Good Friday: Keep Calm and Disciple On
I have told the story many times, so I won’t here. But years ago Good Friday became a significant event in my Christian journey… A day I realized my need to kill god for God’s sake.
I, like a member of the fickle crowds that I am, had needs of God – about how God would be in the world – that were all me… me, my comfort, my needs. And I nailed that damn god to the tree. God helped me do it. Because until I was done with that god? The God-who-is-I-Am could never be alive to me. So I killed the god of my making and experienced the resurrection of God who is and is to be. And… well that road less traveled has made all the difference.
So Good Friday matters to me. Big time. I want to feel the story. I want to think long and hard about the true death of God. I want to think long and hard about ways I am still killing God. And I want to remember that God-God’s-self will help with that killing… because we need to do a bit of razing, a bit of harrowing… to let new life spring up.
Now many of you also know I love the rock-opera / musical theater of Jesus Christ Superstar. I think it’s a great exercise in interpretation. I think it’s good interpretation. I think it find a balance of story and entertainment. Frankly… I just enjoy it. I watch it in Holy Week every year. It’s the Christmas Vacation of Holy Week for me. Half guilty pleasure, and half good reflection on the meaning of this week. So I’m going to take these two thoughts and weave them together… And give you three things I noticed particularly in my last viewing that I am connecting with on this “Good” Friday.
- “You’ve begun to matter more than the things you say.”
Judas utters (screeches?) this line to Jesus in the opening song. He is vexed that this whole movement is getting out of hand. I loved the Judas of JCSS. I love the spin on him as someone who really just wants to go back out and camp out in the wilderness with Jesus and the other 11 like some boy band that has no fame. A Judas who is more confused than evil inspired architect of Jesus’ demise. And this line? On. It is. When Jesus matters to us more than “the way” of Jesus? It’s time to kill him off. I think Jesus thinks that too (the JCSS Judas and I agree on that) which is why in John’s Gospel he tells them going away is the best thing he can do for them. Nothing about Jesus’ literal death on the cross saves us, everything about the way Jesus lived his life and his death and his resurrection life does! So maybe a little less worship of Jesus and a lot more following in his way of life is what the world needs.
- I had to do it.
(Judas to Jesus, Rome will) “object to another noise sect…They will crush us if we go too far…. Please remember I want us to live.”
(Peter in his thrice denial of Jesus) “I had to do it, don’t you see? Or else they’d go for me.”
(Mary and Peter during the trial of Jesus) “Could we start again please… I think you’ve made your point now, you’ve even gone a bit too far to make you message known.”
Jesus was bound to die. Not because of some spiritualized need for saving humanity – if God is half the God we imagine, God needs no cross to save anyone. Jesus was bound to die for his uncompromising dedication to God’s Kingdom vision. He upset religious people… in being religious. He constantly holds his disciples accountable to a point of discomfort that makes most leave him far before the challenge of Holy Week. And all of that reveals all our excuses for the self-deceptions they are – we didn’t have do anything… the “have to” is only the result of a bigger priorities in our life… including life itself. I don’t fault Peter his denials… Peter went on to do great things… and we all fall short. But he didn’t have to deny Jesus… only if his life was worth more than his honesty and solidarity to the one he called Lord, Master, and Friend. How often do we try to claim ourselves as slaves to the world to the obligations and the “have to do its?” Take back your own power. Live to your top priorities and do so without shame. This is why Jesus went to the cross… he loved LIFE more than his particular life.
- Forgiveness that hurts.
Two scenes hit me. One where Jesus tries to put his hand on an angry Judas’ head and Judas shies away, and one where a beaten Jesus puts his hand on a frustrated Pilates’ face. In both cases Jesus conveys a touch of love… and they cannot accept it. A significant part of the story of these two as they interact with Jesus is trying to love and be loved by one you don’t fully understand. If the world could learn nothing else from Jesus’ life and death and life again than this reality, that love need know no bound? That would make it all worthwhile. Maybe Jesus knew what he was doing after all.
As Good Friday comes to a close I am pondering these things. I’m pondering what fears, priorities, and idols I need to kill because they are gods of my making… so that I might find in the tomb of that shattered clay the God whose love for us all is so great there is no boundary… not the challenges of human life, nor the suffering of inhuman death, nor hell itself that will dissuade God from holding fast, steadfast, to claiming us all.
In that sense it is good… but on the day when that cross is truly empty… when we have stopped needing to drive the nails into one another for our sake? That day will truly be the best Friday of all.