Holy Week Reflections Post 2 – Every Way I Observe Good Friday Comes Up Short

Good Friday has always been an odd day for me. Growing up, we were taught the solemnness of this day. For me, it was hard for me to understand or be solemn.

By the time I started wanting to solemnly observe, I was in college but we didn’t have Good Friday off. Which seemed strange for a private Christian school … in the South bbut I’m glad to have gone to an accredited school. In any case, observing it was hard and frankly, lonely in a certain sense.

Then there was Good Friday at my first church where we had a modern-day funeral service for Jesus. Afterwards the funeral hearse left, our youth group kids and I would dye Easter eggs for the festivities the following day and then we’d go out and play Laser Tag. I miss the people, miss our students, but this observance was lost on me by the second year we did it. I did however enjoy the Easter Bunny and Egg Hunt we had the following day – we got that right.

It wouldn’t be til I got to the Montvale Church that I observed Good Friday the way I thought appropriate. That evening service would be reflective, somber, but not overly depressing. Sunday was coming but linger here a little while longer.

Then there was today, took the boys on some errands, made the baby cry as I held her for 20 minutes (she’s sick and I’m not mommy), replied to some important emails, did some reading, worked ahead because I’m going to be away next week (going to Q Ideas in DC) and until this last hour, found some time to be still and pray. I’ll admit, it’s been an up and down week for me. Many wonderful things have happened, enjoyed some fruitful conversations, but as in any week there were some tougher moments and I fear between the grieving process and this head-cold and sinus headache is getting the best of me. And I’ve been thinking about tonight’s services. Because of being sick, I asked to be taken off the communion serving time and have no formal role aside from being a pastoral presence.

I’ve been walking around thinking about the day’s sadness and goodness. Earlier today I downloaded Tony Jones’ new ebook, A Better Atonement. It’s only $2.99 so it’s sorta of a no-brainer if you’re interested in the atonement. I can only go so far with the newer atonement theories but years ago, I enjoyed Scot McKnight’s overview in  A Community Called Atonement. Good book, relatively easy, very orthodox and worth your time on the subject. From what I have seen in the first bit, I’m glad Tony has written a different type of book than his friend Scot.  Tony is approaching it beginning with the idea of  Original Sin, a reoccurring topic on his blog and an important conversation on a number of levels.  I’m looking forward to diving in deeper here.

Like for countless others, the atonement has always been tough for me. Not just the subsitutionary part but all the blood, guilt and horror it took for us evangelicals to express it. But that was only part of it. If I am being honest, even had I been brought in a Christus-Victor setting, understood solemness early, got Holy Week off at college and had the “perfect” Good Friday service, I’d still find this day difficult.

I hate that this day was necessary. The themes of which are suffering, evil, sin, sacrifice and death. Jesus takes up on Himself the sins of the world, becomes the perfect sacrifice for us all, experiences the pain of the cross and the separation from God himself. Many have said prior that to celebrate Easter, we must observe Good Friday. This is true but I love how Peter Rollins takes it further in Insurrection says: “If participation in the Crucifixion involves being overtaken by the darkness, where all guiding flames are extinguished, then participation in the Resurrection is the moment when we find the ability to affirm light and life in the very midst of the darkness and beneath the cold shadow of death” (My review here).

Now I don’t know if “overtaken” is the right word for me today but I wish it were in some sense. Today I’m wondering maybe the struggle of observing Good Friday is part of the journey of it. The modern day Jesus funeral, the Easter egg dyeing and laster tagging, the crying babies, the emails and the never-ending to-do list. The blood, guilt, shame, sin, the graphic imagery, the old cliches, the newer ones, whatever – the whole day is terrible.

Maybe hating on all attempts to describe the day is actually a good thing because it at least begins to honor just how dreadful and evil it is. I’m going to reflect on this a little more before Sunday allows us to turn the corner.

Grace and peace friends.


  1. Chris K says:

    I know the “blood, guilt and horror” is only one part of what you’re talking about, but I thought this blog post was a valuable reflection on the crucifixion and the importance of Jesus’ blood (and it quotes Cone, Tillich, and Park, so it’s sufficiently theologically deep). One quote that caught my attention (and should probably catch all “white-straight-middle class-dudes'” attention)–reflecting on Cone, he says:

    “I began to see that in running away from the blood of Jesus I was running away from a symbolically powerful place for the Black church and, more importantly for a white-straight-middle class-dude like me, the ever-present reminder of God’s cross-bearing, blood spilling confrontation with with cross-building powers of this world. In silencing the blood of Jesus I was not just avoiding a problematic atonement theory but God’s demand for justice that streamed from the body of my Lord.”

    And my two (personal) cents: my tendency, my personality, is to reflect on some of the serious realities of sin and mercy and all, perhaps too much. For whatever reason, Psalm 51 has always been a favorite. So I really appreciate the whole arc of Holy Week, from the institution of the Eucharist on Thursday to the horrible, evil, and yet necessary crucifixion on Friday to the beautiful celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday. I don’t think you disagree with any of that, just wanted to mention it (partially because it wasn’t until recently that I began to recognize just how beautiful it is). Anyway, happy Easter!

  2. Slothful One says:

    Wonderful post as always, Tim.

    It made me reflect on the fact that it’s been a number of years since I’ve been able to attend the whole of my Church’s Good Friday services.

    In it, one of the most moving moments is the reading from the Book of Lamentations.

    I called on Your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit.
    You heard my plea: “Do not close Your ears to my cry for relief.”
    You came near when I called You, and You said, “Do not fear.”

    O Lord, You took up my case; You redeemed my life.
    You have seen, O LORD, the wrong done to me. Uphold my cause!

    This was the best chanting of it I could find in English:

    This last few years have been tragic ones with much loss, but what better time than now to look toward the life to come, knowing that He Who made Himself sin so that that we might be made the righteousnes.

    All the best to you, my brother.

  3. Very true words – thanks bro.

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