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When we were little, my younger brother was being a bit obstinate, and while attempting to assert himself at the dinner table (with guests present!) he moved suddenly, and my mother’s gravy boat went flying. Not a major problem, one would think, but after the guests left and mom was cleaning up with us, we all saw her pick up the broken pieces of the gravy boat and begin to cry. This gravy boat used to belong to her grandmother, who brought it with her from Scotland. It belonged to a set of dishes that mom inherited from great grandma Fraser, long before any of us were born. When my brother saw mom crying, he was really mortified. He felt terrible. In his mind, it was just a weird looking cup, like any other of the cups he’d broken before. But clearly, this one was different. It meant something special to mom. He went into his room and wouldn’t come out. He was upset with himself for the pain he caused mom.
Mom went in and tried to reassure him that everything would be ok and that she would try to replace the thing. It soothed him a little bit, but over the next few days and weeks as she tried to research whether or not the piece could in fact be replaced, she discovered that it was impossible. It wasn’t made anymore. That brought on a couple of more tears, because for mom, it was the last thing she had from her grandma. For my brother, her sorrow was related to the gravy boat, the “thing”. As time went on, and my brother’s mourning became evidently worse than mom’s, mom made a decision to buy a whole new set of dishes with a new gravy boat so that it would be replaced. Her suffering was multiplied by the need to soothe a small child, but she did it as an act of love for him.
Good Friday is the moment we observe the act of Christ to reconcile the world to himself; the Atonement. The horrific character of the events of that day, make it hard to imagine why we call it “Good” Friday. But whether we believe that Jesus had to die in an act of substitutionary atonement; or an act to show victory over sin, death and the devil; or just an example of the purity of self-sacrifice, as it has been variously historically interpreted; one thing is clear. He didn’t die because he needed to, per se, but as an act of love for us, despite our being the agents of his execution.
Our unrelenting sinfulness crucified Jesus, and he bore that burden, not because he had to, but because he loves us. And because he does, and because he did, our punishment has been satisfied; God’s victory has been won; and we see most clearly how we are called upon to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world today!