Good Friday – Why?

Last week, one of the children in my class rightly asked, ‘Why is it called Good Friday if that’s the day when Jesus died?’ There is so much in the Christian faith that seems confusing at first glance but I think God has made it this way because He loves us to ask questions. He wants us to engage with what He’s doing; he wants us to use the brains that we’ve been given and work out the answers to such questions. And so I rejoiced inside when this child’s question was raised. Yes! She’s thinking, she’s curious, she’s asking just the kind of question God wants her to ask. There are some people who would shrug their shoulders in response; claim that ‘religion doesn’t make sense’ and continue life in self-inflicted ignorance. I was not going to let this happen. I feel that as a teacher it is my role to encourage children to grapple with their questions, even if they are only 8 or 9 years old.

So this week’s R.E. lesson began with a narrative of the events of Good Friday. We acted out the scenes. Jesus was taken before the religious rulers of the day, who in turn took him to the political leaders of the day, claiming he was causing unrest and needed dealing with. Now this political leader could find nothing wrong with Jesus: he found him innocent. Yet because of pressure from the religious leaders and the people of the city, he was forced to order the death sentence for Jesus and yet release a murderer and thief (as the custom was that a prisoner could be released at that time each year). So Jesus literally swapped places with Barabbas. Jesus was mocked, beaten and spat on, yet he did not retaliate. He carried his heavy wooden cross to the hill outside the city, where He was hammered to the wood in the (scientifically proven) cruelest form of death mankind has ever thought up. As He hung there, another man being crucified recognised who Jesus was and said ‘Remember me when you come into your kingdom’. Jesus responded, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’. And there Jesus hung until he shouted ‘It is finished!’ All went dark at noon and the darkness lasted 3 hours. Meanwhile, the curtain in the temple – a thick barrier from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, which separated the humans from the place where God was thought to dwell (‘beyond the veil’) – this curtain was torn in two. The soldiers verified Jesus’ death and his friend was permitted to take him from the cross to bury him.

So what the heck was going on? It is clear that this is no ordinary death. Who else has caused night time to come at midday or an unexplained event at a local place of worship to happen the moment they died? Incredibly (but not unsurprisingly Continue reading

Holy Week – God in control

My R.E. lesson at school today was the first in our Easter series. I love teaching this series, as I encourage pupils to get down to the nitty-gritty of what Christians believe, rather than the superficial ‘nice little story’ side of it, which they normally get from their not-to-clued-up teachers. Today we were looking at the story from Palm Sunday through to The Garden of Gethsemane. In particular, I asked the children to listen out for parts of the story that showed that Jesus knew what was going to happen to him, that God was in control of the events of Holy Week. I expected the children to remember 3 points to write in their exercise books afterwards but I was pleased to see some children coming up with 6 or 7 bullet points! Here are some of the reasons they picked out:

Jesus knew what was going to happen to him. Christians know this because the Bible says:

  • As Jesus was approaching Jerusalem, he told his disciples that he would be mocked, flogged and crucified there. He said that on the third day he would rise.
  • Jesus knew the Old Testament prophecy that said the Saviour/Messiah would come riding on a donkey, so he fulfilled that prophecy on Palm Sunday by riding a colt into Jerusalem.
  • At the Last Supper, Jesus predicted that one of his friends would betray him to his enemies.
  • At the Last Supper, Jesus compared the bread and the wine to his broken body and his own blood, showing he knew he would soon die.
  • In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to God, asking his father to take away the unbearable thing that was about to happen to him. He was so distressed that he sweat blood. Jesus battled with his imminent future but then willingly gave himself to it.
  • When the guards came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples got protective and drew their swords, cutting off one of the guard’s ears. Jesus told the disciples to stop because he knew he had to go with the guards.

The children did really well in remembering these points, which led us into a great discussion about Christian beliefs.

You see, so many people argue that Jesus was a good man, a good teacher who just got caught up in a load of events that unfortunately led to his death. According to them, he was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. People have said that his death shouldn’t have happened. It just got out of control. A bad accident.

I would suggest that these people get stuck into their Bible a bit before coming out with such comments. It is clear through all the gospels that the Easter weekend is going to happen. Jesus states he will die on more than one occasion and these events of Holy Week show not only that Jesus knows what is going to happen but that he is letting it happen. Do you not think that, if he wanted to, he could have told the disciples to carry on fighting the guards while he legged it out of the Garden of Gethsemane by another route? Do you not think that the man who uttered two words to still a violent storm a few months earlier could have ordered a tree to fall on the guards that Thursday night, if he had wanted to? This man of miracles could have done numerous things to stop these mere mortals, if it were just a human plot to get him killed. But ultimately it was not just the humans that were behind this mind-boggling event. Yes, their motives were real and they did get him killed but they were simply part of a bigger thing. The Bible is bursting to show us that Easter week was God’s plan. It was all part of God’s perfect purposes for the redemption of his people.

So what was God’s plan? Why did Jesus have to die?

That’s next week’s R.E. lesson.