Good Friday, this year, for me will be a little different. I usually join with other Christians in Clacton on “Christmas Tree Island” and take part in the open air service and walk of witness and then onto one of the town Churches for the united service.
As I am leading the united service, I will not make it to Christmas Tree Island (even I cannot manage to be in two places at once!). At the risk of causing major controversy, I am never sure about the Good Friday walk of witness. On the one hand, it shows the numbers of Christians, for whom, this particular day holds something unique and special. On the other hand, as it is a silent sombre walk we don’t really communicate the vibrancy of our Christian life to a world that regards this day as nothing more than part of a “long weekend”.
The words of Geoffrey Anketel Studdert Kennedys’ poem “Indifference” certainly come to mind
When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.
When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die; For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do, ‘
And still it rained the winter rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall, and cried for Calvary.
(G. A. Studdert-Kennedy)
Well, let me share with you two stories.
Firstly, from a few years ago in Clacton. It was a cool but bright Good Friday and I had never seen so many people gathered for the Good Friday Walk of Witness. The service had been ably led by one of my Church of England colleagues and, at the appropriate time, we set off on our “silent” walk.
There were so many of us, even to get going took a little while. I ended up walking with a retired Pentecostal minister toward the end middle of the procession. We got just by a Greggs the Bakers shop and there were people stood on the paths watching us and one woman turned to her friend (in the shop) “look at this, there are loads of them!”
She was right. There are loads of us who recognize this day as significant in God’s story of His love for humanity. My Pentecostal friend couldn’t resist it, he shouted “yes there are, and you really should come and join us!” Perhaps this Good Friday would be a Good opportunity for you to come and join us, recognizing what God has done for you through Jesus Christ.
My second story? Not quite Birmingham. I used to live just north of Birmingham in a place called Bilston. We had a Good Friday walk of witness that took us through the town and at various points we would stop, read part of the story and sing and then move on. Like many parts of the West Midlands at that time, Bilston was going through major refurbishment and we had to pick our way through shoppers, road works, builders and workmen. It was a push and a shove to keep up that year.
As we reached one point, the passage simply said “they crucified Him” we could hear the sound of somebody hammering nails into wood in the background. It seemed that the whole town became silent, all we could hear was hammering. I don’t mind admitting it, I couldn’t help it but, the tears started to fall – and I wasn’t the only one!
In words of John’s Gospel
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
(John 3 vs. 16 – 17)
That’s why Good Friday is significant. God loves you and sent His son, Jesus into this world to live the perfect life and to lay His life down in order that nothing can separate us from God. All we need to do is ask Jesus to come into our lives, it’s as simple as that!
However you are planning to mark Good Friday, why not take an opportunity to thank God for Jesus and for the cross.