A children’s book written by Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, tells of a day that started when Alexander, wakesg up to find bubble gum stuck in his hair. He trips on his skateboard and drops his sweater in the sink while the water is running. His brothers find prizes in their breakfast cereal boxes. But Alexander didn’t get one – only cereal. What a day.
A horrible Friday, started for the disciples when they were jolted out of heavy sleep to the sound of soldiers breaking into their camp and surrounding them. After Judas’ betrayal, Peters’ attempt at sword play, and Jesus’ arrest, all the disciples scattered and ran. Running scared, one left his clothes behind.
That bad day continued – not just a nightmare but terrible numbing reality. Jesus’ mock trial of fabricated charges where the accusers could not get their facts straight; Peter’s denial that he had been with Jesus – he didn’t even know who he was; never met him; The battering of whips and curses did not produce any sympathy or pity from the chief priest – punishment by scourging was insufficient; A frenzied crowd – a nearly rioting mob – demanded the release of the murderer Barabbas and accused Governor Pilate of being no friend of Caesar’s if he didn’t order Jesus’ death; it was a very bad day – the worst of days.
The day dragged on – a long agonizing walk to the place of execution and Jesus’ exhausted body stumbling and falling in the exertion of carrying a cross. Only the involuntary help of a stranger, Simon, who was pressed into carrying the cross, made it possible for Jesus to continue his last walk. The cursing soldiers, the mocking crowds, nails piercing flesh, screams of the other crucified prisoners, gambling for the prisoner’s clothes … and then day turned dark by a storm – it was a very bad horrible no good rotten day. Death by crucifixion was designed to be a slow agonizing torturous and a horribly cruel way to die – nakedly on display before the public with crimes listed for all to see.
In our culture we do not like to have death on display. We have long ago abandoned the practice of public executions. We even protest the “humane” execution of criminals. We have tried to surround death with dignity and scientific technologies of well-ordered hospitals. We have tied to push death to the back of our conscience – even labeling a baby a “fetus” and the murder “pro-choice”.
But the day of the execution of an innocent man is not a day we want to push to the back of our conscience. It was diabolically evil and should not be covered over.
Evil is not the sort of thing we like to think about. Our lives are very comfortable in comparison to people in other parts of the world or in other times in history. But this Friday reminds us that something’s rotten in the state of humanity. Life confronts us with “evil” in the form of personal pain like the death of a loved one or our own illnesses, or the national experience like 9/11 or the impact of the coronavirus. Bad days and hard times reawaken the questions of good and evil. They make us wonder things about God and His goodness that we don’t think about when things are good.
John Stonestreet, Breakpoint 4/9/2020 writes, Where Is God in a Coronavirus World? It is the latest version of the question, “Why does God allow evil and suffering?” It is a question that never goes away. “Ours is not the first generation to face some kind of severe threat to our lives and well-being. But, unlike many previous generations, we tend to think of these kinds of threats as things of the past. We think of personal safety as our God-given right and bad things on such a large scale or real diabolical evil triggers our collective shock and panic.
“Some think calamities like Good Friday or the coronavirus are “defeaters” of Christianity, proving that the idea of a loving God watching out for us is obviously not believable. Atheists and religious skeptics claim the existence of evil and the existence of God are incompatible. They say the kind of suffering caused by injustice or pandemics is to be expected. For the committed atheist, “moral outrage is absurd” because our in our universe, “there is no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” In such a universe, “some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it.” The so-called ‘problem’ of evil— moral or natural— for the atheist dissolves into the pitiless indifference of uncaring matter.” Of course, most people, even committed or thoughtful atheists, cannot live this way, much less say it out loud. It’s impossible to derive comfort or hope from atheism without contradicting the worldview it implies.
“In contrast, while moral evil, natural disasters and diseases like COVID-19 do contain a challenge to the Christian belief that this universe was created and is governed by a good God, within the Christian story itself is an answer to that challenge.
“The universe is not the way it’s supposed to be. Humans were not the only part of creation affected by the Fall. Nature itself was fractured by that same event. Romans 8 describes, “creation was subjected [by God] to futility.” The Greek word for “futility,” or “ineffectiveness” means “something . . . [that] has not achieved the goal for which it was designed.”
But our current state is not the end of the story. Through the suffering death and resurrection of Christ, a process has been inaugurated by which not only humans, but the rest of creation also, will be rescued from the effects of the Fall. A Christian “is not a person who has solved the problem of suffering, but one who has come to love and trust the God who has suffered for them.”
For those dealing with doubts and questions about God’s goodness because of the evil, pain and violence in the world that at times seems so senseless – the bad day called Good Friday offers comfort, support and hope. For disciples, the bad day comes to an end. The running and hiding stops. The bad is not the final word. To people who feel disoriented, concerned, even fearful because of the coronavirus pandemic and all of its consequences and disruption in our lives … calling this Friday “Good” is the right perspective because we know God is at work in all things.
This present “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” disruptive pandemic is not the final word. Into our world has come one who has conquered evil. Pain and suffering do not win.
While we will not be gathering for a good Friday service at the church – I encourage you to conduct a service with your family or contact others on line or by phone and share this day with them. Proclaim this day as good. Proclaim your “Friday of pain, loss, isolation” as good because Sunday is coming.
I have heard that for some who are in quarantine … going out on the porch at noon and singing Amazing Grace is a great way to give a shout of defiance against the fear of death and pain – proclaiming God’s sovereignty. Friday is good.
Carol also sends this list of songs for this glorious day.
Tell Me the Story of Jesus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU5Bm7_MylY
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tkx8WAycYAc
Worthy Is the Lamb https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RLqM9Ptgnw
O the Blood https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=De_ShyfwHNc
Jesus Paid It All https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5DyeCx8H4U
The Wonder of Your Cross https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDLHVYBlk30
Have a blessed Good Friday. Pastor Dan