On this Good Friday, as I consider the lifeless body of Jesus sprawled out and sagging across rough-hewn planks of cedar, his suffering seems appropriate for the season.
Called for, even. Necessary.
Sometimes, in our modern American comfort, in our State Fair variety bliss, in our cornfields of gold familiarity, we think of Jesus’ suffering as too much.
For what did this man die? Is God so malicious? Must he mishandle his own Son with such brutality?
Surely the occasional human indulgence does not require such a sacrifice. We’re merely practicing our preferences. Exercising our independence. Finding our happiness.
Are we to blame? Are we apostate for these few failings?
Flawed we are. I’ll grant you that.
But not gone. Not beyond saving. Not beyond participating in functional, polite society.
But these past months have removed the veil. The curtain has opened, and we stand caught in the act.
No, acts. Plural.
Multitudes of acts. Countless treasons. Innumerable infidelities.
Epidemic of Loneliness
Nuclear Arms Race
Our world is a disaster zone.
When confronted with a reminder of this darkness, we slide our fingers with vigor. We feverishly scan our devices for something more hopeful to click on. To view. To distract us from the irreparable, unfaceable carnage that is our world.
In part, Good Friday is a gift given for this very purpose.
It is an invitation to dwell on the darkness. To remain. To resist the urge to look the other way.
Because if we gaze long enough upon our ruin, despair will set in.
We will be forced to confess the truth.
Our best human efforts, our brilliant minds, our charismatic personalities, our noble sages, have all proven insufficient for the task of righting an entire planet gone amuck.
This is the reason we avoid lingering on unpleasant news.
It forces us to a conclusion that has become anathema:
The world is fairly bleak and hopeless.
The above list of crises from 2018 (which is hardly a comprehensive list) flies in the face of the promise of progress.
Sure, there have been advances. We have much to be thankful for.
But no technological advancement will ever restrain the human appetite for evil.
No matter the material conditions of our world, nor our medical capabilities, human beings will continue to compete, corrupt, collude, defile, and destroy.
Destruction and deceit, it seems, are integral parts of the human personality. It is part of who we are.
Therefore, the invitation of Good Friday leads us to the reason for its existence.
Good Friday invites us to dwell on the darkness because on this day God provides a solution for the darkness.
The solution is the suffering of the Son of God.
That suffering, which previously seemed unnecessary, is now seen in its proper context.
The human project of self-aggrandizement at the expense of others is a project that merits punishment.
We are not comfortable with the concept of divine punishment. Yet when the #MeToo movement took off, we were quick to call for the punishment of many.
Why? Because we understand that punishment is justified. Without punishment, harm to humanity continues uninhibited. Without punishment, the decrepit cycle of deceit and destruction will continue ad infinitum.
Yet for all the moral excellence of Jesus, he became the fall guy for all humanity. Though we deserve punishment, he received punishment for us. Though he tenderly loved others, he was abused. Though he gave dignity, he was belittled. Though he preached peace, he became a victim of violence. Though he was himself God, he received what the ungodly deserve.
In a world of blame shifting and finger pointing, Jesus points a finger, too.
He takes the blame.
He descends to the bottom of the well. He sits beside us in hopeless dark.
He offers us a way out.
The only way.