Speaking the Truth of Good Friday
This is the day of darkness. We call it “Good Friday,” yet it is a commemoration of a terrible execution.
Why is it called good? Through much of church history, we have chosen to view the death of Jesus through the lens of “redemptive violence.” That is this notion that God was angered by sin and demanded punishment, but somehow loved us enough to send God’s own child to be, in the words of one of my well-respected theology professors, “the lightning rod to receive the lightning strike that God, as a God of justice, had to throw.”
When we read the Sermon on the Mount, however, we hear Jesus describe a God that is anything but violent … this is a God who is good. We hear Jesus say in Matthew 7:9-10, “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake?”
How does Jesus, who speaks about love and compassion, bring us a God who is angry and vindictive? This sounds like projection of the human ego instead of delving into the mystery of the divine.
A very different way of looking at it is to understand the crucifixion as “redemptive suffering.”
We must understand that Jesus is the one who spoke truth to power. The gospel message is innately political in that Jesus issues challenges to stand with the poor, the oppressed, the outcast, and the broken. His overt angering of the religious and political leadership during this last week of his life is about this political reality.
Marcus Borg and Jon Dominic Crossan, in their book, The Last Week, write:
We would like its Holy Week conclusion to be about the interior rather than the exterior life, about heaven rather than earth, about the future rather than the present, and above all else, about religion safely and securely quarantined from politics. Confronting violent political power and unjust religious collaboration is dangerous in most times and most places, first century and twenty-first century alike.
It is during Holy Week that Jesus teaches us about speaking the truth of the gospel that comes to transform our world in radical ways. He then teaches us how to hold the suffering … how even to experience a torturous and violent death … without directing violence (including even violent words) to his own executioners.
Yet we tend to slip into this easy dualism where things are black and white … good and evil … victor and victim. We need to know who to celebrate and who to blame.
Richard Rohr, in the last season of Another Name for Everything podcast was inspired to reach for a piece of paper that he said had been on his bulletin board since moving into his hermitage at the Center for Action and Contemplation thirty-three years ago. I am adding it to my wall in my home office as a reminder.
Those who blame others have not begun their education.
Those who blame themselves have begun their education.
Those who blame no one have completed their education.
When we move beyond the need to blame, we can then speak the truth, practice accountability, and move from that toward forgiveness and reconciliation. This is the way of Christ … this is the truth of redemptive suffering
It is the truth that we can experience a deeper love than we previously thought possible by holding our suffering without the need to blame even those who harm us. More than that, it is an all-inclusive truth that confirms that maybe the tagline of Wellspring’s motto might just be right: All Means All.
That, friends, is what makes this particular Friday good!
God, teach us the way of redemptive suffering that we might discover the truth that will finally set us free. Amen.