What are we meant to do on Good Friday? How are we meant to feel? What should we think? I wonder whether I’m slow to catch up on that which most other people probably know already. But I pose the question here and now anyway. Maybe someone can give me some pointers.
I’m not a devout Christian. I’m not a practising one. Indeed, I even wonder whether I am one. After all, if I was a Christian I surely wouldn’t be posing the questions in the first place, I’d know the answers already.
Look at it this way, take Good Friday literally.
One man is taken from prison and executed in front of a crowd of people. If we choose to look at it literally, then we’re all indulging in a day off work to mark the day someone died. Are we the crowd on the hill? Or are we a bunch of rubberneckers? Are we comfortable remembering an act of barbarism?
My simplistic approach looks laughable in type. Maybe I should be looking at the symbolism. Remembering the big Christian message behind Jesus’ death: a man dies to save everyone on earth from sin. A massive sacrifice.
If that’s the case, I’m still not clear what I’m meant to be thinking about on Good Friday. Even more unclear how I should feel.
If we’re remembering the execution, shouldn’t we be feeling disgust? Will we experience shame when we remind ourselves that we’re still doing the same thing to one another thousands of years later? Aren’t we meant to spend the day mourning a death? Shouldn’t we be grieving for someone we never knew?
Or, if we’re meant to be considering the symbolism, are we in fact meant to be celebrating that one man died to save the rest of us from sin? And if we are, how can we celebrate when that which is listed as ‘sin’ still appears to be going on in the world?
Maybe there’s a clue in the lack of commercialisation around Easter compared with Christmas. Birth is inherently a good thing, an opportunity to celebrate. Death comes laden with sadness. It takes a pragmatic and therefore tough individual to see joy in death.
As I think more about Good Friday and what it represents, it becomes increasingly difficult to consider doing anything self-indulgent. It’s a day pumped full of contradictions and confusion. It doesn’t feel like a day for families. It doesn’t feel like a day of celebration at all. It feels like an intensely personal day, not a congregational one.
It feels like it should really be a horrible day. A day spent grappling with what it actually means and how we should act. As each year passes, so it becomes ever more difficult. And I’m still not sure how it’s meant to feel … physically. (If you don’t feel something physically, are you in danger of it not having made an impact on you?)
Maybe it’s not difficult at all. Maybe there is – quite literally – nothing to it at all.
Either way, Good Friday feels like hard work. Christmas is so much easier.