April 10, 2009
On the somber occasion of Good Friday, it's a good idea to try to put oneself in the shoes of the followers of Jesus when he was being crucified, reminding ourselves of what it's all about. Observant Christians mark Holy Week by reciting biblical passages about Jesus Christ's last days, but after doing the same ritual for so many years, some of the drama wears off. Why? Because you know how the story is going to end, so it is hard to imagine the sense of utter and complete despair that they must have felt.
Some time back in the 1980s, I happened to see the movie It's a Wonderful Life for the first time. I had heard of it, but didn't know the plot, so as George Bailey's (Jimmy Stewart's) life kept going from bad to even worse, I was appalled by the (apparently) ironic contrast with the movie title. Feeling down and out at the time, I could relate to the cruel twists of fate suffered by the protagonist, so when the angel Clarence finally pulled the right spiritual strings to make everything right at the end, I had a deep emotional catharsis, even shedding tears. (!)
Now, if I had known how the movie would turn out, I never would have fully appreciated the ending, and the inspirational message would not have had nearly as great an impact on me. So it is with the story of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins: For most of us, it doesn't have such a big impact because we already know he will be resurrected on the third day. But just try to put yourself in the shoes of a non-Christian who is learning the Gospel for the first time, and who doesn't know the "ending to the story." It would be an overwhelming experience to go from being completely disconsolate to being completely happy.
Perhaps other people have other ways of focusing their minds and hearts so as to fully grasp the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection, experiencing the awe. It doesn't matter how you do it, it just matters that you make the effort to connect with our Creator, who gave his only son for the sake of our everlasting souls. It's the least we can do in return.