This column will be published on the day commonly referred to as Good Friday. For believers in Jesus Christ, no day is more important — Jesus’ death on the cross is central to the Christian experience, individually and collectively. Yet no day is more paradoxical. The Gospels tell us the disciples had a very difficult time with Jesus’ prediction of his own death. No wonder. The disciples had seen Jesus heal every possible injury. How could Jesus sustain injuries which would threaten his life? They had seen Jesus stop a chronic hemorrhage. How could Jesus bleed to death on the cross? They had seen Jesus give life to the dead. How could Jesus die?
I was trying to think of something which might approach the paradox of Jesus’ death. It’s like finding Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos in the soup line at a homeless shelter. As soon as you see it, you know that something is very wrong.
Given our culture’s adoration of movie stars, few tragedies have gripped the American people like the paralysis of Christopher Reeve, who played Superman in the movies. For one thing, he was such a muscular, powerful man. But more than that, because of his role in those movies, we thought of him as Superman. When children saw him, they didn’t say, “There’s Christopher Reeve.” They said, “There’s Superman!” Then there is a terrible accident, and you turn on the television, and there’s Superman in a wheelchair. And you immediately think, “Something is very wrong here.” Yet none of those examples approaches the paradox of Good Friday, the day on which the giver of life died.
That day changed everything. On that day, when the impossible happened by the grace of God, it changed everything about history; and it changed everything about the lives of those who receive Jesus Christ by faith.
Some years ago, Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby starred in a movie called City Slickers. The movie was about three guys in mid-life crises. As guys in mid-life crises are wont to do, they spend one entire scene reflecting on their lives. Someone poses the question, “What was the best day of your life?” One says it was his wedding day. The second recalls going to Yankee Stadium as a young boy and seeing Mickey Mantle hit a home run. Then those two ask, “What was your best day, Ed?”
“I don’t want to play,” Ed says.
“Come on,” his buddies say, “we shared.”
With obvious hesitation, Ed says, “Well, I’m 14 years old, and my mother and father are fighting again because she caught him being unfaithful — again. I finally realized that he was being unfaithful to all of us. I said, ‘You’re bad for our family. I want you out! From now on, I will take care of this family.’ From that day on, he left us alone. That was my best day.”
There is a stunned silence, and finally one of his buddies asks, “Gee, Ed, if that was your best day, what was your worst day?”
Ed replies quietly, “Same day.”
What day forever changed the history of our world — and the history of your life and my life? The day which marked the beginning of the end for sin and death and evil. The day on which our God, the giver of life, died on a cross.
It was the best day. It was the worst day. Same day.