Holding her hand for the last time, I looked around at all the familiar faces that lined her dimly lit hospital room.
“I don’t know what to say,” I told my family as I choked back tears, my eyes pleading with them for help to say goodbye. They all just stared back at me. Of course they couldn’t help.
“She can hear you, she just can’t respond,” the nurse sweetly broke the silence.
I was the last one to arrive that day. I’d like to think Grandmama waited for me…as if she knew it would have killed me not to be able to connect with her before she passed. Squeezing her hand, memorizing where I got my own long fingers from, I managed to say I loved her. A few, short minutes later and she was gone.
I stumbled over to a hard, uninviting chair in the corner, my body tired from sobbing. I’m sure my eyes were glazed over as I looked off into the distance, unable to process the pain of witnessing my first death…let alone the death of one of my dearest companions. My uncle must have seen the distress on my face because before I knew it, he was kneeling beside me with his hand on my leg, telling me everything would be alright. Coming from a man of so few words and gestures, that simple interaction was one of the most tender moments I’ve ever known. It was a kindness that touched me to my core. I had no idea then that only 8 months later I would lose him, too.
Watching a loved one suffer is one of life’s most soul shredding experiences. It feels like someone is wringing out your heart like a wet towel. I can’t imagine how Jesus’ friends and family must have felt as they watched him be brutally beaten, hanging on a cross. A man of great honor dying the shameful death of a criminal? What could be good about that day? And yet, this is the day that has gone down in history as Good Friday, always a few days before Easter.
As Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb on that inaugural Good Friday, a seed of hope for all humanity was planted. Three days later, that act would sprout up into a source of abundant life for the broken and ashamed all over the world. When Jesus died, the people who loved and followed him were disillusioned and greatly troubled. Is this how the story would end? Couldn’t he, fully God and fully man, have spared himself from this fate?
What they didn’t realize in that moment was that Jesus humbled himself to that degrading death on a cross for a purpose. He wasn’t helpless or confused. No, he gave up his power as God in that moment for the sake of the powerless. He took on the punishment for our sin and shame of our brokenness with every lash of the whip and every mocking word.
Good Friday is good because without it we wouldn’t have Easter. A flower can’t bloom without first being an unidentifiable seed hidden in the ground. The devastation and sorrow of Jesus’ death gave birth to the hope and joy of His resurrection. For Christians, Jesus’ death and resurrection is the foundation for how grief and hope sweetly intertwine in our lives. The deep joy that his sacrificial love gives us enters into our most profound moments of sadness, bringing with it a newfound relational intimacy with Him. A man of great honor dying the shameful death of a criminal? That’s good news. Because that’s not the end of the story.
Want to know more about the end of the story? Check out: How to Know God Personally