The Mystery of Good Friday

After attending the services at our church last night, I am still speechless. Good Friday commemorates perhaps the greatest mystery in the history of the world. How is it that God Himself—the Creator of the Universe—can suffer death at the hands of His creatures?

Last night, our church observed the ancient service of the Twelve Passion Gospels. Though I have participated in this service more than twenty times, I never cease to be amazed—and deeply moved. I am almost always brought to tears, as I contemplate God’s extreme love for us.

The climax of the service comes in the procession of the Cross, right before the reading of the sixth Gospel lesson. The church is completely dark, with the exception of a few candles. Our pastor, carrying a large wooden cross, sings the following hymn during the procession:

Today is suspended upon the Tree He who suspended the land upon the waters. (thrice)

A crown of thorns crowns Him who is the King of the angels.

He is wrapped about with the purple of of mockery, who wrapped the heavens with clouds.

He receives smitings—He who freed Adam in the Jordan.

He is transfixed with nails, who is the Son of the Virgin.

We worship Thy Passion, O Christ. (thrice)

Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection!”

I hope that in the hustle and bustle of this week, you have the opportunity today to stop and reflect on this holy mystery and what it means for your life.

While it may be Friday, Sunday is coming. It was true in Jesus’ life. It will be true in yours. On the other side of suffering and death lies the hope of the Resurrection. This is our expectation and comfort.

Question: What does Good Friday mean to you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    Mike,

    Listening to the video (I stopped watching after minute one, bowed my head, and just absorbed the message) slowed me down and I needed to slow down. Good Friday means His pain my gain (cliche, I know, but true nonetheless). I know I deserved hell. Christ offered me heaven instead.

    On his blog today at , Richard Burkey had a great line in reference to the thief on the cross. “He asks for Jesus to throw a crumb of remembrance and Jesus gives him an eternal feast in heaven.” That’s me.

    Here’s Richard’s link: http://richardburkey.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/the-good-in-good-friday/

    God bless,
    Tom

  • http://RichardBurkey.wordpress.com Richard Burkey

    Good Friday means everything. Good Friday is the hinge point of history. Everything turns on Jesus death. What we do to God is not good, but what God does for us, how Jesus dies for us, that is the Good in Good Friday.

    We know that Jesus does this for our good, when you look at the words He says from the cross and what they mean for us today. Words of forgiveness, promises of paradise, His being forsaken, His cry of victory and giving His life up to God for our sins.

    We gave God our worst, and He as He loves to do gives us His best. Thanks for the post and link to the 12 Passion Gospels, I clipped them into my Evernote.

  • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

    Good Friday to me is a day to reflect on Christ’s death, preparing for his resurrection (as you said, Sunday is coming – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn94B3GHcjY). The death and resurrection of Christ is SO important to our faith. If not for the death and resurrection of Christ, our preaching would be in vain, and our faith would be in vain (1 Cor. 15:12-20). Thank God for Good Friday and Easter Sunday!

  • Barry Whitlow

    Thanks to everyone that commented for writing this New Easter Devotional! All week I have searched for Easter devotional content to use in my families Easter Week devotions – so this is great! If anyone knows how to save all of these into one doc, I’d love to have them! **Maybe a new type of comment driven ‘open source’ book Michael? -Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/drbret Bret L Simmons

    Wow, your pastor has a GREAT voice. Thanks for sharing.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Actually, that wasn’t my pastor. But the same hymn is sung in every Orthodox church all over the world.

  • http://twitter.com/BarbaraThayer1 Barbara Thayer

    Growing up, my mother and I always attended Good Friday services. The beautiful altar was stripped of flowers and then draped in black symbolizing the death of our Lord. It was dramatic and a reminder of what Christ did for us and for our sins. The Easter morning celebration began with the removal of those dark coverings and the bringing in of Easter lilies. What a glorious morning to celebrate. I anticipate that celebration. However, I remember today the terrible sacrifice that Christ made. Thank you for sharing Michael.

  • Anonymous

    Amen!

  • http://www.mollyfulton.posterous.com Molly Fulton

    My meditation on Good Friday today was dominated by this question that Pilate asked: “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” It always sends a shiver through me when the crowd shouts, “Crucify him!” – and yet I know his blood in on me. Everyday I (we all) have to answer the question Pilate posed: What shall I do, then, with Jesus? I choose to believe him. (I expand on this idea on my blog today.)

