Happy Good Friday! Wow. That sounds weird. Happy Good Friday. Today, we remember the actual day Jesus was tortured and crucified. Nothing happy or good about that in and of itself. I remember watching the movie, “The Passion of Christ,” years ago and thinking to myself, “Wow, Mel Gibson really worked hard to make the torturing and crucifixion as bloody awful as possible.” I mean there must be way more to that event in history other than the extreme physical torture and death Jesus suffered. Early Christians suffered torturous deaths far worse than Jesus. Eaten by lions. Skinned. Boiled to death. Burned at the stake. Dragged by horses. Disemboweled. Sorry, to bring these methods up but there are far more and some even more hideous torturous deaths. But it’s true. Jesus suffered a severe, painful physical torture but arguably far less a painful torture than many of his later followers.
So what are we to make of the torture and crucifixion of Jesus. We might add the injustice of being falsely accused and not receiving a fair trial. Christian doctrine tells us that he died for our sins. How did that atone for our sins? I mean we all still die and some of us may indeed suffer to death. His dying didn’t relieve us of suffering or dying. And apparently, we were originally, according to God’s plan, suppose to live forever and never die. So Jesus did not take our place and die so that we wouldn’t have to die on earth. That’s for sure. We still do. What was it about that Good Friday that was so good?
Again, physically dying for sins seems noble but is dying like a martyr good enough to clear the slate of God’s grudge against the sin of the people he created? OK. Yeah, I know, the mystery deepens given trinitarianly speaking, Jesus was God Once we move past the torturous death of Jesus, we move into the more mysterious transaction of atonement somehow achieved by Jesus taking upon himself another kind of punishment arguably unrelated to the physical suffering and death. Traditional Christian doctrine holds that Jesus somehow was separated from God (“Father, why hast thou forsaken me?) for a period or even descended into hell for one or two days (though one of the other guys crucified was going to be with Jesus in paradise on the same day). But then again, what is a “day” in God’s realm, really?
To be honest, even though I understand how conceptually the blood sacrifice of a lamb (or any other animal) symbolizes an atonement or actual atonement, I still find what actually took place for Jesus on Good Friday mysterious. I don’t mean “mysterious” in a bad way necessarily and I’m not trying or wanting to deny anything about the death of Jesus held dear. It is just mysterious to me and maybe not at all to you. Truth be told, Christian or not, we humans still sin. That doesn’t mean God’s love isn’t shining forth in the lives of those who love God and love others. Living for God might be what keeps evil in check such that the world doesn’t implode due to evil itself. What occurred behind the supernatural curtain on Good Friday has been debated since that day. But then you have Sunday.
Sunday has far less mystery. Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead. There were witnesses. There were recorded appearances. Only the resurrection could explain the beginning of a movement unparalleled in all of history. Rising from the dead. Who does that? Who has ever done that? We can debate about the suffering Jesus and what all that suffering, and sin atonement might mean, but there is far less to debate or to wonder about when it comes to the resurrection.
Maybe, at least, the death of Jesus is God’s way of saying, “Hey, no one else ever needs to die for their sins. No sacrifice is ever needed. The slate is clean between all of you people and me. A gift of grace. Freely move into my love. Now live!” Sounds simple and easy enough. Thank you, God! Done deal. That's Good for Friday.
But whoa! The resurrection!? Life after death? The hope of the afterlife. That’s pure gold. We have tinkered with sin management all our days, before AND after the cross. You would think sin is still the unsolvable problem and that dealing with sin is what the message of the gospel is all about. But alas, the hope of the resurrection. Now that is something to behold. I’m going with the guy who rose from the dead!