Every Good Friday, as I contemplate the death of Jesus, I think about the death of my own father, who died eight years ago of pancreatic cancer on Good Friday itself. It’s hard to think the timing of a loved one’s death could be good no matter when it is–and my father’s death was a great loss to our family–but I feel that God helped my family with the timing of my dad’s death in a big way.
Although I was across the country teaching high school at the time, I was able to be with my parents for a good portion of the three weeks that my dad knew he had cancer before he died. The reason for this is that he found out the diagnosis right before my spring break, so I could easily travel out of state to be with them through the first appointments and processing that went on as we turned to face the deadly threat of cancer. I could help them in small ways, and I could call on God for help with them. I went back home and left them for a week and a half, at the end of which the doctors were talking about hospice care, no more than days before the end. I flew back out there, once again only missing a few days of work because Good Friday and the day after Easter were scheduled days off school.
The timing was good when it came to me being able to be there with my parents as they faced death together, but the timing was even better because it was Good Friday, the day we remember Jesus dying on the cross. Every year now, Good Friday is that much more meaningful and poignant to me. I understand the gravity of Jesus’ death–I can picture His last breath in a way I couldn’t before. I feel the weight of it.
More importantly, though, two days later, on Easter morning, I was strongly embraced (the same way my dad used to hug me) by the hope that because of Jesus’ victory over death, my dad is alive in Heaven, as well. I picture him going on a walk with my sister, grandma, and brother-in-law, maybe even holding my miscarried child’s hand, my sister and sister-in-law’s miscarried children running alongside. That Easter, and every Easter since, filled me with a piercing, painful joy. Death has been defeated! I can say along with Paul, quoting from Hosea, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (I Cor. 15:55).
My worship leaders at church this past Easter chose a few songs this year with the words “He has overcome.” I was reminded once again: He HAS overcome the grave! And if He can overcome that, what stronghold can’t He overcome? He wears the victor’s crown!