What do you see on Good Friday?

For those who identify themselves with the Christian faith we have come again to a sacred time of the year. It is Holy Week.[1]

Around the globe there are many who will look to the cross today and mostly see wrath and vengeance played out on a cosmic stage. They will see love and mercy too but only as a supporting cast.

The story that has been delivered to the vast majority of us (particularly in the West) is a narrative that features a God who, because of his holiness, is angry. And he will no longer tolerate the proliferation of our immorality, whether it is our indiscretions or undiluted evil. Thus, the consequence of our sin is that we will receive a punishment from God. His justice demands that we pay for the mess we’ve made.

Consequently in this narrative the suffering servant’s excruciating death was nothing less than a horrible, cruel punishment administered by God for sins the human race committed. He bears the punishment from God that we deserved and that was intended for us.

There are many assumptions that have shaped this narrative. Here are a few:

  1. This assumes there is something in the nature of God that is capable of cruelty, torture, and horror.
  2. This assumes God is capable of punishment that is punitive, retributive, and a bit vindictive.
  3. This assumes God’s holiness is a moral quality, which is the motivation for him to punish.
  4. This assumes that God requires punishment for justice and atonement to occur.

Do you believe this about God? Is this what you celebrate when you come to this holy day—Good Friday?

I do not. For— “God is Light and in him there is no darkness.” Yet, ironically, I do believe God has wrath and vengeance.

But I do not buy the narrative that has shaped the definitions applied to these words.

So then, where is wrath and vengeance in this?

It is here: With determined, relentless love the Beloved Son overcame our evil with his good by absorbing the hammer blows of our malice and draining the cup of our wrath utterly refusing to let darkness destroy us.

What did he do with our mutiny of rage and madness when he bore it in his body hanging on this tree?

Your friend has submitted to it, judged it, condemned it, and forgiven us— the ones who brought it to the table and gloried in such insanity.

Today, I celebrate the stunning humility and unstoppable love of the Incarnate Savior of the world.

[1] The Orthodox tradition will hold prayer vigils and celebrate next week.
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“Agnus Dei” – ZURBARÁN, FRANCISCO DE
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Meet John in person at the Open Table Conference this June.

Categories: Blog

2 comments

  1. Bruce Edmunds says:

    Great message John
    Thank you
    Love
    Bruce

  2. Robin Chester says:

    Thank you John. That was great. Just what I needed to be reminded of.
    So simple yet so powerful, and then, the crowning touch, Happy Easter!

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