The Scandal of Good Friday

Cross in NicaraguaLet’s be honest, many Christians don’t know what to make of Good Friday.  This is particularly true for those of us in the liberal wing of the church.   Good Friday is that day when Christians reflect upon the crucifixion of Jesus.   Our tradition teaches that upon the cross God’s son Jesus, took upon himself the sins of the world.   From that cross Jesus sacrificed his life as an act of atonement for the sins of the world.

Liberal Christians struggle with the theology of the cross on a variety of levels.  Some question whether Jesus is actually the son of God.   Some are offended by the concept of a God who would sacrifice their most precious gift, their child.  We are put off by the horrific image of Jesus hanging from the cross, intended by the Roman Empire as a tool of torture and humiliation. 

Gordon Cosby the founding pastor of Church of the Savior, who died this week at age 94, writes:   “The cross is an embarrassment to many, that Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves.  This dependence upon God’s forgiving initiative on our behalf, conflicts with our human desire for self-will.” 

Good Friday makes us uncomfortable. 

Tonight the church I serve will gather for Good Friday.  The crowd will be far smaller than that which gathers for Easter.  Easter goes down a lot easier.  It has flowers, bright colors, uplifting music and an uplifting message.   And, we offer brunch!

Our human tendency is to jump from Palm Sunday to Easter.  But unless we stop, ponder and wrestle with the cross we risk losing out on the power and promise of Easter.   This is true wherever you place yourself on the theological spectrum.

For me Good Friday is that day when we remember that it isn’t about us. It’s about God’s son Jesus, taking upon himself all the violence, pettiness and apathy of the human condition.  Upon that cross Jesus chose to suffer and in that suffering enters into deep solidarity with all the suffering of the world. 

Because of the cross Jesus is with us in the hospital.  He is with the child soldier in the killing fields of the Congo.  He is with the girl who is sexually trafficked on the streets of Portland.  He is with the people of Syria as the bombs rain down.  He is with the young man who sleeps on the streets of McMinnville. 

Good Friday reminds us that God took the initiative and entered into the human condition.  God chose to forgive the human family for all our failings.  God chose to be with us in our most vulnerable times.  God chose to bless us. Why?  Because the nature of God is love.  This holy love desires to accompany us through this life and into the next.

We need to go to the cross. In so doing we claim forgiveness for oneself but we also are challenged to forgive those who have wronged us.  The cross compels us to enter into the suffering of others and indeed, to work to correct the causes of suffering and injustice.

If we don’t go to the cross the Christian faith loses its power and promise.  This truth is lost when we move too quickly from Palm Sunday to Easter.

3 thoughts on “The Scandal of Good Friday

  1. Asherlee LaPlante

    I love this… And I couldn’t possibly agree more. Thank you for posting this and reminding all of us about the scandal of grace. (that song has been stuck in my head for days)…

  2. Well said Kent! I never attended a Good Friday service until I was in seminary (never joined a church til then either, come to think of it). But the little American Baptist Church I attended then held a Good Friday service that was very catholic – a very powerful Stations of the Cross service where we walked through each of the 14 stations all the way from Jesus being condemned to die, to being laid in the tomb. Though I had been a Christian for a few years, I hadn’t ever thought much about the passion, the suffering of Jesus, except to think, “Well I’m glad he did that.” That night, though, I went home with an oppressive heaviness and sadness that it was “my sin” that contributed to Jesus’ suffering. All day Saturday that heaviness remained. But on Sunday morning…oh on Sunday morning, I couldn’t wait to experience the release and joy of resurrection. I’ve never missed another Good Friday service. And though the novelty of that first Good Friday experience has waned a bit (like a first kiss), the depth understanding what Jesus endured for me continues to grow.

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