Good Friday: a time of remembrance; sacred; set apart to ponder the weight of the cross. As my dad and I stood in the back row of the service, I remembered.
“Man of sorrows, Lamb of God,
Oh, for sinners slain!
The sin of man and wrath of God
Has been on Jesus laid.”
A feeling of indescribable gratefulness welled up inside, spilling out of my heart with the tears slipping quietly down my cheeks in the dark of the room. Oh God! I cried out inside. How could you die for me? Shame filled my heart, only to be pushed out the next moment when I heard the words:
“Now my debt is paid,
It is paid in full
By the precious blood
That my Jesus spilled.”
At that moment, I became aware of a loud voice singing out in full, heard above everything else. Heads began turning. I looked to see who they stared at. Suddenly, I shrank back—my dad stood, singing at the top of his lungs, full-voiced and free, oblivious to all else. I tried to become as small as possible, sliding the other way, embarrassed for both myself and him. His voice would occasionally swell to a high point, heads would start turning again, and I would look as if I did not know him. I have to admit, my first thought was to ask God to soften his voice. If it was keeping others from focusing of the cross, wouldn’t God do what I requested?
Needless to say, I suffered through the rest of that song, and gladly took my seat after it ended, welcoming the silence, yet dreading the coming of the next song, and hoping my dad wouldn’t know it. Suddenly, the words the pastor was reading struck me:
“He was wounded for our transgressions…like a sheep led to the slaughter, so he was silent…the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…”
Those words, simply spoken, reprimanded me with a sharp thought: Jesus suffered and died for me, though I had done everything to deserve his hate—he endured the cross and the shame and the separation and hatred of his father towards him—to save me! And here I was, suffering because I was ashamed of my father, worshiping God in front of everyone else. I missed the point!
After that, my heart became focused on the fullness of Jesus’ great sacrifice. Altogether, my experience this Good Friday was a time of true remembrance and worship. I think it’s the first time I have ever felt that way during any Good Friday service.
But the thing that set apart this Good Friday to me was not the songs or the frustration. It was observing what happened to a nine-year-old girl with a red face and tears running down her face at the end of the service.
We were asked to leave quietly as we contemplated what Jesus’ had done on the cross. Slowly, I made my way to the back and stood against the wall, watching the people around me, praying and worshipping God, thanking him for his great gift. My eye was caught by a Russian man from our church, talking to our college pastor. The pastor looked up, excited, and followed him over to his wife and little girl, who were praying next to the chairs. Now interested, I let my eyes rest on that group of four, humbly kneeling before the Lord in prayer.
Slowly, gradually, the realization dawned on me: that little girl was on the verge of trusting in Jesus.
Tears sprang to my eyes—they did more than that! They began flowing silently down my cheeks, unstoppable.
There is something beautiful in watching a nine-year-old girl, crying, sobbing, on her knees, utterly broken before her God. It is a miracle, brought about by the hand of God, that she could understand how broken she was, when so many miss that same realization. I could not help myself—I wept! I wept, knowing that God is good!
I don’t know how much time passed, but sometime later, my dad walked over to me and stood next to me. Now, I do not like to be seen in public crying—it embarrasses me, I don’t know why. But this time, I did not even attempt to wipe them from my face. Gesturing towards the praying family, I said, brokenly,
“I think she’s just about to accept Jesus as her Savior.”
“Yes,” he said, smiling. “I saw them, too.”
“Is that why you’re crying?”
I nodded again, tears still running uncontrollably down.
“I’m glad,” was all he said.
We paused in silence, watching them. Finally, my dad looked up at me.
“Do you want to go home?”
“I’m fine with that,” I answered, looking down. He understood.
“We can stay a bit longer.”
And then he walked off.
Thank you, Lord, I whispered—not because my dad left, but because God was so good in all things. That little girl’s heart would be clean, washed, white as snow.
As we later walked out the door and out to the car, we overheard that same man excitedly telling the lead pastor,
“We have something to tell you! My daughter just trusted in Jesus!”
That was all we heard, but it was enough. My dad smiled at me. I smiled back. Joy filled my heart as I remembered the song we last sang, how it’s words became true in that little girl’s life today:
“Jesus paid it all,
All to him I owe,
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow…
Oh praise the one who paid my debt
And raised this life up from the dead!”