Good Friday. Is this something we can understand? What makes it so "good?"
Sure, we have theologies about this moment in history. We have systematic notions about why who and what. We tell the story every year. Some traditions reenact the tale more than once a year. If you attend a church from one of the "liturgical" traditions, you here the story told during the Eucharist every Sunday. "Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again." It's the Paschal Mystery told again and again. I also know some baptist preachers who tell the story of the Passion of Christ every Sunday. It is the Gospel, after all. This story, the Passion, is The Gospel for many of us Christian preachers. And to not share the Passion is to not share The Gospel. If their sermons don't end with the proclamation of the sarcifice of Jesus, well, then it just isn't Church.
I'm still sharing that e-unspoken part of my faith again. This is not new. Nor is it unintegrated with the rest of my Christian spirituality. It's actually essential to it. So, in the spirit of clarity, I'm sharing this stuff with you.
I have no idea what Jesus meant by giving himself over like this. We read the scripture last night at the Maundy Thursday service at First Baptist. "Not my will but your's." Lord, have mercy. Someone asked the question as someone does every year, "Why would God want Jesus to die? If it's God's will...Why would God will this to happen?" I have some practiced answers. This year I offered them as I usually do.
"First, let me tell you what the tradition says..." I give a theological gloss and watch their eyes glaze over. Right. Of course. This isn't an answer any more than a stump speech is an indication of what will actually happen if one of these people in the news are elected to public office. So, I move on.
"Well, what do you think..." Sometimes there's an answer waiting. Sometimes people just want a chance to tell the Pastor what they think. I like hearing how God's faithful have worked out this stuff. There is always wisdom here.
"Now let me tell you what I think..." is my last response. It goes something like this:
I don't know. I don't want to say "It's a mystery" because that becomes the great theological copout. No. I say that I don't understand. Why? Because I don't. The whole story is insane. It's madness. God has gone insane. Jesus has followed God right there to the looney bin. Peter is in denial. Judas goes off the deep end. The dysfunction of the community following Jesus is exposed in this dramatic turn of events. The Sanhedrin goes nuts. Pilate goes nuts. The women of Jerusalem are told, by Jesus no less, that it will get worse before it gets better. Insane? You think this is insane? You think this is worth your well-trained bereavement? Just wait. This is when we honor insanity. So...I don't know what the hell it means. I don't know God's will. I'm not sure I ever have.
It's insane. There's nothing "Good" here.
The whole world has gone mad. Even God.
This is Revelation.
O Christ, who forsook no one
but was forsaken by the closest of friends,
and who committed no crime
yet was sentenced to a criminal’s death,
we enter your presence in awe and adoration.
On this day, centuries ago,
you could have saved your life,
but you refused to betray the purpose
for which you had been born.
You had come into the world
to love God and neighbor as yourself;
this was the love
for which you had been created,
and when that love required
you to shoulder a cross,
you summoned the strength to bear it.
Today, O Christ,
as we sing and pray about the cross,
teach us its meaning once again
and help us to take up our cross
and follow you. Amen.
Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.org. Follow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.