Soon, we will commemorate the most awkwardly and confusingly named day of the year — Good Friday.
What’s so “good” about the day Jesus suffered and died on the cross? All four Gospels tell the story of what happened on this particular Friday almost 2,000 years ago. This week, read the accounts from Matthew 27:27-28:8; Mark 15:16-16:19; Luke 23:26-24:35; and John 19:16-20:30.
Good Friday is the year’s most somber day. Some faith traditions allude to the agony of Jesus’ passion and call this day Black Friday. It is a day for prayer and fasting and repenting. It doesn’t feel “good.”
And yet Good Friday it is, because we would not celebrate Easter Sunday without it.
Tony Campolo, the sociologist, author and evangelist, has preached a sermon about Good Friday, quite literally around the world: “It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Comin’!”
The illustration that gives Campolo’s sermon its title comes at the end of a powerful, poignant discussion of God’s redemptive grace. The whole sermon is magnificent, and then he closes by telling about preaching at his home church in west Philadelphia, where he grew up. When he was young, the Baptist church was predominantly white, and now it’s mostly black, but he’s been a member there his whole life. Campolo jokes about how “good” he was that night but readily acknowledges his aged pastor preached a better sermon, taking one line and improvising on it for an hour and a half: “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.”
Here’s an excerpt of Campolo’s recitation of his pastor’s sermon:
“It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a comin’. It was Friday, and my Jesus is dead on a tree. But that’s Friday, and Sunday’s a comin’. Friday, Mary’s crying her eyes out, the disciples are running in every direction like sheep without a shepherd. But that’s Friday, and Sunday’s a comin’. Friday, those (enemies of Jesus) are looking at the world and saying: ‘As things have been, so they shall be. You can’t change nothing in this world! You can’t change nothing in this world!’ But they didn’t know that it was only Friday; Sunday’s a comin’. Friday, them forces that oppress the poor and keep people down, them forces that destroy people, them forces in control now, them forces that are gonna rule, they don’t know it’s only Friday, but Sunday’s a comin’. Friday, people are saying, ‘Darkness is gonna rule the world; sadness is gonna be everywhere,’ but they don’t know it’s only Friday, but Sunday’s a comin’. ... Friday! But Sunday’s a comin’!”
This world has wallowed in a Friday funk for a while now. The economic crisis has people squeezing their wallets, wondering about their jobs, fretting about their homes, worrying about their future. Wars and genocide and terrorists tear at our consciences and bruise our psyches. Slavery and sex trafficking and poverty and disease break our hearts and leave us feeling impotent. Even those of us, like most Texas Baptists, who enjoy some measure of protection from the most extreme grievances humanity inflicts upon itself feel brittle, ill-at-ease, borderline hopeless.
Yes, it’s Friday. But Sunday’s coming.
We do not delude ourselves into thinking the risen Christ will make war and famine and disease and wickedness disappear. Not in the short term. But when we remember Christ endured Friday—death and descent into hell—and rose again on Sunday, we live in the certainty that God has won and will win the ultimate victory over evil.
Friday reminds us God physically descended into this fallen world. In Christ on Friday, God experienced complete brokenness and devastation. But on Sunday, the sun rose and the Son arose, and death and evil and destruction lost the battle for control of the world. On Easter Sunday, the day we await, God redeemed all our rebellion and transformed all our transgressions. We live in hope. Sunday’s comin’!
Marv Knox is editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.