On Your Way to Easter Sunday, Don’t Miss Good Friday


By Becky Gilbert

Growing up, Easter was just another holiday. New clothes, new shoes, dinner at Grandma Brooks’ and fun with my cousins. Yes, we did go to church, too. The hymns ‘Up from the Grave He Arose’, ‘Majesty’ and ‘Because He Lives’ will always bring to my mind rural Pennsylvania churches that we attended when we had Easter with my Grandparents.

Fast forward several years. My calling to be in ministry with youth led me to a denomination that follows the liturgical calendar. Although I was in my twenties and had finished Seminary, I was experiencing my first season of Lent and at the end of Lent, Holy Week. Being a highly educated Seminary graduate, I thought that I knew all that it was possible to know about Jesus and his life and death.

Holy Week is an amazing time. On Palm Sunday, we echo the praises of the people who saw Jesus enter Jerusalem. Children and sometimes adults enter the sanctuary with palm branches they wave the branches and sing and you cannot help but imagine how joy-filled the people in Jerusalem must have been. On Thursday, the church family joins together for a Seder meal. I must admit, at first I did not know what to think about this idea but as the Seder meal is shared and the story of the people of God is retold, it becomes a beautiful celebration of how God has cared for his people throughout history.

Good Friday. The first Good Friday service I experienced left me awe-struck. My eyes began to tear up when I entered the sanctuary and saw everything covered in black. It was so final. It was eerily quiet. For a few minutes, I could sense the despair that Jesus’ death caused. Then the scripture was read:

 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)

Hearing those words again, in that dark, quiet, desperate place my heart gained a new understanding of just how much Jesus understands the times in our lives when we feel lonely, full of despair, sad, overwhelmed by grief, or abandoned. In that moment, Jesus knew what it was to be separated from God.

Finally, it was Sunday! Resurrection day! I can only imagine that hope that must have been in the hearts of the women as they realized that Jesus was no longer dead. New day, new life, new hope. Jesus has overcome death. He is no longer separated from God and because of his resurrection, neither are we!

Now, I do not claim that my denomination has it all figured out or that these experiences are the only ones that can help you grow. I am grateful for all I learned from the rural churches of my childhood and the suburban church of my youth these were the places I began to hear God’s call on my life. Good Friday experiences, like the ones I have been a part of, have helped me to continue to ‘work out my salvation with fear and trembling…’. When we understand the darkness of Friday, the hope of Resurrection Sunday is even brighter.