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      Molly, I checked out your post on your blog; thanks for your thoughts.

  • http://www.fishblogwash.blogspot.com Sean

    If God has the power to resurrect Jesus from the dead, He has the power to open up doors for us that no man can shut. That gives me hope…

  • Jmhardy97

    what a powerful day and powerful message. We have much to be thankful for. I time of reflection and thankness on this great day.

  • dsprtlydpndnt

    Stunning and interesting. I just returned from my Friday morning long run at a nearby lake. For me tears and songs flow fairly easily practicing discipline in creation with smatterings of people around staring at it all. As I greeted people I passed by “Good morning” I contemplated who is it good for? Good Friday and Easter not about math or days but about “an accurate view of myself and an accurate view of God”. These days are in away, exclamation points to both those ends. IN Northern CA where I am ,the focus of today is “Earth Day”. Go figure. I prayed and wept and spoke even, that these people would see the creator, would recognize the glimpse of glory, would give thanks and worship appropriately. How can they miss Him? How can I?

  • Davidtieche

    For a long time, as a Christian the story of Good Friday was told in a way that Jesus was the one who suffered, while God the Father just kind of sat idly by, being grumpy. There was even that quixotic verse about Jesus saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

    Then I read the footnotes of my Bible, and found that the “forsaken” line was actually the first line of Psalm 22.

    Have you ever read Psalm 22? For me, this changed everything. It showed me that God the Father wasn’t some sort of passive participant in the Cross, and that this event scarred and affected Him every bit as much as Jesus. For me, it showed God’s great love, not just for me (for us! all of us!) but for his Son. It showed what kind of Go

    I know you don’t like people linking to things in your blog, Mr. Hyatt, but if you’d like to read some words about that line, you can here:

    http://www.davetieche.com/uncategorized/why-is-good-friday-good

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  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    Sounds like it was a great service. I don’t have any sort of orthodox background. So this is foreign to me. It’s very intriguing though. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://christianray.myopenid.com/ Christian Ray

    This is so good. Thank you Michael. I stopped and remembered the Lord. What love. Unimaginable. A step back before the cross, the last supper also moved me in a different way this year. It was about how truly painful the betrayal of Judas was for Jesus, even though he knew, he still had dinner with him? That is so hard for me to grasp. http://www.christianrayflores.com

  • planssucceed

    Thank you for allowing me to sit at your feet and learn. Just listening brought chills. God is using you to impact so many for the advancement of God’s Kingdom

  • Lou

    Good Friday, didn’t even happen on Friday. Like most pagan holidays recycled as christian by an unbelieving monster who was just looking to reconsolidate his empire is an unintentional insult to Him who did not spare His own son. For the first three hundred years, the resurrection was celebrated at passover till the founder of this anti-semitic corrupted human way of trying to fit YHWH in a box made it a crime punishable by death to celebrate it at the time that all scripture points to. If you bother to check out the accounts of the council of Nicea you will want to initiate a bonfire with theology books that will make hell look chilly.

    • http://twitter.com/kevinmwall Kevin M Wall

      Wow Lou. My heart really goes out as I hear a lot of pain in your post. I tend to agree with an element of your post, in the aspect of pagan holidays being conjoined to Christian rememberances, I think what should be the supreme focus is WHAT took place, and less on the specific WHEN. After all, measurement of time is a man made concept including the modern Gregorian caledar which was adopted by the Roman Catholic church as recently as the 16th century. Aligning the date approximately does not negate the importance of the act of love. And incidentally, today is the 4th day of Passover.

      • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

        Kevin, I agree. It’s not so much WHEN we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, but THAT we celebrate it, and recognize that God became a man in order to bring salvation to man.

  • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

    Each year I stand amazed that Christ did this for us while we were so unlovely, and so filthy with sin. I am amazed the Jesus suffered the shame of the cross for the joy beyond it. Even Mel Gibson’s graphic “Passion of the Christ” cannot fully make us comprehend the unbearable shame He endured, the excruciating pain, for Him to look out over the crowd, and hear their mocking voices. He showed such self-control that I cannot imagine. I cannot read the account without crying. I cannot think upon it without sobbing.

