Writing to a group of early Christians in Corinth, the Apostle Paul famously said, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). Christ crucified was “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (v. 23), a foolish thing and a sign of weakness. In the ancient world a cross was not something decorative to put atop buildings or wear, diamond-studded, around one’s neck. It was a barbaric method of slow death.
In the Christianity of my childhood, Easter Sunday was Cadbury eggs, brunch and celebratory church services full of rollicking hymns like “Up from the grave He arose.” In my adolescence and twenty-something years I became fond of celebrating Good Friday, a part of Easter weekend largely bypassed in my childhood. With its mournful tone and quieter focus on the cross, Good Friday was almost more compelling to my melancholy self than the joy of Easter.
If the most fundamental and original sin of mankind is pride, the most fundamental virtue is humility. It's Christ-likeness in microcosm. It's not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. It's giving ourselves away for Christ and his gospel, which is also to say giving ourselves away for others.
This, I think, is the greatest, most mind-blowing quality of God's grace, while at the same time being the hardest for humanity to swallow: His grace is sufficient for all, and it saves unconditionally, based not on our merits or relative levels of moral stature. We're all sinners, fallen short of the glory of God and alienated from him, and thus we all need exactly the same grace from Him to repair the breach.
I always wondered why it was called “Good Friday.” I mean, Jesus was brutally tortured and hung on a cross. There were dark skies and earthquakes and torn veils. Seems more like “Bad Friday,” doesn’t it? Really, has humanity ever had a worse day? The one time the God of the universe was actually walking around in human form on earth, and what do we do? We kill him. That’s pretty bad.
Growing up, Easter was Cadbury eggs and pastel ties. It was The Ten Commandments on TV. It was hymns like “Low in the Grave He Lay” and “In the Garden.” It was Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. And it was Cadbury eggs.