Lent Devotions: Good Friday


Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).

By Rev. Dr. Jana Childers

John 19:16-27

Some people get stuck on the name. What is good about Good Friday? Why would Christians call the most ghastly part of their story “good?” The part that has to do with the crown of thorns, the shameful denials, the spit, the rough wood…and all that gore. What is good about that? Bloody Friday, sure. Good, not so much.

It’s a particularly tough sell these days. “Blood” – ubiquitous in the images that flash our screens and retinas, seems quite out of place in the church. Gone are the myriad gospel songs and hymns that feature fountains filled with blood, that sing of washing in the  blood of the Lamb, that exult in answering the question, “What can wash away my sin?” (Nothing but the blood of Jesus!). In many of our congregations we can’t even bring ourselves to use the word at the Lord’s Supper. “This is my life, poured out for you,” I sometimes quote Jesus as saying, as I lift the cup, even though I have seen the Greek word for “blood” with my own eyes plainly and in all four gospel texts.

How can something bloody be good? I’m with those who, as soon as the AK-47s appear on the screen, are up and climbing over the feet between me and the exit. I don’t want to see blood in real life, on a TV cop show, at the movies or, Lord help us, on the news. And yet. There are times – there are church times, there are times in my spirit – when nothing but the blood of Jesus will do. There is something about healing times, valley of the shadow of death times, times of sickening guilt, that make a person reach for the deepest part of Jesus they can get.

I suppose it’s different for each of us – as it should be. Christian orthodoxy dictates no one view of the atonement. Even here in St. Anselm’s town, Abelard and John Howard Yoder have many adherents. If you don’t like the vengeful God that Anselmian theology implies, you’re not alone. That’s fine. But just don’t underestimate the blood. It’s not for nothing that it has spoken to millions of Christians down through the centuries.

The blood of Jesus is about as close as a Christian can get to defining the word “holy” – which, as it turns out, is the original meaning of the Old English word “good.”

Rev. Dr. Jana Childers is dean, vice president of academic affairs, and professor of homiletics and speech commuication at San Francisco Theological Seminary.  

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