Good Friday was bad long before it was good, at least from outward appearances. God was being crucified by all that can go bad in the world: pride, jealousy, distrust, wound, self-interest, sin. It’s no accident that the Gospels tell us that, as Jesus was dying, it grew dark in the middle of the day. Few images are more telling. As Jesus hung upon the Cross, light seemingly gave way to darkness, love to hatred and life to death. How can that be good?
Moreover, as he was dying Jesus no longer seemed divine, powerful and in control of things, either in terms of what was happening in the world or in what was happening inside him. The world was sinking into distrust and, if the Gospels are to be believed, Jesus, the incarnate God, seemed to be sinking into a personal doubt, one so gripping that it triggered the words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”
What’s happening here? How can this be good? To understand what happened on Good Friday we need to separate what was happening on the surface from what was happening at some deeper place. The surface event was bad and can never by any imaginary be called good. Sincere religious people, good though weak, out of fear and weakness were selling out what was best in them and either helping to incite the execution of Jesus or standing passively by and letting it happen.
In effect, other than a few strong women who were not succumbing to fear or group hysteria but who were too disempowered to do anything about it practically, everyone was aiding in the crucifixion of God, either out of ignorance, jealousy or weakness. In Jesus’s own words, darkness was having its hour. The human, social and political drama that played out on Good Friday was not good.
It showed humanity at its worst before God’s seeming silence.
But there was something deeper happening on Good Friday: a drama was playing out inside the recesses of Jesus’s private soul and conscience, the result of which was antithetical to all that was happening on the surface, in the crowd. Inside his struggle to accept what was happening in that situation and to accept what was being asked of him, we see the ultimate moral and religious drama: love struggling with and then triumphing over hate, trust struggling with and then triumphing over paranoia, and forgiveness struggling with and then triumphing over bitterness.
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