Focus – Black Friday Is Good Friday

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Anne Pickup

By Major Anne Pickup – 

“I can die better than you can,” were the words of the 133 Salvationists who drowned at sea in the sinking of the Canadian Pacific liner, Empress of Ireland. It was May 29, 1914, a day that would thereafter be remembered as “Black Friday.”

The Empress of Ireland had set sail for England from Quebec, Canada. On board were 200 Salvationists destined for London and the 1914 International Congress. As the ship left harbor it sailed into a dense fog. While still in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, only a few hours from shore, another ship rammed the Empress of Ireland.

As the ship was sinking, it was discovered there were not enough life preservers for all the passengers. As this horrible reality echoed through the boat, Salvationists began taking off their life preservers and putting them on passengers with the words, “I can die better than you can.” Black Friday was a day Salvationists were able to witness to their relationship with Jesus and the hope offered through salvation.

During this Lenten season, a time of prayer, fasting, self-denial and repentance, when we focus on the cross, we can almost hear Jesus say, “I can die better than you can.”

Hebrews 9 says, “For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it…this is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you. According to the Law, without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin…so Christ was sacrificed to take away the sins of many people.”

These verses remind us that sin had to be atoned for by the shedding of blood. For centuries it was the blood of an unblemished lamb. As Jesus was nailed to the cross, pierced to the heart with a spear, the atoning blood was that of the Lamb of God. The last great sacrifice was a sinless Jesus who says to us, “I can die better than you can.” Knowing we would perish from our sin, Jesus gave us the best life preserver­himself!

In a memorial service prior to the International Congress, Royal Albert Hall in London was filled to capacity with mourning Salvationists who looked on 133 vacant chairs, each draped with a white sash emblazoned with a crimson cross and crown. Just as those chairs remained empty, so today the tomb of Jesus stands empty. Because of a cross, made crimson by the blood of Jesus, we are promised a crown in heaven.

On a black Friday nearly 2000 years ago, which we now call Good Friday, Jesus died a good death. He died, shed his blood, and so became the final atoning sacrifice for sin. As we consider the hope offered through this sacrifice we realize how such a dreadful, painful, awful day, could be called “good.”

Precious Lamb by God appointed,
All our sins on thee were laid;
By almighty love anointed,
Thou hast full atonement made.
All thy people are forgiven
Through the virtue of thy blood,
Opened is the gate of Heaven,
Peace is made ‘twixt man and God.
John Bakewell

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