Good Friday Is No Funeral

 

Charles Spurgeon was no fan of Good Friday. Too many people in his day ignored the church until “Holy Week,” a week so sacred that attendance on Good Friday and Easter apparently atoned for neglecting the church for the remainder of the calendar year. (Sound familiar?)

In this way Good Friday became, in his words, “a superstitious ordinance of man” — too rote, too structured, too formalized. Good Friday became a day when human emotions were forced, like a performance art, to impress Rome, “the kind of religion which makes itself to order by the Almanack, and turns out its emotions like bricks from a machine, weeping on Good Friday, and rejoicing two days afterwards, measuring its motions by the moon, is too artificial to be worthy of my imitation.”

In sermon 2248, prior to communion, he elaborated.

The Lord of life and glory was nailed to the accursed tree. He died by the act of guilty men. We, by our sins, crucified the Son of God.

We might have expected that, in remembrance of his death, we should have been called to a long, sad, rigorous fast. Do not many men think so even today? See how they observe Good Friday, a sad, sad day to many; yet our Lord has never enjoined our keeping such a day, or bidden us to look back upon his death under such a melancholy aspect.

Instead of that, having passed out from under the old covenant into the new, and resting in our risen Lord, who once was slain, we commemorate his death by a festival most joyous. It came over the Passover, which was a feast of the Jews; but unlike that feast, which was kept by unleavened bread, this feast is brimful of joy and gladness. It is composed of bread and of wine, without a trace of bitter herbs, or anything that suggests sorrow and grief. . . .

The memorial of Christ’s death is a festival, not a funeral; and we are to come to the table with gladsome hearts and go away from it with praises, for “after supper they sang a hymn” [Matt 26:30, Mark 14:26].

A number of scholars believe the disciples would have closed their Passover-turned-Lord’s-Supper gathering with a hymn taken from the joyful Hallel Psalms (113–118), perhaps even a majestic one like Psalm 136. Similarly, for Spurgeon Good Friday, like any celebration of the Savior’s death in the Lord’s Supper, was a proper and suitable context for worship, joy, and gladness.

In Spurgeon’s mind, Good Friday was no funeral.

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