Posted by: jhvn | 03/28/2013

Why do Christians call it Good Friday??

As a child I could never understand this. The day when Jesus was killed was called Good Friday! Bad Friday, or Black Friday, or The Friday from Hell would have described it better. All the churchy talk of Jesus “dying for our sins” or “dying to save the world” or even dying to save me made no sense. As I’ve written earlier, although I was well cared for and not abused or deprived, I did grow up in a culturally narrow and emotionally sterile middle-class suburban family and community. In my world, no one needed to be “saved”, and “sin” was an abstraction that had no meaning.

Even as a young adult in seminary (a church graduate school) studying to become a church pastor, God’s Spirit (energy) and power even over death, which was demonstrated in Jesus’s  resurrection, captured my heart and loyalty. His death was merely a necessary first act leading to the grand finale of his resurrection. Rembrandt’s painting, The Supper at Emmaus, has become my primary Christian icon, rather than any of the hundreds of paintings of Jesus on the cross. The Supper captures the moment when two of his astonished followers suddenly recognize  the unknown stranger they had invited in for supper – Jesus, alive on the Sunday evening after his crucifixion.  The Supper at Emmaus

The hardest work I experienced as a young pastor was dealing with death – officiating at funeral, memorial, and burial services, and offering support to grieving families and friends. I felt  emotionally drained after that work. A startling new awareness dawned on me when President Kennedy was shot during my first months of pastoring a mid-sized urban church. I celebrated a memorial service. Horrible as Kennedy’s assassination was, I watched  individuals from all walks of life, from all segments of the political spectrum, from many religious, racial and ethnic groups come together to honor JFK and to support the ideals he stood for. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, as a college campus pastor I organized a large campus memorial ceremony and played a recording of his I Have a Dream speech. No riots erupted.  Instead, Campus racial tensions vanished that day and became more manageable in the months following. The value of death as an agent of reconciliation finally was penetrating my early privileged suburban blinders and emerging into my consciousness.

These experiences were preparing this geezer for his later adulthood career as a psychotherapist, who attended to people grappling with various versions of deaths and losses of many magnitudes. I discovered that in order to recover from depression or anxiety, as well as from various physical ailments, a person often had to pass through the valley of the shadow of death.” That passage included accepting the pain of the loss, rather than seeking retribution; grieving the loss, rather than fighting it; forgiving the perpetrator of the injury, rather than taking revenge; and most difficult of, all forgiving one’s own self , not nurturing guilt at “causing” the loss. Only by taking on this journey, I discovered, can a person accept the forgiveness of others who have been injured, as well as the forgiveness of God. Christians, including this geezer, have discovered that Jesus’s voluntary death, rather than resisting arrest and defending himself, was God’s way of absorbing the pain of human greed, hatred and delusion. Hence Good Friday.

Little did this geezer realize during his practice of psychotherapy that he was also being prepared for the loss of his wife – the gradual loss of the relationship over 10 years of her dementia, as well as the loss of her life just a year ago. As a result of this journey through the valley, this geezer has been amazed at his own “resurrection” of new life during this past year – enjoying living alone, rather than fearing abandonment; accepting a variety of new friends, instead of shying away from folks who seem different; and most of all allowing this blog to emerge from that unknown aspect of himself discovered by looking in the mirror. This Geezer is discovering the wisdom attributed to Francis of Assisi in his famous prayer:

“Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,

“To be understood as to understand,

‘To be loved as to love;

“For it is in giving that we receive.

“It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

“And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

As you grow in your own geezerhood, may you also grow in this wisdom.

©John Van Ness, 3/28/13


  1. Thank you- that was good toread – all of it–

    • Thanks. I’d be interested to know what made that post good for you to read.

      Peace, jhvn

  2. John, another wonderful Geezer guide. You are going to have to convert your truck to a tour bus. Welcome to Geezerland. Maybe Disney will pick up on it.

  3. i John From Denia…..still getting our technology figured out but I hope toget this msg toyou.

    I like your Easter commentary. My immediate response is from the alchemical reading I have been doing. Chaos is the inside of an egg. Good Friday is a mysterious meeting of the ways of life and death….matter and spirit. I ate easter bunny for Easter dinner. What do rabbits have to do with Easter anyway?

    …….and we are all a mysterious stew we see int he mirror when we have the courage to look.

    Thank you for your looking.

    Blessings and Peace,


    Sent from my iPad

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