Slow Down, Be Sad

I was fairly young when Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood” passed away; however, I have my fair share of memories of the man and his show from my childhood. In recent years a number of movies and documentaries have come out about him, and one of the key things often highlighted about his philosophy was that his desire was not to simply stimulate children and move them on to the next thing in order to keep their attention; but instead, to empathize with them, experience life with them, and offer them a place to express a full gamut of emotions.

We would do well to follow his example in our worship and life with Christ, particularly on this Good Friday and Saturday between now and Easter. We often tend to skip straight to Sunday as Easter comes, but ancient Christian tradition has avoided this mistake. Like Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, the nature of the Christian Pre-Easter Season is one that allows time for a host of emotions, and this Good Friday, I want to suggest that grief, even with the imminence of Easter, is an appropriate, and even meaningful place to be.

So why slow down to mourn and grieve for these pre-Easter days? Let me offer you a few ways this may enhance your ability to worship…
  • What happened on Good Friday is legitimately sad to witness, and acknowledging that connects us to the person of Jesus. Because the Bible is not simply a rulebook or a map to Heaven, but a story, it presents to us events and people and emotions that should legitimately touch us. Telling stories doesn’t just give us principles, but rather it connects us to people. I think specifically of the moment that Jesus gives his mother’s care over to John (John 19:25-27). Sure,  There were plenty of monumental theological events taking place, but at that moment friends were also losing friends, and a mother was losing her son. When we are able to mourn on good Friday as we watch Jesus die, we connect with him as a person as opposed to a concept or principle, and grow closer to him. That’s worth doing.
  • Watching Jesus die forces us to wrestle with our sin. The Gospel writers employed a famous passage from Zechariah 12:10, “they will look on him who they have pierced” in order to help communicate the significance of what was happening. Watching the death of the Messiah was an important part of what needed to be done. It is a sobering event that causes mourning as we reflect on our own sin. Skipping to the resurrection is neat and tidy, but it often gets us off the hook of having to face the fact that we have made the world a bitter place where the Messiah must die. Mourning on good Friday allows us to do just that and seek repentance.
  • Mourning gives way to a sweeter rejoicing. Traditionally, Easter is preceded by a season of preparation: Lent and Passion week. Christians have often walked through this season by depriving themselves of things and mourning throughout. Why did/do they do this? Besides the reasons we have already mentioned, seasons of preparation like this bring an even greater significance to Easter. When a day of Feasting like Easter is preceded by a season of emptiness like lent and Passion week, the food that we went without tastes even better. Jesus’s resurrection is the most joyous event on our calendar, but a major reason hat it is that way is because this person who we came to love had died and was taken from us, but now returns victorious over death. The pain we experienced has been transformed.
To wrap things up, I want to suggest a few ways that you and your family can engage in a meaningful, worshipful mourning for the next day or two as Easter approaches...
  • Re-read the Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus ready to mourn, without rushing to the resurrection. We will get there soon, and it will be sweet, but for now, put yourself in the mind of those who were there, bear the emotions they felt, wrestle with your own responsibility, and sit in that for a day or two.
  • Fast. Skip a meal or something else as you think about the grief and fear the disciples must have felt. Would they have even been able to eat? Depriving ourselves of something gives us time to mourn and wrestle and pray, and as noted earlier, your Easter celebration and dinner will taste even better! (A physical embodiment of the celebration of Jesus’s resurrection).
  • Set aside time for silence and darkness. The Good Friday story is imbued with both of these things, and both give us chances to focus ourselves less on the noise of everyday and more on the loss of Jesus and what such a reality says about the brokenness of our world.
  • Let music bring out the emotions of what happened
    • Up on a Mountain” by The Welcome Wagon (
    • Good Friday” by Josh Garrels (
    • Pieta” by Joseph Martin (
    • The Golgotha Experience” by Poor Bishop Hooper
I’ve linked the final one below. It is an hour long “experience” of 14 songs that walk through the stations of the cross, and I would highly encourage you to find time for it as your read the Gospel this weekend.

Dan Vandzura