The wind in my face was bitterly cold in downtown Dallas a few years ago. My continuing education classes had ended at the seminary in nearby Ft. Worth, so the afternoon was free for some sightseeing.
A chill came over me independent of the temperature when I walked onto Dealey Plaza and saw firsthand those sights emblazoned in my memory: Elm Street, the triple overpass and the sixth floor window.
I thought back to that terrible Friday in November, 1963. Our class had just returned from lunch when Mr. Vines, our principal, made an announcement on the intercom.
“Boys and girls,” he said, “some of you may’ve heard already that our president’s been shot. Let’s try to finish out the day in school and I’ll let you know the latest news when I hear more.”
Nevertheless, the senseless death of President Kennedy so paralyzed us that I don’t remember our doing much work in school that Friday afternoon. I remember being glued to the television throughout the weekend and during the funeral on Monday.
That Friday in November will live in the bad memory section of my brain forever.
This week the world remembers another bleak Friday on which Jesus of Nazareth was murdered.
His death was senseless, too, for he’d done no wrong. In fact, bribed witnesses had to be brought in to lie about him at his trial. One of the thieves who died with him realized Jesus' innocence: “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong" (Luke 23: 41).
British writer Richard Jefferies told of a little boy who gazed at a graphic painting of Calvary and exclaimed, “If God had been there, he wouldn’t have let them do it!”
But God was there! He wasn't removed from the event at Calvary. Paul insisted “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19).
God was present at the cross, and he showed us that he loves us in spite of disobedience, that he offers forgiveness to all and that he wants to be our partner in building a life filled with hope.
God’s redemptive plan wasn’t completed on Friday. The Father was faithful to his son and raised him on the third day. Now God promises to welcome all his children on the other side of death.
In light of God’s ultimate plan we believers have renamed that awful Friday.
We call it Good Friday.
And so it is.