The tradition of Good Friday services

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

Good Friday service is traditional to me.

Now, tradition is an interesting thing, and the Easter season has set me to thinking about it a great deal.

Protestant Christianity is not as reliant on tradition and ceremony as Catholicism is – and certainly not as reliant on tradition and ceremony as some of the other main monotheistic religious traditions like Judaism and Islam.

In certain ways, that’s a good thing.

The trappings of religion can often become a crutch, a hollow shell that leaves out the possibility of the presence of God.

The case can be made that there are negative aspects to this lack of tradition, too, but that’s a tangent I won’t get into right now.

The point is that I’ve been thinking about tradition, especially about how Easter makes traditionalists out of even us Protestants.

We’re never more aware of the physical aspect of our faith than we are during Holy Week, because it is in Holy Week that the incarnation of Christ takes on immediacy – brutal immediacy, in this case, as we are forced to confront the fact of our Savior’s physical body scourged, tortured, killed.

The week leading up to the crucifixion screams out to us that Jesus was a man.

He had a body. He had nerves. He hurt.

He had a mother, who stood at the foot of the cross weeping.

This is an unofficial Protestant ritual, I think.

Catholics too, I’m sure – Shawnee’s St. Benedict Church recently hosted the stations of the cross.

Looking back at my own upbringing in the church, I can remember many a Good Friday service attended, and I can remember that many of them seemed to want to pound home the brutalities of Jesus’ death.

If you grew up in the church, I can almost guarantee that you’ve heard a pastor read through a very explicit description of what exactly happened to someone’s body during a Roman whipping, during a crucifixion.

A few times my church even hosted a showing of Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” film – a film I’ve only ever been able to sit through once.

In many ways, I understand this fixation on the aspect of pain.

Christ’s suffering, theologically, was meant for us.

We’re the ones who are supposed to be afflicted by that whip.

We’re the ones who are supposed to be strung up on that cross, with nails in our hands and in our feet.

Christ is doing all of that for us.

It’s supposed to affect us powerfully.

But I sometimes wonder if this fixation on pain comes at the expense of our appreciation for what happens on Sunday.

If Good Friday shows us like nothing else the humanity of Jesus, then Easter Sunday shows us like nothing else Jesus’ complete divinity, his power over death and his victory.

Christ has won. Christ doesn’t stay in that tomb.

We don’t need to stay fixated on Friday, because Sunday overshadows it.

What happened in the garden overshadows what happened on the cross.

I went to Moody Bible Institute my freshman year of college, which is a fairly well-known place of training for those going into the ministry.

We got to talking about this topic once, this idea that people remain so fixated on the brutality of the cross.

He made an interesting comment, noting that God chose to send Jesus into the world at a time when everything could only be recorded via the page, could only be read about.

He went on to say, specifically mentioning the Passion movie, that perhaps part of the reason that God did this was so that we wouldn’t have to see what Jesus went through.

Perhaps we weren’t meant to see it.

This doesn’t mean we aren’t to reflect on Good Friday.

Please, please, please don’t misunderstand me.

Good Friday is powerful, and it should absolutely be a time of contemplation for Christians.

Good Friday services are necessary and… well, good. But don’t stay stuck on Friday.

Sunday’s what we’re celebrating.

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