When we proclaim “He is risen!” we join Christians around the world in celebration. Being Easter people means we put God’s triumphant victory over death at the center of our faith. If this is true, why does it more often seem we spend more of our lives as Good Friday people? It’s commonly accepted that attendance at Holy Week services will be significantly lower than normal as many of us will simply opt-out. I can’t help but wonder whether what we mean as a remembrance of Christ’s self-sacrificing love, actually serves to heighten the reality of suffering in our own lives. When our friends and family find themselves in pain, when grief and loneliness weigh us down, it feels like we are living the Good Friday experience. It’s no wonder commemorating that in a worship service seems too much to bear.
The truth is, if we don’t have a Good Friday, if Jesus was just a good guy, showing us how we should live, if the crucifixion is simply one political execution in the midst of many hundreds, then even the resurrection becomes a small, nearly insignificant event, limited in relevance to those in a similar situation. If Jesus’ death is so contextualized, so limited in scope; if it’s just a myth without universal and eternal impact, then there really isn’t a compelling reason to gather at all – not on Easter Sunday, not on any Sunday. We can do good deeds at work, at home and in our community with relative ease and none of the guilt we feel when we have to choose how we will fit one more church thing into our already busy lives.
In truth, it’s BECAUSE of our Good Friday lives that we are EASTER People! Though our world is still broken, the resurrection reminds us that there is hope. Though we have known suffering, though we have struggled, though we have hurt others and been hurt, the resurrection shows us that renewal and restoration is possible. Because we are Easter people, when we remember Christ’s suffering, we are reminded to live compassionate lives in midst of suffering around the world and around the corner. Because we are Easter people, when we see Christ’s brutal torture, we are challenged to seek forgiveness for our harsh, unforgiving words which can be just as tortuous. Because we are Easter people, when we are faced with Christ’s three-day journey of abandonment and isolation in the valley of death, we are called to be a friend to those who suffer alienation and isolation every day.
As Easter people, we cannot ignore the Good Friday realities that surround us. But we don’t have to despair either. Because we are Easter people, we can sing Hallelujahs and shout our joy, knowing that the God’s love flows through us, and God’s Spirit empowers us to share the good news of the resurrection. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed