On Good Friday, I posted my desire to see the crucifixion through new eyes, to see it for the first time instead of as a story I’d heard a million times. I wanted to be moved by the suffering, experience the human pain. I thought I needed to see his sacrifice in terms of my sin and be brought to tears.
I was wrong.
My church had a Good Friday service, but because of a car situation, I missed it. I faced that with a mix of guilt and relief, because I was fearful of meeting Jesus on Friday. I didn’t feel strong enough for tears and self-analysis, especially in a public setting. So when I had to stay home, I had a lot of conflicted emotions, but the one thing I knew was that I had to spend some time at the cross.
I mentioned in my Friday post that I like to skim the crucifixion and head straight to the resurrection. I’m probably not alone there. So, to avoid this, on Friday I chose to read all four gospel accounts of Jesus’ death from the betrayal in the garden through his burial. Then I would stop reading and simply live with his death for a day.
I thought I knew what I would find. Nope.
This time around, the first thing that hit me was that the story is all about Jesus’ POWER.
He owned the confrontation in the garden, holding back his disciples and going peacefully with the authorities. He owned the conversations with the priest, Pilate, and Herod, saying exactly what he needed to say to fulfill his goal, which was his death. He owned the walk to the cross, warning the mourners about the state of their hearts. He owned his crucifixion, offering forgiveness, calling a man to himself, and settling his mother with a new son to protect her. He owned the forces of nature, as the sky darkened around him. Finally, he owned his death, taking a purposeful final breath and turning over his life voluntarily.
That’s power. He wasn’t a victim. Although my sin drove him there, he was willing, able, and in control the whole time. I don’t know why I find this so comforting, but I do. God didn’t turn Jesus over to something out of his control. I’m not sure Jesus was ever more visibly manifesting his divinity than he did during those final hours of his life.
Second, I spent time thinking about the crucifixion being more than the pain of his physical body.
I’ve heard this before, but because I went to the stories wanting to be moved by the physical suffering, I saw it differently. On many occasions Jesus prayed and then said This isn’t for me; it’s for you. In John 12 God speaks from Heaven, and again, Jesus points out this is for the people, not him. Miracles were also a sign for people. Much of what Jesus did was a way to show mortal, physical humans heavenly truths that are nearly impossible for us to understand.
Now, I want to be careful here. This is not an attempt to diminish Jesus’ physical suffering at his death. I’ve heard long discourses about crucifixion and the physical pain involved. It was awful. But I think it was a pale comparison to the true suffering. People who were crucified didn’t always sweat blood the night before. Something so much deeper was going on.
Here’s where I break into fanciful conjecture with no research behind it. It’s just a tiny idea sparked by the darkened sky and the assumption that Jesus’ payment for my sin was more than time spent on a cross.
I don’t really understand how Jesus, fully God, could die. I’m not doubting it. Not one little bit. But I can’t quite wrap my head around it, either. When Jesus took our sins, God had to turn his back on…himself? Was the Trinity momentarily broken? Was that perfect, eternal unity torn? I don’t know the mechanism by which Jesus paid for sin. I trust it, and that’s enough, but I also wonder and imagine.
However, the sky went dark. I wonder if all of creation, just for a moment, understood and felt that split when God turned away from Jesus. Maybe Jesus himself didn’t darken the sky. Maybe God didn’t darken the sky. Instead, perhaps all the physical laws of God’s world experienced a moment of loss and death as the very fabric of the universe knew the brokenness of the creator. I wonder if that darkness isn’t a better sign of the true sacrifice than the man bleeding in Jerusalem. Regardless, both point to something deeper and darker and more painful than what humans witnessed that day.
I didn’t weep on Good Friday. I almost feel guilty for my reaction, but I experienced overwhelming hope. I felt loved. I felt God’s power. I felt secure. The world around me looks darker and scarier every day, but Jesus owned his death. He was never a victim. Every minute before and after that was and is in his control. The souls he paid for–with suffering so great the sky threatened to disappear–he doesn’t lose. The world he created doesn’t spiral out of his hands.
The tears came, although they waited a day. But on Friday, God knew exactly what I needed to see and hear, what my heart could hold at that moment. I am thankful for a God who, even after such a sacrifice, still cares about the needs of his individual children. Thank you, Lord. Amen and amen.