The Good Friday Story

Scientists can tell us about space and energy and atoms and enzymes and DNA… which is all fascinating. And the deeper into the science you go, the more it draws you into wonder. That anything exists at all is fantastical; miraculous!

But human beings make sense of their lives not via disconnected facts but via stories and rituals. Small children thrive on routine and rituals: mealtimes, playtimes, bathtimes, storytimes, bedtimes. Their minds and hearts expand via stories. Stories help children to make sense of chaos, clarify a sense of morality, give names and metaphors to human experience, gain insight into relationships, expand their imagination.

At Easter time we retell an extraordinary story of a victim of injustice, misguided religious zeal and corrupt power. A story of the brutal murder of an innocent man. A story of sacrifice.

Stories about sacrifice are repeated across the ages and in contemporary culture. Carton dying in the place of Darnay in A Tale of Two Cities; Jack hauling Rose onto the panel while dying of hypothermia himself in Titanic; Neo risking his life to defend Zion and defeat the machines in The Matrix. There are endless Hollywood war movies where a character dies heroically to save others.

But there is something remarkable about the Easter story; something that has shaped the course of human history. For Christians the deeper meaning behind the crucifixion of Christ is that he sacrificed his life for everyone; for the sin and guilt of the whole world.

In Jesus’ own words, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Christians retell that story at Easter using rituals. Depending on one’s particular tradition, that involves church services, communion/eucharist, stations of the cross, hot cross buns and Easter eggs, and fasting for Lent and feasting on Easter Sunday. Through ritual, our own stories intersect with the story of God at work in Jesus Christ.

Anyone with a few years under their belt has encountered faithless friends or betrayal. We have witnessed injustice and corruption in our workplaces, at our schools and on our screens. We have experienced guilt, shame, and regret. We have known the death of those we love, and of those who died too young.

Echoes of the Easter story reverberate in our own life stories. Good Friday is a time to grieve. In a society that seems intent on rushing us from one entertaining experience to the next, or medicating our sadness away, Good Friday should give us space to get in touch with pain and loss.

This quiet space is a gift. This opportunity to reflect on our sorrows (and Christ's sorrow) is not an invitation to despair, but to hope. In the words of the famous sermon, it’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

So we wait.

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