The Danger of Skipping or Skimping Good Friday

crucifix

I worry that American Christianity with our suspicion of the crucifix as too ornate, if not idolatrous, are forgetting the sufferings of Christ and what it means for our daily living. I am not advocating a 10 feet crucifix be hung on all the churches to safeguard the practice of meditation on the sufferings of Christ. Because anything hung on  a wall can become mere decoration, and like decorations in any home, disappear into the wall and go unnoticed. But there is a similar sentiment, even spirit, behind the dismissal of the crucifix and the current trend in many churches to skip or skimp Good Friday. We Americans don’t like to meditate on suffering.

But Peter was squeamish once. He then became a Rock. When you know both the sufferings of Christ and the resurrection of Christ, you are fortified against anything and for anything.

There are solid historical reasons for Protestant’s weariness of the crucifix. Though the crucifix was meant to help people pray in midst of their suffering through visual recalling of the sufferings of Christ, it was often used like good luck charm, a rabbit’s foot. It was rubbed and oiled, carried to business meetings and even into battle fields of killing. People knelt to pray to Christ at first, but out of habit and thoughtlessness, many attributed answered prayers to the crucifix itself and began kneeling only before crucifixes and nowhere else. Like many thing in religion, the symbol became the substance.

Reformation was not just the rethinking of theology but also of practices since you cannot affect people’s mind unless you can also change their behavior. Calvin prohibited not only the crucifix but even the cross itself. For even the cross gets in the way of thinking directly of Christ. So though Luther kept the crucifix, Calvin rid the sanctuary of the cross because Calvin was convinced, rightfully so, that the human heart was an “idol making factory.”

We American Christians are perfectly fine with the simple cross as long as there is no body nailed to it, dying or dead. And one of the reasons traces to our Reformation zeal against idolatry. But getting rid of the cross does not vaccinate our hearts from idols. For Calvin did not fully appreciate that the human heart is also a “symbol making factory.” We need visuals because everything must have a stand in. And in the vacuum of the cross, other things occupied the stage.

So we don’t have crucifix but we have the American flag. On Christmas we have our creches and Christmas trees. On Easter we have our egg hunts and Easter bunnies. When you consider all these symbolic characters running around in our sanctuaries, you begin to suspect that there are other reasons why we cringe at the crucifix than simply the fear of idolatry. Isn’t it because the Christmas tree and Easter bunny are symbols of success? They are blessing you with gifts, a new toy under the tree, chocolate in eggs. And who would be so cold hearted as to oppose the creche, the baby Jesus, a God become helpless baby, chubby hands grabbing your thumb and large eyes that look to you with perfect trust as if you were a god.

Isn’t this why the two main Christian holidays in America is Christmas and Easter, when it should be Good Friday and Easter? Seasonal Christians will only go Christmas and Easter, the birth and rebirth, and just skip the whole death thing. Even weekly attenders will skip Good Friday. Isn’t there enough preaching on the cross on Sundays? But much of the preaching of the cross you get on Sunday doesn’t focus much on the suffering. The cross becomes a shorthand for the American story of success out of failure. Cross was failure. Easter was success despite failure. All four gospels, of which only two speak of Christ’s birth, tell the life story of Jesus to show that the cross was not a failure but was the whole point of Christ’s life. And in that story, the suffering of Christ was not a minor scene. It was the main scene, the climax in which sin and death was defeated. Through suffering, Christ accomplished his mission. Cross was success — which turns the idea of success on its head — for the last words of the suffering and dying Christ was, “It is finished.”

The two earliest holy days for the Church was Easter and Good Friday. So crucial were these two days that every Friday was Good Friday and every Sunday was Resurrection Sunday. Knowing the sufferings of Good Friday, they had tenacious hope for resurrection regardless of the suffering they were facing. They were able to face martyrdom because they had vivid images of the sufferings of Christ. Suffering was essential to discipleship. Today, the slightest suffering sends us reeling and questioning the existence of God. We have become squeamish Christians.

But Peter was squeamish once. He then became a Rock. When you know both the sufferings of Christ and the resurrection of Christ, you are fortified against anything and for anything.

So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.  – 1st Peter 4:1-2

 

3 thoughts on “The Danger of Skipping or Skimping Good Friday

  1. The Romans used crucifiction because they discovered that it was the ultimate torturous way tfor a human to die. Add to that in Jesus’ case he was physically and emotionally abused terribly by the brutal and strong Roman soldiers, before he was ever nailed (giant spikes) to the Cross! His skin was torn off of his back, by the flogging (Luke 23:22) which could have killed him. According to the fulfilled profecy in Isaiah 50:6 Jesus said “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who PULLED OUT MY BEARD; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.” Jesus also willingly but with great pain, endured other agonies; he was slapped, struck with fists, spit upon, struck on the head many times with a staff, (Matthew 27:30) mocked, a mock ‘crown’ of long sharp thorns was pressed into his head, and more.
    When he was ordered to carry his cross to the killing site, by then he had lost so much blood, was badly injured, dehydrated, exhausted and weak. It was remarkable that he was able to carry the cross at all. A man named Simon, was ordered to carry the cross the rest of the way, because Jesus was unable to do so. Amazingly, as a large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him (Luke 23:28-32) Jesus somehow had the ability to speak to this crowd a prophetic message, done so, I believe out of love, so they would possibly understand that he was the Messiah who knew the future, and was himself fulfilling the prophecies that they had studied and learned (especially the males) concerning himself, at that very time, right before their eyes!
    I will make the main point of the huge gift he gave to all of mankind at another time. His horrendous suffering has only just begun at this point, of which others might have died from the torture done thus far. It is paramount that we come to an understanding, as much as our human minds will allow, of what really transpired in Jesus, while he was on that cross…for us.
    To be continued. It may change you forever, as it has me. It is a very harsh story, but with a beautiful outcome.

