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Finding the good in Good Friday

Chris Walker is a national consultant for theology and discipleship with the Uniting Church in Australia.
FOR MOST Queenslanders, Easter means an extra long weekend and a chance to get away or at least have a good break from the usual routine.
It can also be an opportunity to enjoy the autumn weather and the ocean water while it’s still warm.
For those who follow surfing, Easter is the time of the longest running professional surfing contest in the world, the Bells Beach classic.
In short, Easter is an enjoyable holiday time.
But in the wider secular, pluralistic, and multi-faith world, Easter may or may not be recognised or celebrated.
Terrorist activity still goes on in the unresolved conflict between Israel and Palestine. Suicide attacks and other violent activities continue in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa, and other places.
So what does Easter have to say to us in the 21st century, in a world that’s experiencing economic crisis, violence and conflict, the AIDS epidemic, environmental disasters and concerns, and more?
Does Easter have any relevance?
For Christians, Easter even more than Christmas is central to their faith.
If Christmas celebrates birth, hope, and promise, then Easter represents the climax of what began with the birth of Jesus.
It is the fulfilment of that life and the conclusion in Jerusalem of the story that began in Bethlehem.
For Christians, Easter is about Good Friday, the day of crucifixion, as well as Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection.
Yet Good Friday was anything but good.
Good Friday represents the death of Jesus by the cruellest of means.
It was the seeming victory of the forces of death and power over the promise of new possibilities, justice, and peace.
It demonstrates the capacity of dominating forces to squash those who threaten to upset the powerful.
It signals the futility of trying to challenge those with the military might to destroy those who oppose them.
But Jesus was not only subjected to an excruciating death on Good Friday, because God raised him to new life on Easter Sunday.
This signifies that death is not the last word, evil and power do not have the final say, and hope is not left in tatters.
A future beckons which is not futile or an unrealistic wish.
God brings life even out of death.
Easter Sunday also changes how we interpret Good Friday.
In the light of the resurrection, the crucifixion is not only the cruel end of an inspirational human leader.
It represents God identifying with those who suffer, especially those who suffer unjustly.
It shows God is on the side of those who seek his reign and righteousness.
It demonstrates God’s willingness to absorb the evil and hatred of human beings.
Love is finally stronger than hate, and goodness is ultimately more powerful than evil. The last word belongs to God, not in an overpowering, dominating way but in a way which challenges evil forces in a non-violent way, and which opens up new possibilities for the future.
Friday is “good” for God is good and acted in Jesus to show the worst that humans can do will not sway him from loving us.
God took the initiative to make reconciliation and new life possible.
Easter means reflecting again on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, who was crucified for us because of our complicity in the world’s sin and evil.
He was also raised for us to give us hope and encouragement to strive for God’s reign of love, justice, and peace for all.
Faith is not in vain. Hope is realistic. Love is the way.
By all means, enjoy the Easter break.
But may it also be a time of recognising again what Jesus achieved, and that God’s reign is far from being realised in the world.
We are still a long way from the reconciliation, compassion, and peace that Jesus brought and God desires.
So may we be prepared to join Jesus on the journey and take up our cross as his disciples, knowing God is with us by his Spirit and will lead us into a new future both in this life and in the next.
“Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”
So be it.

Rev Dr Chris Walker is a national consultant for theology and discipleship.

Photo : Chris Walker is a national consultant for theology and discipleship with the Uniting Church in Australia.