Today is Good Friday. Where I live in central Pennsylvania the day has not begun in a promising way. Dawn brought cold, gray skies more suitable for winter than spring. The temperature was 38 degrees. Even now, two hours later the thermometer remains stuck in the low forties. I am cold.
Despite my own personal desires, what I have is really more suitable to the events of Good Friday two millenia ago. It was a day of heartbreak, brutality, and death. An earthquake and darkened skies punctuated the early afternoon. It was the day Jesus died on the cross.
I come from the stream of Christianity that observes an ordinance called Feet Washing. This practice is based on John 13 and that disciple’s account of the Last Supper. It is a remembrance of the sacrificial servanthood by which our faith is founded and in which it is grounded. It is also a symbol of Christ’s humiliation. For he bore the penalty for sins he did not commit. He placed himself squarely in the center of God’s judgment upon humanity’s rebellion and sin.
He died that we might live.
At the service, the elder who led the feet washing gave each of us fresh roses. The instruction was to tear off the petals and drop them in the basin of water where our feet would be washed. Discard the stem on a pile in the middle of the room.
The purpose was not to freshen water that would soon hold dirty, maybe even smelly feet. The purpose was to symbolize the price for our forgiveness. Something beautiful and filled with life had to die so that we might be born anew. Something that embodied the full measure of love had to be poured out to wash away the stain of our lovelessness.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of this long before Jesus did this.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5
It was a terrible price; but then sin is a terrible, deadly thing. We live in a generation with no real sense of personal sin, just perhaps, shame for our failings. As such we do not take sin seriously–especially our own. The apostle Paul taught, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” – Romans 6:23
Sin always collects its due.
But love found a way. For it was not the nails that held Jesus to the cross on that first “good” Friday. It was his love for us.
(c) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn