A question that’s often asked is, “Why is Good Friday good?” From an irreligious perspective, it’s a day commemorating the execution of a peaceful, innocent man by a domineering, colonizing empire. From a Christian perspective, it’s the day that our savior died. So what exactly, then, makes it good?
I think we can find the answer in an unexpected place, at the bookends of The Ancient Magus Bride, episodes one and twenty-four.
The opening to the series is one of the most intriguing first episodes of anime. What could lead this young woman, Chise, to resign herself to slavery, to be sold off to the highest bidder, and one that could possibly experiment on her in most unnatural ways? Chise is the picture of utter loneliness, pain, and despair, of a heart without hope. She’s a picture of us when we chase after the wind, whether it be our own plans and desires or someone else’s. Ultimately, we chase after hollow things and are left empty, and not only that, but we’re left marred by the choices we make.
Elias, of course, rescues Chise and makes quite a dashing savior, and one, also, that resembles Christ. Chise’s resignation represents where we are on Friday: beaten, defeated, hopeless. Elias, who not only buys Chise but purchases her at great price, before proceeding to make her his bride and bringing her into his family and home, shows where we are on Sunday, when hope has been restored, when we have been restored.
The price, indeed, is great, and it demonstrates the goodness of God and the goodness of this day. In episode 24, Chise now represents Christ, the kind elder brother, and offers hope to Joseph, who has lived centuries in pain, while also living those years by inflicting torture upon others. In fact, he hurts Chise, too, using her as he has others and eventually piercing her body through. Little does he know that his killing blow will be used by Chise as part of her plan to redeem him.
In the lowest of moments, when all seems lost and Chise is about to lose to Joseph, her plan comes into focus. Ruth, who has also been saved, jumps into the fray and Joseph loses the battle, all while falling into something he needed and desperately wanted, even though he’d long fought it: peace.
Just as it seems Chise will lose in her clash with Joseph, on Good Friday, it looks as if Jesus has lost. He is executed, dying an excruciating death and then buried in the earth. But that’s all part of God’s plan, one that would be painful, which Christ even would rather have avoided, but which ultimately paved the way for Sunday, for his resurrection and ours, too.
Just as with Chise, just as with Joseph, our condition is created by our bad choices, by a fallen world, simply by circumstances, and it leads to Friday, but Friday is not the end. Friday is good, for it is just the beginning.