Teaching junior high doesn’t lend itself to much in the way of predictability. Junior high students don’t follow a lot of patterns that I can confidently read, but there is one thing I know will come up every single year around this time. One of my students will definitely ask me why the day Jesus died on the cross is called Good Friday.
I don’t want anyone to misunderstand. This is not a complaint. In fact, it’s one of the questions I look forward to every year! It’s exactly the kind of question that I have a habit of taking for granted. The starting point of the answer is pretty simple and straightforward, after all. It’s called Good Friday, not because Jesus being killed on the cross is a good thing, but because of the good that it accomplished.
That’s certainly true enough, but the problem is if we stop there. On Good Friday, Jesus didn’t just die for us, He accepted death, even death on a cross. It’s a phrase we hear so often that it runs the risk of becoming common place. Junior high students, and kids in general, refuse to be satisfied with that. What does that mean? How is accepting death different than dying for us? Why didn’t He do it another way?
What’s so cool about the idea that Jesus accepted death is the way it highlights the fact that He had a choice. As human beings, mortals that we are, whether we accept death or not is sort of irrelevant. Don’t get me wrong, our fear of death and refusal to accept that this life is temporary would definitely impact our ability to enjoy and maximized the time we have been given. All I mean, though, is that whether we accept our death or not, it’s coming. Jesus became man, but He is God. If He doesn’t accept death, death can’t take Him. On Good Friday, that’s exactly what He did. He accepted, or allowed, death. What we often flee from, deny, or ignore, He embraced so that our death wouldn’t be the last word anymore.
Let’s all take some time today to really reflect on why Good Friday is so good, remembering that the we are called to enter into Triduum ourselves. This does mean we enter into the crucifixion, but we do so knowing that it ends in resurrection! Good Friday is good because of what Christ did for us, but also because Good Friday brings us to Easter Sunday.