Good Friday is recognized annually on the Friday before Easter Sunday. nuCamp offices are closed on Friday, April 7, in honor of this day. Today, we reflect on the meaning of Good Friday and explore its importance in Amish culture.
Reuben Shetler, a former team member at nuCamp, shares an anecdote of what Good Friday means to the Amish community. nuCamp was founded on Amish principles, and the culture has significantly shaped nuCamp and its core values. We hope you enjoy this narrative and wish you a safe and happy Easter.
The morning was chilly and gray. The Amish congregation was gathered in the basement of the house on the hill. The weak light of the overhead natural gas lights flickered on their songbooks as the mournful hymns rose into the air. It appeared to be a typical Amish church service, but there was one significant difference. Today was not Sunday. It was Friday.
The ministers filed through the door, joining the congregation after their council meeting in a small, adjacent shed. The song reached its conclusion, and the black songbooks snapped shut. Then the minister rose in the center aisle. He gazed solemnly over the people. His gentle face, framed with a big white beard, was reverent.
“Today is Good Friday,” he began. “We are gathered together to worship on this holy day. So why do we recognize this day? What is so good about Good Friday?”
* * * * *
The story goes back two thousand years. It was a gray morning, just like this one. There had been a trial. A local man had been convicted of a crime. The accusation was this man had blasphemed. He had claimed to be the Son of God.
The Jewish leaders had been infuriated with this man for quite some time. He had been creating a disturbance in the countryside around Jerusalem. He had been preaching and supposedly doing miracles by healing people. Thousands had flocked to him to hear his message. The man had created a following, and that was a problem. Some even said he was the Messiah God had promised throughout the Scriptures!
The Jewish leaders thought they knew better. The Messiah they were expecting would not be an uneducated carpenter whose biggest claim to fame was showing benevolence to the common people. The true Son of God would be mighty in power and glory and would free them from the oppressive Romans. This man didn’t remotely resemble a victorious liberator. In fact, he tolerated the Romans.
The biggest gripe the Jewish leaders had with this man was he openly condemned their rituals and traditions. He claimed they were hypocrites, seeking to glorify themselves instead of God. He said they showed no compassion for the poor and destitute.
The leaders often gritted their teeth. How dare this man hurl such accusations at God’s chosen priesthood? He was an imposter, a troublemaker, and certainly not the Son of God!
Now, this morning, they had finally convicted him. Thanks to a lead from one of his very disciples, they had apprehended him in the night and brought him before their court. The sentence had been delivered— death.
The Jewish council brought the man before the Roman governor and convinced him to agree with their verdict. The governor had his soldiers rough up the man with mocking and a few beatings. Troublemakers, especially those who attract large, passionate crowds, must be used as an example. The man was severely whipped, then he was condemned to die the most painful death of all. He was to be crucified.
* * * * *
The Amish minister looked at the people, his eyes brimming with tears. “What these people didn’t understand was this lowly, humble man — who they thought was such a troublemaker — truly was the Son of God. And the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind was about to be made.”
* * * * *
There was nothing remarkable about the crucifixion that Friday morning. The Romans crucified people all the time. A terrible, gut-wrenching scene to witness, to be sure, but quite common.
There were three significant occurrences, however, when they nailed this man to the wooden cross. First, as they pounded the stakes through his hands, he audibly prayed for their forgiveness. Secondly, as he hung in utter agony, the sky became dark and ominous, almost as if it were night. Finally, when the man died, an earthquake shook the city. Rocks burst in two, and the curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom.
These events were mysterious, but the soldiers and religious leaders shrugged them off. They had taken care of business. In their minds, this rebel was gone forever.
* * * * *
The Amish minister wrung his hands. “So that is what happened on Good Friday. It seemed like a dark, dark day. So why do we call it good? What good could possibly have come out of this tragic event?”
He paced down the aisle, and every face was riveted on him. The minister paused, and his eyes shone with a new light. “If that were the end of the story, no one would remember it today. But what happened two days later is what makes Good Friday good! Jesus rose from the grave and is alive today. The Son of God could not be contained by death. Instead, He used it to save us. A death that had seemed like a bitter defeat was truly a glorious victory!
“The Jewish leaders thought they were in control, but God’s plan was unfolding. The death of His Son was planned — the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Now, we can have hope! Now, we can achieve the power to live victorious over sin.”
The minister returned to his original spot and looked over the people with love. “Sometimes, we go through a time when everything seems dark. We feel defeated. Everything looks hopeless, and it seems we’ve hit a dead end.”
The people leaned forward, and the minister’s voice rose to a triumphant shout. “My friends, let us never underestimate God’s plan! He works in ways that human minds can’t comprehend. He takes darkness and turns it into light. He takes defeat and turns it into victory. He takes death and turns it into life! God can take any mess, I repeat, ANY mess, and turn it into something good.”
The minister’s voice became soft, and a tear trickled down his cheek. “And that is why today is called Good Friday.”