There’s a reason they call the forty days preceding Christ’s Crucifixion “Great Lent.” There’s a reason they call the period from Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem to His victorious death on the Cross “the Passion.” It is part of the triumvirate of Christian seasons which make possible our redemption.
Yet, Great Lent and the Passion are the most difficult seasons to enjoy. It is easy to enjoy the Incarnation. It is easy to enjoy the Resurrection. But, to enjoy the Crucifixion? For most of us, that takes work.
Nevertheless, we ought (eerily) enjoy it as much as we enjoy the other two. For, without Good Friday, Christmas is pointless. And without Good Friday, there could be no Easter.
Good Friday is hard. We have a natural aversion to death and tend to deal with it at arm’s length. This aversion is further complicated by the fact that the Death of Jesus is a death of One Whom we claim to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world. Beyond our fear of death, the Crucifixion and Good Friday call us to confront that fear compounded by the complexity of the “Death of God.”
So, we brush past Good Friday. We accept it as part of the reality that Friday must come in the cycle of days. Yet, do we accept it as the day our Lord was Crucified?
Yes, we all acknowledge that Jesus was crucified. Yet, many times it seems like a passing thought. I mean, we’ve changed versions of the Nicene Creed to read: “He suffered death, and was buried,” or “He suffered and was buried,” while older versions emphasized that “He suffered, died and was buried.”* As I explain to my son, the importance for this three-way division is clear: Jesus did not simply suffer death. Neither did He simply suffer, being buried without death. Jesus suffered. Jesus died. Jesus was buried.
Yes, Mel Gibson’s movie [amazon_link id=”B00028HBKM” target=”_blank” ]The Passion of the Christ[/amazon_link], is difficult to watch at times – especially the scenes after Jesus’ betrayal. But the movie renders an appropriate depiction of what we call Good Friday. And to truly appreciate the awesomeness of Easter, we must watch the difficult drama that is Good Friday.
We Must Look at Good Friday
Our natural aversion to death compels us to turn away from that scene. And in turning away, we wish Good Friday to quickly pass. Naturally, our desire is to move from Hosanna (i.e. “Save Now!” aka Palm Sunday) to Easter – ignoring Good Friday. Yet, Good Friday stares us in the face even if we cannot confront it ourselves. From the third hour of His being nailed to the Cross to the twelfth hour of Christ being laid in the Tomb, we are confronted by the goodness of Good Friday. For nine hours (an ironic parallel to the nine month gestation period for humanity) the Redeemer of Humanity worked our rebirth. Shall we avert our eyes from the spectacle and miss the embodiment of hope that is Good Friday and the Crucifixion?
Rather, beloved, we ought look Good Friday square in the face! Through the vile expression of humanity at its absolute worst, we see the gracious expression of the Divine at His best. Because of this expression, we can have hope that as humanity continues to act at its worst God continues to act at His best.
Yes, we are still confronted with the tyranny of human degradation. We are still left with the examples of the religious and government elite forsaking Truth for the sake of the beloved status quo. Yet, Good Friday reminds us that if we do not betray Jesus with our kisses (and professions of love) as did Judas, we can – today – be with the Lord in Paradise!
Good Friday reminds us that even though humanity and human institution might feast upon itself, there is a balm in Gilead to heal our sin-sick soul.
We must not seek to quickly bypass Good Friday and run to the Resurrection. For if we do, we will ultimately miss the Resurrection. More than simply the raising up of our Savior from the dead, the Resurrection is our opportunity for “Tewahedo”: to be reconciled and made one with the Divine and with each other.
If we miss Good Friday, we miss the Resurrection. And, if we miss the Resurrection we are doomed to repeat the Crucifixion. And, looking at the way we treat each other – human to human, and worse, Christian to Christian – it is easy to bear witness to that.
I do not say this to offend, but I am responding based upon what I’ve seen in popular culture and my own social media feeds. So, we are left with this question: why is it so hard for us to face Good Friday and the Crucifixion? Is it simply our natural aversion to death? Is it our desire to not confront the “Death of God?” Is there another reason? Do you think my generalization is completely out of place? What would you say?
* Note: The original Greek uses the word “πάσχω” (pascho) – to suffer, which in Luke 22 was used in the absolute sense, i.e. to “suffer death.” For more, see: http://www.maristmessenger.co.nz/2012/09/01/suffered-death-in-the-new-creed/