This blackest – and brightest – day in Christendom has always held my total Lenten interest. Over time I’ve read and watched interpretations of this event, which have all broadened my comprehension. I attended parochial schools so always shared this yearly liturgy with other Christians. Every year before spring break, our student population watched “The King of Kings,” Cecil B. DeMille’s black and white blockbuster of the life and Passion of Christ. I always thought that this movie (even though it was silent) was full of sound and fury and signifying everything. For years it was my icon for the season.
But I never really began to understand the physical intensity of Cavalry until I was an adult and had some relatively small experience of pain. To better understand what has been termed the cruelest form of capital punishment ever devised, I read “A Physician’s Analysis of the Crucifixion” by Dr. C. Truman Davis. It was careful and clinical and it increased both my faith and my shock about what really happened this day.
In our era of harsh reality shows and films like “The Passion of The Christ” where nothing is held back, sometimes too much information is just too much. Nothing can compare with the New Testament renditions of this weekend and in my humble opinion St. Luke gets the biblical Pulitzer. There are many versions of Christ’s Passion. My family got to see the original production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in London. This retelling of his life and death was edgy, moving and enduringly memorable.
To my mind one of the best accounts of Good Friday is “The Day Christ Died” by Jim Bishop. His addictive rendition of these 24 hours had me following Christ every step of the way. It’s been said that if he’d lived 2,000 years ago, there would be four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Bishop. As a writer and former reporter – as was Bishop – I find this author’s style engrossing as he really “puts you there.” Ironically, Jim Bishop’s story begins exactly 1,982 years ago on this very date, April 6, A.D. 30, at 6 pm, the beginning of the Jewish day. It opens with Jesus and 10 of his apostles coming through the pass between the Mount of Olives and the Mount of Offense on the way to the Last Supper. Bishop uses incredible detail to augment major events of the day. He begins thusly:
“They came through the pass slowly, like men reluctant to finish a journey. There were eleven of them, robed in white, their sandals powdery from the chalky stones of the road, the hems of their garments dark with dust, their faced molded with concern. These men were part of the final trickle of humans pouring into the walled city of Jerusalem for the Passover observance.”
This book is required reading for me annually. I always find something new for reflection. The earth renews itself this season. We wear new clothes and celebrate with festive dinners and children’s Easter egg hunts, another symbol of renewed life.
I used to often think this should be known as Bad Friday. But as I grew and learned I understood that for all believers, it’s what resulted from this day that makes it – Good.