Good Friday. The world darkens a bit today as many remember Jesus’ crucifixion. Many remember it as a horrible event that happened a couple thousand years ago so that they could be saved. For more than a few believers, Good Friday is problematic. We are an Easter people so why do we need to come to the cross and contemplate sin and death? Part of the answer is that Easter doesn’t happen, can’t happen, if there is no Good Friday. It’s what happened long ago and what continues to happen now. We can’t be Easter people singing alleluias if we deny the suffering in the world.
We’re uncomfortable contemplating the cross today because Jesus is still being crucified today and we don’t want to think about it. We can say we pray for places like Brussels and Paris. We can say that terrorism is awful and needs to end. Then we go on with our lives failing to recognize Christ in our neighbors. As long as there is violence, sexism, racism, bigotry, homophobia, and the mistreatment of those who are poor, who are mentally ill, and all those who are somehow different from us, Jesus will continue to hang on a cross right before our eyes.
It’s easy for us to condemn the disciples for scattering from the cross, for denying Jesus, for barely being able to watch from a distance. Yet, when we do this, when we fool ourselves into thinking that we would not abandon Jesus, we deceive ourselves. Every time we fail to stand with those who suffer, every time we fail to speak words of love, every time we fail to reach out in compassion, we turn away from the cross and deny Jesus.
The very same fear, anger, and aggression that allowed Jesus to be crucified exists in us. We all have the capacity to shout “Crucify him!” right along with that crowd. We do it all the time. It happens when we think or say that someone “got what they deserved” or when we blame the victim of violence or racism or tragedy for their circumstances. It’s ugly when we continue to crucify Christ and then turn away.
Fortunately, even crucifixion does not destroy God’s love for humanity. If we can tolerate sitting at the cross before running to the tomb, we have opportunity to examine the face of forgiveness. A God who is willing to die a gruesome and painful human death, is a God who loves beyond our capacity to imagine. If we can hold the tension between the horror of crucifixion and the amazing love of Christ, it might become possible for us to face ourselves.
Sitting at the foot of the cross is a good position in which to evaluate life. It’s not hard to feel the pain and horror of crucifixion; it’s on the news daily. The challenge is to sit with it long enough to recognize where we participate in it and longer still for the goodness to come through. In the moments of deepest pain, the veil between God and humanity is torn in two. Something new can happen. Human beings do not have to continue the ancient story of violence, fear, anger, and more violence. Love can step in and bear witness to the suffering, hold vigil, until new life emerges.
The crucifixion was not a means of salvation. It was a demonstration of Love. If we want to know how to deal with the sin that is in us and around us, the answer is right in front of us. Love. Love enough to risk pain, suffering, and death. Love enough to speak peace to power. Love enough to embody Christ. This is the Good in this Friday.