We had just returned from the store, laden with cardboard cartons of gleaming white eggs waiting to be transformed by a swim in multicolored dyes which I knew would, as always, leave our fingers similarly hued for the obligatory Easter morning pictures just around the corner.
"Why is it called Good Friday?" My youngest looked up with a quizzical face, that one with the furrowed eyebrows and puckered lips that reminded me how often the world was confusing to him. He'd been hearing the stories in Sunday school and there had been a few picture books at home, but still it made no sense to him. Why did we call it Good, this day we remembered that our Friend, Jesus, had been nailed to a cross and left there until finally, He died? Why Good, that He had been betrayed by someone who should have been trustworthy, abandoned by His friends (who were, rightfully, I suppose, fearful for their own lives), taunted and mocked by the Roman authorities who'd been asked to put Him to their cruelest punishment?
Sometimes, the Good of Friday isn't visible 'til Sunday.
Smiling, I draw him into the circle of my arm and pull him onto my lap, reminded that particular trick won't work for much longer as one of my older sons walked across the room, the six-foot mark on the wall long past. "Sweetheart, remember how we've read that way back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve disobeyed, God's heart was broken? How sin separated them from Him--how it made them hide, and how now all of us find ourselves just like them--how we want to hide from God every time we do something wrong, because we know we can't really be with Him when we have disobeyed? How we keep finding ourselves breaking His rules and not doing what we were made to do?"
He nods, still not understanding. Pondering (and possibly stalling, truth be told), I take another deep breath. "Jesus was born here on earth to live life the way we were supposed to. He always did what His Father told Him to do. He never disobeyed. He was always patient. He loved people. He did miracles and walked on water and taught the truth about God. Then He was killed, and we know the whole sky went dark for many hours and there was even an earthquake. It was like the whole world was crying."
He's looking down at his hands in his lap, furrows in his forehead only deepening, and his eyes look sad.
It takes me a minute to collect my thoughts, to figure out what I want to say, how not to botch this beautiful story for this precious little mind. Why doesn't motherhood come with a theology degree?
Finally, I wrap my mind around one piece I can explain, even if it's not eloquent : "But, sweetheart, do you know what Jesus said before He died? He said, 'It is finished.' And He was probably talking about a lot of things--His time of ministry on earth was finished, and His hours of suffering on the cross were finished. But the reason we call it Good Friday is that when He died, the work of paying for our sins was finished. Now we don't have to be separated from God anymore, because Jesus died. He was perfect and Him dying was enough to pay for all the sin that had ever happened or would ever happen, and that meant we could be free to live in peace with God again."
He nods, maybe a tiny bit of my explanation making sense.
"And then on Sunday, remember what happened?" He nods again, and I take note that we should probably go for haircuts before that picture gets taken. "He rose from the dead. He wasn't there when they went to the tomb."
"Exactly! And that proved the "Good" part. Jesus was so good--He was God! And He was so powerful, and so in charge of everything, that He rose from the dead. They tried to kill Him and get rid of Him, but it didn't work. In fact, the plan the devil had to defeat Jesus got turned right on its head."
His smile is back, and he's ready to move on. He gives me a final nod before running off to hunt down the plastic eggs I know are still in a box somewhere waiting to be filled with this year's chocolate and jelly beans.
Sinking back into the cushions, I take a deep breath in and let it out slow. Thank You, God. For that freckle faced boy. For the ham and bananas and cream in the fridge and the dye sure to be spilled all over my good table in just a few minutes, our fingers left green and pink and blue, stained with the grace of this season.
Good Friday, indeed.