Friday, 6 April 2012

What’s so good about Good Friday?

I wasn’t sure what to write my blog on this week, but seeing as it’s Good Friday, I thought I’d see how people around the world are marking the occasion. Some of the stories I found were pretty shocking...

In the Philippines, 17 Catholics have been 'crucified' in a re-enactment of the death of Jesus. Apparently this ritual has been going for 26 years and attracts thousands of people each year.

Nails are driven into the participants’ hands and feet in a bid to atone for their sins or to give thanks for ‘miracles’. However, the Catholic Church has condemned the practice. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus meant when he told his disciples they were to take up their cross and follow him (Luke 9:23).

In Trinidad and Tobago the tradition is to hang effigies of Judas Iscariot on telephone poles. These effigies, known as bobolees, represent Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. In rural areas these bobolees are often attacked and disfigured as a punishment for his actions.

In more positive news, $3.4 million had already been raised for Melbourne’s Royal Children's Hospital Good Friday Appeal by 3pm in Australia. The charity is hoping to beat last year’s total of $15.1 million. The money will be used to buy much-needed machinery that can be used to provide both MRI and PET scans.

Meanwhile, Catholics in Cuba are celebrating Good Friday with more rigour than usual this year as the communist country agreed to mark the special day with a public holiday. Despite the fact that religious holidays were cancelled in Cuba after the 1959 revolution, and fewer than 10% of Cubans are practising Catholics, it seems the recent visit of Pope Benedict has had an impact.

In the UK there were several stories of marches being carried out to mark the day of Jesus’ death, but other than that it can often feel like any other day – apart from the fact we get the day off of course. Will people spend time remembering what Jesus achieved on the cross or is it just another holiday for gorging ourselves on chocolate and booze?

Considering the incredible sacrifice Jesus made, we should go out of our way to celebrate his death and resurrection. Why not invite someone to your Easter Sunday service, or arrange for people to come round and watch The Passion of the Christ? Or even just post on Facebook what Easter means to you…

Easter isn’t be about self-crucifixion, revenge or even raising money (although there's nothing wrong with this), but about the forgiveness, healing and freedom Jesus provided for us when he gave his life in our place.

John 3:16-17 says: "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

“God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again” (The Message).

Read more from Joy in the next issue of Sorted magazine.

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