  2. Hi, Pastor Sam!
    Are you the only one that sees the ‘replies’? If you read what I wrote, I think you might guess what I thought. I thought it would show here. I so agree with all you wrote above. I too want people to grasp the enormity of what Jesus did for us! He became sin, he was bearing all forms of evil and emotional torture and extreme pain, well I could go on and on. I cry in gratitude to him, several times a week because I get it, that great exchange where a pure, spotless innocent lamb was tortured with evil, which has no limits, and included your and my sins, so we could live free of the chains of evil and control that once bound us! Books could be written, and have, about ALL that his sacrifices have given us! He wants us to eek out every benefit possible for that gigantic price he paid! It’s like millions of perks in our spiritual bank accounts that he wants to be used up while here to strengthen our spirit man and enlarge His kingdom as in setting the captives (like we used to be) FREE from satan’s control.
    People must first realize that though they may attend church, even be active church members, tithers, and even staff, they could be deceived by the author of deception, into thinking that are members of God’s kingdom! I was and so was Chris! We were founding members and in leadership positions in our church years ago. We prayed , did Bible studies, taught our first born (Andrea came after we were truly born again!) (John 3:3)! only Christian songs that we all enjoyed . Reading the word and prayer and Christian music and His ways were NOT a struggle, but we thought it was who we were…real Christians. We loved each other , etc. We could have lived a lifetime of that imitation form of deception, and never known it was not authentic, but by the grace and mercy and love of God, he drew us to the authentic truth and salvation experiences. Wow!!! I traded mud for Gold! I would like to share my testimony with you and Suyan sometime. So I have a real burden for people who were like us. We were serving the Lord and enjoying it, thinking that we would be heaven bound if we died! So this message of yours is so very important. Communion or the Sacraments, not sure what you call it… you may say ‘The Lord’s Supper’ has great meaning to me and should be to all true believers! For one thing Jesus commanded that we do it! No ifs ands or buts! = serious! And do so in remembrance of him (we are forgetful people) . For years I didn’t really appreciate all that it meant, until I understood what and how he suffered. We will not get it fully but we must ask the Lord to reveal to us a better understanding of all it meant, which could fill volumes of books! Now when I participate in The Lord’s Supper, sometimes I get very emotional in total thanksgiving. I could go on and on about this. I haven’t even begun the part about reconciling us to the Father and how he now sees us as holy and pure! That is worth shouting about. Part of our brain thinks whaaaat ? That is just too good to be true! We humans don’t usually understand the concept of ‘grace’ with no strings attached … Just given freely to a wretched sinner …me….just because he is LOVE, and loves even the most vile and evil of humans all the same: LIMITLESS LOVE💝🙏
    This is not part B. I guess The Lord had me do all that old school study and writing, that I thought would be viewed, because I must have needed a refresher course.
    If you ever want to get to know Dr. John Perkins, let me know as they are family friends, who Chris was very close to. He sought much advice from him in the early years of Jobs for Life, then called Jobs Partnership.
    When CCDA was held in Raleigh a year or so ago, we had dinner with him and his wife and son. He got me a pass and attended his messages, as well as our Jobs for Life workshop, which showed the video that you have on your FB. I would also be happy to connect you with our president and CEO, David Spickard. He tells a funny story about how he ‘stalked’ Chris, because he wanted to work at JFL ! Amazing man, as he has his MBA and wanted to work at a fledgling non-profit!? SO much so that he timed his calls and visits apart so Chris would not think he was a mental case! He did get a job and has worked his way to the top, but is a servant leader, as he learned from Chris. His dad was for years a prominent physician in Nashville, TN. but he and David’s mom are super humble people. His dad recently facilitated a JFL class at his church in Nashville!
    OK, enough already. I wonder if you will even see these . If it’s not too much trouble and you actually saw and took the time to read these, please send me a ‘Got It’ email. Thanks
    With great respect and honor to you and your beautiful wife,
    Pat

  3. Yes I saw your wonderful, honest and passionate comments. I agree with your wholeheartedly. We need longer and deeper reflections of the crucifixion. And yes, I would like the introductions to those two wonderful people of God. Yes, I wish I had met Chris. But I feel like I am getting to know him through you and Andrea. I am blessed to partner with your family.

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