Once again it’s the time of year when our thoughts are drawn to the cross, to the pain endured there, to the freedom achieved there. But, if I’m completely honest, Good Friday hasn’t always felt like good news…
I first decided to follow Jesus when I was fifteen, and somehow in those early years I picked up the idea that Good Friday was all about feeling bad and guilty. This was a special day in the church calendar when we all took a good long time to think about how awful we were, about how much our beautiful saviour went through for us, and about how responsible we were for that terrible pain and suffering.
I don’t remember anyone teaching me that this was ‘Guilt Friday’, but that’s what I learned. This was the day to look at the cross really hard, and then to feel really, really bad.
and I did.
But a beautiful revolution happened about 15 years later…
Late one lent evening, as I sat in a prayer-space looking at a wooden cross draped with red silk, I had one of those moments where something you’ve known in your head for a long time finally makes it into your heart. God showed me the cross as if it were an enormous power shower towering above me. I suddenly realised that as I knelt beneath the flow of Jesus blood, as it poured out over my hands, my head, my heart, it didn’t stain me with responsibility, it didn’t make me guilty – it made me clean.
So I realised that on Good Friday I couldn’t come to the cross and feel bad about myself, or about how much Jesus suffered for me. Not because I’m not a sinner, or that Jesus didn’t suffer, but because some much bigger, more glorious things were filling up my head and heart so much that there wasn’t room for anything else.
As I said to a friend at the time:
“I know I should be feeling bad, but I just can’t help myself, when I look at the cross, all I can feel is clean”
Awesomely, gloriously clean.
And when I remember what Jesus was prepared to go through in order to heal my relationship to the Father, what he chose to endure so that you and I could be made clean and whole and entirely free from guilt and shame, I don’t feel bad (all that clean-ness gets in the way), but I do feel very, very grateful, and very LOVED.
Really really loved.
The words of this hymn, It is well with my soul by H. G. Spafford, explains the feeling that wells up inside me better than I can:
My sin – oh the bliss of this glorious thought! –
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
With that in your head it just won’t be possible to look at the cross and feel bad.
So this Easter, as you’re celebrating the extraordinary victory of the cross and resurrection, take another look at the cross and see if you can see this power shower. If you feel even the smallest part dirty, or guilty, or unworthy or ashamed – step in. The cross can wash you clean.