Today is Good Friday, the day on which Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus. It is, in many respects, quite an odd event to commemorate: the agonizing death of one whom people of the Christian faith believe to be the Son of God. But this turns out to be consistent with a thread within Christianity that has captured my imagination ever since I embraced it.
In many respects the Christian faith is an inversion of much of what the world celebrates. The last shall be first. Strength is made perfect in weakness. Blessed are the meek, the poor in spirit, and those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Love rather than hate your enemies. Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth. A great persecutor of Jesus, Saul of Tarsus, became his greatest defender (Paul). And then there is Jesus, who was born not to high privilege in Rome but in a manger in Bethlehem, who sweat drops of blood at Gethsemane, and who died on a cross on Golgotha after being disowned by his disciples. He came not to rule but to serve. Among his last words were “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?”
And yet this story, which runs against the grain of so much of what the world bestows worth on, has touched the hearts of people for two thousand years—in part, I think, because many of us believe there is truth and hope beyond this world, which is disordered in so many ways; in part because the idea of the perfect sacrificing for the imperfect isn’t offensive but a sublime demonstration of love; and in part because the road that leads through suffering ends in glory.
There is a terrific and never-ending power in the drama of this story, in the incarnation, and in being citizens of a City of God which human beings did not build and cannot destroy and which is everlasting.
So much of what we deal with in life are mere shadows; for many of us this day, and the Sunday that follows, is about reality, about grace and mercy, and about the reconciliation of God and man. That is why it has such a hold on our hearts.