Good Friday during Hanukkah

I want to do something different this week. I want to talk about the spiritual significance of this weekend. I don’t think I’ll ever forget a secret conversation I had with a Jewish woman about Good Friday.

My wife and I were visiting family during the holiday season. A very faithful Jewish family lived in our hometown. One Hanukkah season, they invited us to their house for a small reception. We were privileged to watch their family traditions as they lit the menorah and read from the Hebrew Scriptures. This gracious Jewish family offered us refreshments as their children opened gifts and sang traditional festival songs.

Sitting at the dining room table with this lovely Jewish couple, I could feel the warmth of their family traditions. The father left the table to play with his children as they enjoyed their new gifts. Waiting until her husband left the room, the mother moved closer to us and whispered a question.

It was evident by the woman’s body language and tone that she was taking a risk by asking this question. I’ll never forget the sincerity in her eyes as she looked at my wife and me and said, ”There’s something about your faith that I don’t understand. I have always wanted to ask this question.”

While looking toward her husband in the living room, she leaned closer and whispered, “I hope it’s not offensive, but can you explain why you Christians refer to the date your savior was murdered as ‘Good Friday’?”

The ultimate gift

Two things have stuck with me about this woman’s sincere question. First, This Jewish woman understood the basics of my faith better than most Christians. Second, it was apparent she had been longing to find the answer to this question for a long time.

To honor this woman’s risk by asking me this question in her home during the Hanukkah season, I leaned closer and whispered a simple answer to her sincere question.

I explained that it isn’t the murder of an innocent man that makes this date ‘good.’ Instead, it was what his death accomplished for people like me. 

Endgame

Lowering my voice so her husband wouldn’t hear my following words, I explained that Christians believe Jesus of Nazareth was God’s promised Messiah. We also believe that he became God’s Passover Lamb. Finally, I explained that Christians believe Jesus’s death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice to atone for our sins. 

What makes this day “Good Friday” is not what happened to Jesus, but what Jesus accomplished for us.

I explained to this lovely woman that sin brings separation from God and death.  Jesus’s sacrificial death on Good Friday allowed guilty sinners to have a clean record and a restored relationship with a Holy God.  At this point, I could see the light in her eyes. 

For the first time, she understood how God could use an innocent man’s death to accomplish the greatest thing in human history. 

The biggest day of the year

Unfortunately, her husband returned to the table, and we ended the evening with a polite conversation. I have often thought about this woman and our few moments of secret conversation at her dining room table. I wish I had more time to explain to her the results of that Good Friday and how it set the conditions for the biggest day of the year.

Christians believe that Easter Sunday is the most significant day in human history. Easter is the moment when Jesus demonstrated his absolute power over life and death by returning from the grave.

Although Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Independence Day are big moments for most American families, Easter is the most significant holiday by far for Christians.

Since death is guaranteed for all of us, this would be the most important news in human history if there is life after death. Jesus’s empty tomb is one of ancient history’s most verifiable facts. Virtually no credible historian argues that Jesus’s tomb wasn’t empty on Easter Sunday.

The honest arguments against the Christian faith are about what happened to his body.

If I’d had three more minutes with this Jewish mother, I would have used it to explain the connection between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. When someone understands the significance of Jesus’s sacrificial payment for human sin, and the eternal hope that his resurrection represents, it will radically change their life.

I hope this article has been a little Hanukkah gift for you this Good Friday.

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