Easter Sunday this year is on 1st April – quite early in the spring. Because of our particularly cold winter, the daffodils are a bit late in blooming in our gardens but they are coming out now just in time for Easter. These spring flowers are natural and beautiful symbols of the new life which is at the heart of the Easter message.
On the road to Easter Sunday we journeyed through Lent which led us to Good Friday and to get to the sunlight of the garden of Resurrection we had to first pass through the shadow of the cross of Calvary. In his first epistle – the apostle Peter, who denied knowing Jesus on the night of his arrest, writing several years after this denial gets to the very heart of the reason why we call the day Jesus was crucified, ‘Good’ Friday.
“Above all love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
(1 Peter 4:8)
Peter was no casual observer of Jesus; he travelled with him for three years – and in all that time he saw no flaws in Jesus, but rather proof after proof that Jesus was the one the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to – the Messiah. Nothing less than God in human flesh. Jesus was perfect in love and action; healing, forgiving, kind, compassionate, choosing to face death itself, even the horror of death on a cross in order to cover over our sins with his love.
That quite simply is the Good News of Good Friday – our sins have been covered over by Jesus’ love. As the late Johnny Cash put it in the trailer for his 1971 film of the life of Jesus, “The Gospel Road” – “His darkest day has become our brightest.”
But we can only see the brightness of Good Friday through the window of Easter Sunday. Jesus’ resurrection is the certain proof that Good Friday was a victory and not a defeat. In the first three months of this year, sadly, I seem to have conducted more funerals than in most previous years. A prayer I use at funeral services beautifully encapsulates the hope, assurance and promise of both Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
“God our Father, we thank you that Jesus came to die for us and rise again. His cross declares your love to be without limit; his resurrection, that death itself is defeated. By his victory we are assured of the promise that you will never leave us or forsake us; that neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come, can ever separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.” (URC Service Book)