Spurgeon: Good Friday is No Funeral
Charles Spurgeon wasn’t too hip on the whole Good Friday idea. In his opinion, too many people ignored the church until “Holy Week,” a week so sacred that attendance on Good Friday and Easter atoned for neglecting the church for the remainder of the calendar year. In this way Good Friday became, in his words, “a superstitious ordinance of man.” It was too rote, too structured, too formalized. “The kind of religion which is ordered by the Almanac, weeping on Good Friday, and rejoicing two days afterwards, measuring its motions by the moon, is too artificial to be worthy of my imitation.”
Yet for all his criticisms, Spurgeon hosted Good Friday services at the Tabernacle. So how did he approach those services? Sermon no. 2248, “Sad Fasts Changed to Glad Feasts,” gives us a glimpse into his thinking.
The Lord of life and glory was nailed to the accursed tree. He died by the act of guilty men. We, by our sins, crucified the Son of God.
We might have expected that, in remembrance of his death, we should have been called to a long, sad, rigorous fast. Do not many men think so even today? See how they observe Good Friday, a sad, sad day to many; yet our Lord has never enjoined our keeping such a day, or bidden us to look back upon his death under such a melancholy aspect.
Instead of that, having passed out from under the old covenant into the new, and resting in our risen Lord, who once was slain, we commemorate his death by a festival most joyous. It came over the Passover, which was a feast of the Jews; but unlike that feast, which was kept by unleavened bread, this feast is brimful of joy and gladness. It is composed of bread and of wine, without a trace of bitter herbs, or anything that suggests sorrow and grief. …
The memorial of Christ’s death is a festival, not a funeral; and we are to come to the table with gladsome hearts and go away from it with praises, for “after supper they sang a hymn” [Matt 26:30, Mark 14:26].
Scholars believe the disciples would have closed their Passover-turned-Lord’s-Supper gathering with a hymn taken from the joy-filled Hallel Psalms (113–118), perhaps even the majestic Psalm 136. Thus we see that for Spurgeon Good Friday, like any celebration of the Savior’s death in the Lord’s Supper, was a proper and suitable context for worship, joy, and gladness.
I think we can safely assume loud, joyful singing could be heard in the streets as the Spurgeon’s Good Friday service came to a close. In Spurgeon’s mind, Good Friday was no funeral.