Many years ago when I was a young pastoral intern at Emmanuel Community Church here in Fort Wayne, my wife and I were able to join the pastor and other members from the congregation for a tour of the Holy Land. A highlight was spending a day in Old Jerusalem. I remember that afternoon, standing on the Via Dolorosa – the street Jesus walked on his way to his crucifixion. It was a beautiful day when my wife and I stood there on that way of sorrow, tourists from all over the world mingled and laughed and finished up their lunches. It was a challenge to try and envision what it was like almost two thousand years ago when Jesus of Nazareth stumbled through the crowds on that first Good Friday.
My kids once asked me why we call it Good Friday – why not call it Bad Friday, or Sad Friday. It’s a fair question. So of course I talked with them about the connection between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, how our putting Jesus to death on Friday afternoon was used by God to demonstrate his great love and faithfulness to Jesus and all humanity through his being raised from the dead on Sunday morning. That resurrection moment was what turned a sad and bad Friday into a Good Friday.
We call Bad Friday Good Friday because on the cross Jesus prays for his disciples who abandoned him, his fellow Jews who disbelieved him, and the Gentile soldiers who executed him – he prays “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” On that Friday, humanity committed the worst against God, and his faithfulness and mercy triumphed over our sins. This was a crucial moment for which Jesus had come.
For some of you today, this Good Friday is a Bad Friday, or its a sad Friday. For some of us here, we have your own Via Dolorosa, your own way of suffering that you are enduring. Maybe you were wronged by someone deeply. Maybe you wronged others deeply. Maybe you are wondering “why has it come to this?” Maybe some of you are even wondering why you were created?
Good Friday is good because of the faithfulness and mercy extended from Jesus towards us who put him on the cross. This is what resurrection is all about: life that conquers death, mercy in the face of rejection, faithfulness overcoming betrayal, new beginnings at the end of the road, being raised up after being humiliated, being lifted up by God when all strength has been lost.
It’s in your Via Dolorosa moments that you discover what you were created for. Christians are the resurrection people! Amen? There is no Resurrection Sunday without a Good Friday. Consider the light, consider the goodness Christians bring to the world through our sorrows if we let Gods mercy triumph in our life. It’s in those moments you discover what you were created for.
It can be a challenge to imagine what the first Good Friday was like on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. But in those moments when we have our own way of sorrow, we can, like Jesus extend faithfulness and mercy. Rather than regretting that we suffered, we can realize: “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.”