This was originally posted on April 2, 2010.
Have you ever wondered why the church calls today “Good Friday”? What’s so “good” about the fact that the One who Christians acknowledge as their “Savior” died such a horrible and “unexpected” death?
As humans, isn’t it hard for us to see death as a good thing? Most of us will spend all of our lives living in fear of death…doing all we can to avoid death. Many of us try to eat right, exercise, and stay generally healthy so that we can live long lives…and the rest of us feel guilty about not eating right and exercising.
But, Jesus said that He came to the earth, to live for a short 33 years, to have a public ministry of just 3 years, and to die, all so that we might be able to live an abundant life. To our simple human brains, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The idea that death can bring life is what we would call a “paradox”.
A paradox is a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement, idea, person or thing that is true or may be true. In other words, a paradox is something that is true even though it might not seem to make any sense to our human intellect.
For example, the statement, “This sentence if false” is a paradox. If the statement is true, then the statement is false. In which case, the statement is true, which means the statement is false...and so on for infinity.
Another paradox: “You can't get work without experience, but you can't get experience without work.” Somebody explain to me how exactly that’s supposed to play out.
How about this: “The customer is always right.” So, if two customers say that the other is wrong, both are right, and therefore, both are wrong that they are both right that they are both wrong that they are both right that they are both wrong, etc.
God is a God of paradox. For example, have you ever tried to think about the fact that God “Always has been”? For God, there never was a beginning. That’s a hard thing for us to wrap our minds around, considering we know without doubt that everything we experience as humans had a beginning at some point, even if we weren’t there to witness it.
Or, how about the idea of The Trinity – God is One and Three all at the same time. Even our best attempts as humans to explain this idea fall short. Maybe you’ve heard somebody use water to illustrate the Trinity of God…water can be a solid, liquid and gas. But, water cannot be all three of those things at the same time.
And, just as God often reveals Himself as a paradox, Jesus’ life on this earth was a paradox…listen to this:
JESUS had no servants, yet they called Him MASTER...
JESUS had no degree, yet they called Him TEACHER...
JESUS had no medicine, yet they called Him HEALER...
JESUS had no army, yet KINGS feared Him...
JESUS won no military battles, yet He CONQUERED the WORLD...
JESUS committed no crime, yet they CRUCIFIED Him...
JESUS was buried in a tomb, yet He LIVES TODAY...
It probably seems odd to most people outside of the church that Christians would gather together once a year to remember and celebrate the anniversary of Jesus’ death, but it’s because of this paradox, that Jesus’ death means life for you and I, that we have reason to celebrate. Death on a cross is a gruesome thing…bloody and painful and humiliating. Yet, there is a beauty in the death of Jesus, knowing that He willingly died because of His great love for us.
Maybe that still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to you…so, let me share a short, personal story that might help illustrate why we call today “Good Friday”.
Two years ago today, on April 2, 2008, I woke up in a hospital room at Duke University Medical center in Durham, NC. I had slept there that night, just as I had many nights before those past few months, on the floor at the foot of my wife’s bed. Tricia was dying of Cystic Fibrosis and, at that point, had been bedridden at Duke for about three months.
A month earlier, Tricia had been placed on the double lung transplant list. A transplant, her doctors told us, was the only option Tricia had left. She was literally growing sicker and weaker every day, and the prognosis was that she would be dead by the end of that summer if her medical team could not find her a new pair of lungs. In fact, just the day before, on April 1, Tricia’s right lung had collapsed, which was a sign that her lungs were at the very end.
There were a few big factors that made finding a donor for Tricia very difficult:
1) Tricia’s blood type is very rare…so rare, in fact, that the doctors would later explain to us that there was less than a 1% chance of finding a donor that would be a good match for Tricia.
2) Lungs deteriorate more quickly than other donated organs while being moved from the donor to the recipient, so the window of time between the death of the donor and the actual transplant surgery would have to be extremely short. Unfortunately, transplanted organs are often moved thousands of miles from donor to recipient.
3) Because she had to have a double lung transplant, she could not have a living donor. Her donor had to be a deceased donor. Donating organs after your dead doesn’t hurt much (in case you’ve ever wondered), but, unfortunately, very few people make the decision to be an organ donor, so the “supply” of healthy lungs is very limited.
So, the chances that Tricia's medical team would locate a match and have the time to retrieve the lungs and perform the successful 9-hou surgery were incredibly small. Which is why, when we got the call that April 2nd morning that a match had been found and that Tricia would be going into surgery that evening, we were full of mixed emotions.
Knowing that a match had been found also meant knowing that somebody had died that day, probably unexpectedly and possibly tragically. It meant knowing that there was probably a mother, father, brother, sister, wife or husband, maybe even children who were experiencing a great loss, and others who were just being told the news of the death of their friend.
But, it also meant that somebody had made the decision during their life to become an organ donor…to offer the chance for Tricia to experience abundant life. So, not because of death, but because of life, we both prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for the donor and peace for the family AND we celebrated.
And, two years later, on this anniversary, we continue to remember the death of Tricia’s donor and the pain that this day might bring his or her family and friends...we pray for their peace and comfort today, and we continue to celebrate the abundant life that Tricia has been given.
So, tonight, at Nags Head Church, we’re also going to remember and celebrate, because we too know that Jesus’ death was meant to give us life, abundantly here on earth and for eternity. We will remember His death, thank His Father God for sacrificing His one and only Son for us, and celebrate our new life together.