    Then I think upon the glorious resurrection, and how the angels rejoiced when He arose. I think about Mary when she recognized Jesus, her joy, and her elation that He was not dead. I give thanks for Him every day, and rejoice.

  • http://dustinstout.com Dustin W. Stout

    Beautiful reflection Michael. I too am moved by the weight of what today represents. However, I think it’s all the more poetic that today is ALSO Earth Day… I just wrote about it on my blog.

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      I checked out the post on your blog. Well done. And I like the look of your blog.

      • http://dustinstout.com Dustin W. Stout

        Thanks Robert!

  • Karl Mealor

    “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
    “Truly this day, you shall be with Me in paradise.”
    “Woman, behold your Son” Behold thy mother.”
    “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
    “I thirst.”
    “It is finished.”
    “Father, into Your hand I commit My spirit.”

  • raphiepg

    …”This love is mine I cannot comprehend it,
    This love revealed through Christ my Lord divine.
    When on the tree He died for me,
    God gracious, glorious mighty love;
    This love is mine.” Happy Easter [ Resurrection Sunday]

  • http://sheridanvoysey.com Sheridan Voysey

    What a beautiful, meaningful and poignant lyric for Easter. It captures the profound love of God for us expressed in Jesus.

    I approached this Easter by writing a parable, trying to capture just what that trial, death and resurrection might look like today, and how it might have impacted me if I were personally involved: http://sheridanvoysey.com/an-easter-parable/

    So, something modern to compliment the ‘something ancient’ you’ve shared.

    Happy Easter.

  • http://twitter.com/kevinmwall Kevin M Wall

    Michael-
    I too am always amazed at the supreme act of love that took place that day. I am personally more moved by that than the Ressurection. How our loving God sacrificed for the sins I have still not yet committed is beyond comparison. And in this act we find the greatest gift that mankind has ever needed, and never been worthy: Grace. Praise him.

  • Anonymous

    I cherish this week. So deep with pain, suffering, and utter amazing redemptive love. Our youth group and choir reenact Jesus’ path to the cross through scripture readings, song, and responsorials. It brings the story to life in a very moving way. It is somewhat painful to participate as I am reminded of what humanity is capable of, including me. But praise be to God, you’re right Michael…this is not the end of the story. He is risen and I’m forgiven. Alleluia!

    • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

      I agree; this is a great week to remember Christ and his work.

  • http://geofftalbot.wordpress.com Geoff Talbot

    Good Friday is like Christ tidying my room and buying me a whole lot of brand news clothes… No more rubbish, no more dirt, no more stains… Thank the Lord I can start all over again.

  • Vicki George

    I find it hard for me to put into words. I hve never shared with others what it means to me. So here goes. Jesus could have at any time saved himself from such a horrific death, but he chose to die and then be resurrected so that I could live the ultimate sacrifice that a parent could make is the one God did, so how is it mankind can stillturn their back on him, but come Easter Sunday we are all in church? I believe he died for my sins I am a Christian and am eagerly awaiting the 2nd coming. Satan took 3 lives in our community last sat and took our chapel by sending a tornado our way. We Will have Easter services this Sunday at our church. praise God Praise God hes lives , he lives . Do not feel sorrow for the 3 that were taken for they had just accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior just 2 weeks before their death. Satan gained nothing, but the kingdom of Heave n gained 3 glorious souls. so you see satan was upset at this happening so he tried to take out an entire neihborhood, the blood of Jesus prevented that and the surviving members of that family will be glorified.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Amazing story. Thank you.

  • http://b.kraft.im Brandon Kraft

    Michael — Thanks for posting this. I’m less familiar with the Eastern liturgies and it is always like a breeze hitting from a newly-opened window each time I hear something new.

    The reference to Adam reminds me of the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours. On Holy Saturday, the Office of Readings includes an ancient homily describing Christ seeking out Adam during this time between death and new life. It’s a bit long, but beautiful:

    Something strange is happening–there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

    He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

    I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

    For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

    See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

    I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

    Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    Every Friday is a good Friday, hence TGIF. This one should be called Better Friday.

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  • Cmnancymom

    Carmen has an old song titled “Sunday is on its Way” that really speaks to this exact issue and makes me, as did your post, want to cry as I think about how the Almight God, Creator of the Universe, could allow Himself to suffer as He did. Umbelievable love, literally Love personified :) Amazing.

