Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Not So Good For Some People

It is Good Friday, and I am reminded of a time some years ago when I was in the Philippines on a short term mission trip during the Holy Week. In the area we were ministering in, the religion was a distortion of Catholicism--which involved a mystical worship of El nino de Cristo--the Christ-child. During our time in Naga City there were massive crowds and parades of blank-faced observers marching through the streets carrying man-made statues dressed up in royal clothes, portraying saints, Mary, and Jesus himself. The sight was an eerie one to behold--it seemed to be a tired tradition embedded into their society by demons. They had the story right--Jesus, born as a child, living a perfect life, dying on the cross, raising from the dead, ascending into heaven--but they had the application all wrong.

The most gut-wrenching spectable came when I saw two filipino men with sackcloth bags over their heads. They would take a single step, whip themselves with a cat-of-nine-tails over their their right should so the whip would connect on the middle of their back. Then, they'd take another step, with their other foot, and whip themselves again over the other shoulder. They were shirtless, and their backs had been torn up--blood poured down and soaked into their jean shorts. With every step came a new flogging. And they did this for an entire mile.

I was dumbstruck when I saw what they were doing. In my curiousity, I got close. A little too close--blood spattered onto my white shirt.

This was the most gruesome thing I saw on the trip. But that's just because we weren't allowed to go see the crucifixions.

That's right. Every year on Good Friday about 25 men voluntarily crucify themselves. It is no show. The nails really go through the hands. And the feet. And they hang there for 15 minutes before coming down. Here's an article on one of them.

I kept asking why when I was there, witnessing the self-mutilation. I wondered why they would do such a thing.

The answer comes in their crucial unfortunate understanding of Christ's atonement. They have no hymn called "Jesus Paid it All" because he didn't. There is still leftover sin that needs to be atoned for. They're caught in the same curse as the Galatians when Paul rebuked them:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"...

Jesus' death was enough. That's how we can call the Friday that Jesus was brutally tortured a good Friday--because he paid it all then and there.

Have a Good Friday!

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