Good Friday is the day in which Christians around the world reflect on the death of Jesus Christ.
Christians will weep, Christians will rejoice, Christians will sit and be confused: “How is this what we focus on?”
I am one of those who will be in church on Good Friday, and wonder: “How is the death of a man what we focus on?”
There are some things that I understand about the day that Jesus was killed to be true and factual.
1.) Jesus’ death was not unique from any other capital punishment of the Roman Empire of his time. If you do not know this, just ask the question: Well, what were those other two guys doing?
2.) Jesus was not killed by the Jews. Jesus was killed by the Roman Empire. Some Jews might have opted for Barrabas, as ALL JEWS WERE NOT PRESENT.
I think this accurately describes what happened that day:
3.) Jesus continued to minister to his context even into his last moments.
My understanding of the cross is a reminder to the world of the injustice that we cause on a daily basis.
In the death of Jesus we are reminded of those who have been killed unjustly.
In the death of Jesus we are reminded that humanity continues to fail each other.
That’s it. To me, the cross is that.
I do not believe we are saved by the actions of the unjust Roman Empire and their decision to kill a local celebrity.
I do not believe that Jesus was called by God to die, although Jesus’ humanity would require him to die at some point.
But as a person who says that if you say you don’t believe in something, you have to counteract that with a what you do believe statement:
I DO BELIEVE that in the act of the death of Jesus we learn a little bit more of what the realm of God looks like. What exactly is God’s ultimate dream for creation.
In what is called the “Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross” we see these things:
1.) Matthew 27:46: “My God why have you forsaken me?” I start with this, because it is the first in the canonical order; but also because it is a question that Jesus poses to God. No matter how much we think we have accomplished, no matter how well our life may be lived, at the end of it all, we do not think we have accomplished enough. Jesus is no different. Jesus feels forsaken maybe because he does not feel like he accomplished enough in his lifetime. And so Jesus cries out God, “Why have you forsaken me? This death is proof that I have not accomplished enough.”
2.) Luke 23: 34: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus is giving us the image of God’s dream that we are to forgive people… even when they kill us in the most violent way they can possibly imagine.
3.) Luke 23: 43: “Truly I tell you, you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus tells this to a criminal. Jesus gives the image that in the realm of God there is space for us all. We do not know anything of the situation or circumstance of the criminals on the cross with Jesus, but all we know, is that Jesus does not judge, Jesus gives words of comfort and affirmation.
4.) John 19: 26-27: “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” In this, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene, the disciple that he loved, to take care of his mother. In a context where widows and childless women have no one to care for them, Jesus shows us that in the realm of God we will all take care of each other, and that in the realm of God, all have women have children, and all children have mothers.
5.) John 19:28: “I am thirsty.” Jesus tells those around him that he is thirsty. In the realm of God, thirst will be no more.
6.) Luke 23: 46: “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” In the realm of God our bodies will no longer be the shells of injustice in which we are trapped. The pain that our bodies create will not be something that hinders us.
7.) John 19: 30: “It is finished.” The last words of Jesus Christ. Showing to us that in the realm of God suffering is finished. In that moment when, what I imagine him, whispering “It is finished,” Jesus says that this suffering is over. No more will Jesus feel physical pain.
What if the church remembered the 7 sayings of Jesus?
Many churches are in the dying stages of their ministry. Just like Jesus on Calvary.
What if the church remembered:
1.) That in the life span of this congregation, that enough has not been done.
2.) To forgive the people who do damaging things within the church. Forgive the treasurer who embezzled all that money. Forgive that homeless person who has on multiple occasions came and begged in the parking lot after church service. Forgive the pastor who was a bit to experimental for the comfort zone of the congregation.
3.) That in the church there is room for all people. For the people who are on crosses today. The criminals. The people who are marginalized. People who are LGBT.
4.) That the church is to take care of those who have no one else to take care of them.
5.) That the church is to be that place where thirst no longer exists. Where people’s most basic needs are met.
6.) That the church is not something that hinders us. The body of Christ (the church) should not hinder us from expressing agape, from being agents of God.
7.) The church must remember that when it is over, it is over. Sometimes things die. And just as Jesus admitted to his own mortality, so must churches.
This Good Friday, my hope is that you think about what it means to be a church in the realm of God.