  • http://twitter.com/MacKinnonChris Chris MacKinnon

    This year we focused our service on the loss and despair of the Disciples. I think too often we blow past the dark side of Good Friday because we are able to look through the lens of Easter. We talk about Jesus’ death, but before we walk out the door we are quick to remind ourselves that death was not the end of the story.

    I wanted to remind everyone that there is a world out there where the power and joy of Easter is not part of people’s lives; for them the stone has not been rolled away. And if we can think about just how dark the pain and questioning was for three days, then Sunday has so much more power and meaning when it comes. Then I gave everyone a stone as they left.

    Something different, but I think everyone understood the point.

  • http://mirrorsandwindowsnow.blogspot.com/ Alicha

    Two simple, obvious facts have occupied my mind this Easter. As I’ve always glanced over these truths before, I have enjoyed mulling over their significance, exploring the meaning of both.

    One…Jewish Passover dictates our Christian celebration of Easter.
    Two…Easter and Passover occur in springtime.

  • Wendy MacMillan

    In my current Bible study, “Living Beyond Yourself, Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit”, by Beth Moore, we examined the fruit of Goodness. We learned that “Goodness is character energized, expressing itself in benevolence, active good. What God does is good because of the good it does.” I now see Good Friday with so much more depth and clarity. It is the culmination of everything Jesus did here on earth – His obedience, teaching, example, rebukes, miracles… – everything He did was good, right up to the final act of sacrificing His life through a horrible death so that we might have eternal life by believing on Him. Good Friday is the day when Christ said, “It is finished.” Every good has been done by Him for our good. There truly is nothing more to be done for our salvation. It is now up to people to choose to believe or deny Christ.

  • Lyne Tumlinson

    The Ikos for the Kontakion, sung during the Canon of Holy Friday Matins adds to this as well: “As the Ewe watched her own Lamb being led to the slaughter, the exhausted Mary followed along with the other women. And in words like these she cried aloud: ‘Where are You going, my Child? Why must You finish this race so quickly? Is there perhaps another wedding in Cana? Must You hasten there to change water into wine for them? Should I go with You, my Child, or should I wait for You? Give me a word, O Word! Do not pass me by in silence! You preserved me chaste, for You remain my Son and my God.’”

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The hymns are all so beautiful!

  • http://christianray.myopenid.com/ Christian Ray

    I loved Bog Goff’s tweet: I don’t understand such love. I would not go to dinner with a man who would betray me if I knew the next day I would die because of that betrayal.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve never heard of this service. Wow! Though I have been a believer since 2006 this is the first year that it became more real to me that Jesus Christ chose to die on a cross for me, knowing everything I would ever do. He loved me enough to do it. That’s really sinking in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michael.n.marcus Michael N. Marcus

    >>How is it that God Himself—the Creator of the Universe—can suffer death at the hands of His creatures?<<

    Simple answer: it's not possible.

  • Angela Braach

    For me it means — the best is yet to come!!

  • Melody

    This was the riches Holy Week of my faith walk. This is what I posted on my FB account about the day AFTER Good Friday:
    “This is that dark silence between yesterday and tomorrow…when our Hope has died, and everything we’ve held to be True is buried in the earth. This is when our fears become reality and doubt begins to settle in. When the enemy sets a seal over the destruction he’s exacted…unaware that even in the dark recesses of the grave, God’s most miraculous works are taking place. Do not lose heart. Be patient and wait…for Sunday’s coming!

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  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    I still think about this year’s Easter. I read about the death, burial, & resurrection the 3 days leading up to Easter. Even though I’ve read it many times before, I came across a passage in Matthew 27 that hit me at a different angle. When Jesus gave up His Spirit, Holy men who had already been dead raised from the dead and left their tomb! That screamed to me. That’s what Jesus does. He raises us. He died so we could be raised Spiritually. Even if we’re dead… and have been dead.

    I thought about that further and realized that, even though these men were raised from the dead, even though Lazarus was raised from the dead, even though others were raised from the dead, and miracles were performed, we all have to die again. But, in the case of the saved – those who are raised from a Spiritual death – we are brought to life like never before.

    Yeah… Easter ROCKS!

  • BROSAND

    It means nothing to me since Jesus could not have spent 3 days & 3 nights in the grave if He had been crucified on Friday. He was crucified on Wednesday.