The Value of Good Friday

Recently, a mother of two boys shared this story:

“Mom, when I was at Aiden’s house, he dared me to pull off a scab and eat it,” her eight year-old piped. “I did it and actually, it didn’t taste too bad.”

Mortified, my friend, strongly fighting the gag reflex, turned to her older son. “Did you hear what your brother did?”

He shrugged nonchalantly,”yeah, I have done that before” and gave her a look like this was the most normal thing in the world. She was dumbfounded.

Swinging to the other end of the scale is my nephew. When it was time to go to kindergarten, his parents decided a Catholic school would be a good fit for this very black-and-white thinking fellow.

He lasted part of one day and had the most sage of Sisters in tears. Terror filled his eyes when his parents pried him out from under the pint-sized table.

“They were talking about drinking blood and eating flesh! And that’s just WRONG!” Yes, Dad and Mom had lots of explaining to do.

But Jake was not alone. John 6:53-55 quotes Jesus when spoke to a crowd of his followers, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” The crowd’s EEEWWW meter pegged out for and “from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (verse 66)

If I hadn’t been raised with communion and lulled over time by routine, Jake would have had to share a table leg with his dear auntie. After all, I got a 100% on my blood-borne pathogen test and know all the dangers and procedures. (Bet you didn’t know that no matter how well they disinfect a basketball court after blood is spilled, they are to wait ten minutes before resuming the game? Who knew?)

My, hasn’t our world has done a 180 from “Kids, just rub some dirt on it.’ My blood clots at the thought of how cool it was to do the blood brother each-cut-themselves-and-mix-the-blood exchange–right up there with attaching leeches for a good bleed.

But by reflection, I have sadly become a nonchalant scab eater.

No, I’m not into blood drinking or cannibalism by any stretch, but when my family morphed into the Iron Chef Communion Critique Panel, weighing the dryness of the manufactured cross engraved wafer vs the sliver of hard pie crust, and unanimously agreeing on the round King’s Hawaiian loaf as their host of choice, I knew we were off track.

Since when was this sacrament begin to go down as smooth as French silk chocolate? Isn’t the sacrifice to redeem us supposed to stick in our throats and make us wonder if the knot would permanantly lodge, stopping dead our hearts’ rhythm?

Instead, we prefer it to ‘not taste that bad.’

God saw this coming and sent the Old Testament folks with their Grand Champion 4H lambs to teach us. When the Hebrews approached the altar with the sheep, they had built an emotional connection from at least three days of the lamb living with the family in order to find physical flaws in the animal. How sad it must have been once the verdict of purity was given.

I guess I pictured the next scene much like the solemn routine when you put a pet to sleep at the veterinarian’s. You say your good-byes, and tearfully hand Fluffy over to Mr. Priest. Of course, a little Biblical law requires that we’d have to see some sprinkling of blood and a clean skinned carcass, much like the sixth grade field trip to the locker plant. Sad, but spared of the hands-on approach.

Wrong.

Once the animal was tied down, YOU would have to put your hand on the forehead as the jugular was sliced. How could anyone ignore the light dimming in the innocent’s eyes or feel the limpness as life floated away on the tide of a scarlett river.

Doesn’t that make you physically heartsick? I am so thankful I was alone when I learned this. How many times have I taken my sin flippantly, not letting the ramifications sink in? I pray the thought forever makes me quease.

When The Passion of the Christ came out, no longer could I approach that altar with a hint of casualness. While I’ve never viewed the sacrament as just a crouton followed by a grape juice chaser, I have taken it extremely lighter than warranted.

Today is Good Friday. Nine years ago, our soft-hearted son was infuriated that we did not allow him to view it. But when the kid couldn’t handle the USA Network’s version of Braveheart without fleeing from the room, no way would we push him to be more spiritually mature than he was. He needed to understand the why, not overwhelmed with the grisly.

Time has drummed by and last week my now 21 year-old mentioned that he had yet to see it. Good thing I picked it up last spring, because we have a date. While I’ve only seen it once and do not relish experiencing anything but the last scene again, I look forward to the reminder of what Christ did for us. As unsettling as it is, there is a great gift in the gore–the punch in the gut of how ugly our sin is.

If Jesus had only covered our vileness with his blood, it would have been still been unfathomable love and more than enough. But no! He rose on Easter and conquered death. We are free with the promise of eternity. That’s why I love my Jesus!

Oh yes, He is risen! Indeed!

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