Part 6 of our Easter Freestyle Series
By Zephaniah Associate & Founder of Parable Arts Jon Buckeridge
Good Friday has always seemed a strangely insensitive name for a day so wracked with pain. I’ve never considered it likely that any of the people there at the time would have named the day “good”, so there must have come a strange point in history where this suddenly became the accepted vernacular and our mourning process was neatly scheduled for us, the day before. “That’s it, folks, get your sadness out of the way on Thursday; no grieving or mourning will be permitted after 12am. Come Friday it’s time to move on to seeing how good this all is!”
Perhaps this is just my own flawed and fallible faith-journey but I struggle to see how anyone, in the face of such horrific brutality and enveloped by the crushing realisation of inevitable death, could possibly keep their eyes on the good of the situation. From my reading of the Bible it strikes me that most of the disciples had missed the point of Jesus’ plans and teachings time and again and no matter how clearly he spelled it out (“OK guys, it rhymes with ‘Smooshifixion’!”) they still didn’t see this coming. So utterly were they convinced that Jesus would lead a crusading revolution to restore Israel’s glory that seeing his death must have seemed like the end, not just of a life, but a dynasty; a dream; a destiny.
All of this leads me to ask, where’s the “good” in this? Oh I know the real answer, I am so thankful for the work of the cross in my life, on a daily basis, but the label “good” seems to infer that the bad doesn’t matter, or that we’re not to focus on it. It was a fleeting flash-in-the-pan, before the glory to follow… Try telling that to Mary, at the foot of the cross. One of the greatest sins of Christendom is to tell the story of Jesus in such a way that it loses the raw, visceral realism it was founded on; we believe this is about real people in a real time and real circumstances but we tell their stories as dispassionately as a children’s book, and in doing so we rob it of its relevance and resonance.
This time last year I was fortunate enough to be asked to direct a Black-Country-wide passion play called Good Friday, using community actors from churches all over the region. It was a musical production written by some incredibly talented folks from one of the local churches, with a whole host of professional musicians and artist, like myself, coming together to build the production for the actors to perform. Now those who know me will know I have a strongly-professed hatred of musical-theatre, and all its works, and I am convinced the world would be better off if Andrew Lloyd Webber had decided to become a solicitor. However, I leaped at the chance to get involved in this production; not only because I love working with non-professional actors and helping them to discover and hone their performance potential, but because this was a chance to lift the story of good Friday off the page and bring it back to life. As actors and performers we strive for emotional realism and authenticity – even musical-theatre performers. We want to present real people in real moments, and we want to invite the audience to explore those moments with them.
In directing this production I was brought into those events all the more. I saw Mary’s wrenching desolation, Peter’s fearful shame, Judas’ regretful confusion. All these things, and more, became real for me; real people going through real emotions and real confusion, faced with real fear and real doubt. For me (and I hope for the audience as well) I was plunged into the all-too-human events of a day that was anything but good, and the story became far more than just words.
Now, as I said, I know the actual reason why Good Friday is named as such but, as with much of life, it’s the examples of going through hard times that teach us some of our most powerful lessons. This Good Friday there will be people who are struggling to see the good in their own lives; who are so weighed down by the trials and tribulations of their journey that Good Friday seems to be nothing short of an ironic slap in the face. For those people a time where Christendom places an expectation of celebration can seem like a burden and obligation they are shamed to fall short of reaching, “I know I should feel good, but that’s just not where I am right now. I have failed.” The Bible teaches us we should praise God in all things, and approach Him with thanksgiving, but praise doesn’t always mean happy, and thanksgiving doesn’t always mean joyful. The Bible also teaches us there is a time for all things, and that sadness and mourning are parts of life we must shuffle through as much as we stride through the good times, and it’s not wrong to be in that place now. Jesus was a real person who went through real pain, so believe me when I say that He can draw close to you in yours. Perhaps, for you, your praise is “thank you for being here with me in this.” Perhaps, for you, your thanksgiving is “thank you that you understand.” But above all things, the message of Good Friday teaches all of us that our prayer can always be “thank you that the pain will pass, and you will be there on the other side, just as you are here now.”
Jon Buckeridge – Parable Arts