Man faced down the death that’s waiting for us all—and He conquered it.
When this corruptible body is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place:
Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Where, death, is your victory
Where, death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
1 Corinthians 15:54–57 CSB
Death still stings, of course. It’s a cruel thief, a shredder of dreams. Those it claims, those it leaves behind—we remember love lost, and we ache.
Good Friday calls us to avert our tear-filled eyes toward the Holy One’s death, to gather up all that death steals away, and to wait. On this day, we keep watch3 with Jesus in His agony, remembering how His love for us all compelled Him to look it square in the eye—without flinching, without backing down—so that He could put an end to death’s victory for us.
1. This reminds me of a favorite song by Jennifer Knapp, “Romans.”
2. The pandemic has been tough on everyone, stirring up all kinds of emotions and stress—and so much news, so many hot takes. If you are exhausted by it all and want help sorting it out, Hannah Anderson and I recorded a Persuasion series called Growing Viral: Well-Being in the Age of Corona. All six conversations are available for binge-listening now.
3. If you’re looking for ways to keep watch today, here are a few resources I am grateful for.
- Pray as You Go has devotional prayer recordings.
- Salt of the Sound produces beautiful, calming devotional/meditative music, with this Spotify playlist especially for Good Friday.
- “If Easter Is Only a Symbol, Then to Hell with It” by Tish Harrison Warren, Christianity Today
- I’m working my way through these seven videos from Truth’s Table Podcast: Good Friday: The Seven Last Words of Jesus with Truth’s Table and Friends.
- One of my favorite podcast conversations, with Hannah Anderson and Anne Kennedy: Persuasion 163 | Holy Week 101, with Anne Kennedy.