Perspectives on the Cross
As the years pass, I find the effects of Good Friday to be more intense. Though I am not a particularly emotional person, I find the emotion of this day more and more overwhelming. I wonder if the day will come when I can’t complete what I have to say on this day.
I know there are people who avoid worshipping on this day.
The graphic nature of Good Friday and the coarse barbarities that ambush our sheltered, entertainment addicted, protected culture seem to overwhelm us. It erupts into our normal Christian lives the way sitting in a creek might be interrupted by a ravaging crocodile.
So I can understand why people might avoid this day, emotionally. But I find it harder to understand spiritually, for here something amazing is happening, depending on your perspective.
Some saw the need to dispose of a religious troublemaker who threatened to upset the self-serving system in place. The cosy arrangements were threatened for the temple supervisors, the Sadduccees and the affluent, high-priestly cast working symbiotically with the Romans to advance their own interests.
From their perspective Good Friday is a relief.
The Pharisees were glad that a radical is gone, who did more than just turn over tables, but turned over the authority they had in managing the Scriptures and the laws of the religious community.
Pilate was glad that Jesus is gone. His life was busy and he couldn’t waste time trying to defend a man who wouldn’t even defend himself. When given an opportunity he just stood there silent but for a few cryptic statements about not being of this world. Nothing surer, thinks Pilate, he must have done something bad for his own leaders to want him dead, so Pilate thinks he has nothing to lose – crucify him. From the perspective of those in power, a squeaky door is oiled; in fact slammed shut.
From the perspective of the powerless, there is grief and sadness. I cannot imagine Palm Sunday crowds not mourning and wailing as they see their king stripped and paraded on a hill as a common criminal amongst other criminals.
From the perspective of the disciples, the party is over. Gatecrashed by people with lights and weapons, arresting the one who came to save them. They are experiencing their own cross – fleeing, denying and hiding behind locked doors.
And Jesus mother, weeping as she remembers what the prophet Simeon once said, ‘And a sword shall pierce your own soul too.’ And friends, women who served him, who generously provided for him, there at the cross weeping in disbelief and utterly powerless.
Then there’s the Roman soldiers doing their not too pleasant work. But someone had to do it, it’s a job. ‘Rather those three up there than me,’ they would have said. There is one however who is changed because no man has died the way this man has. The centurion knew a criminal when he saw one, but he did not see one in Jesus. ‘Surely he was the Son of God,’ he says in Matthew 27.
What about the other perspective not covered, that of God the Father?
In some theologies there is a doctrine called patrapassionism. This is the belief that God suffers, feels, and hurts in His heart. And it is true. Though He knew all along what would happen to His son, He gave people the opportunity to turn to Him, to show people what he was like and that He is for them. He came to show people that He hates sickness and sin and unbelief that pushes Him out of the human heart onto every person’s homemade Golgotha.
The Father uses the death of His son even more powerfully than the life of his son. Jesus lived locally but His death has universal consequences and eternal consequences. There on the cross, God was reconciling the world to Himself. No ordinary man could do that. No sinful man could create reconciliation between God and humanity. Only God can reconcile God. Jesus’ life was the overture to the symphony of reconciliation being played out upon the cross.
The date of the triumph of Jesus is Good Friday, not Easter Day.
Jesus was the perfect Son of God. He died for humanity, but how exactly did He do that?
Author Flannery O’Connor brings clarity to this through reminding us to, ‘Remember that these things are mysteries and if they were such that we could fully understand them, they wouldn’t be worth understanding. A god you can fully understand would be less than yourself.’
There are many ways we could look at the death of Christ, but the basis of it all is the Father’s grace. He accepts Him who died without sin as though He were the sinner himself. The perfect on took upon Himself the sin of the world so that the world might take upon itself peace with God.
God in his grace said, ‘I will let my son die the death due to all who put him there.’
‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.’ Romans 5:6.
‘We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’ Isaiah 53:6.
Your salvation is the last act in a clash of seismic proportions between the world, religion and God. The world and formal religion were one in putting Him on the cross, but the Father let it happen that He might die the death due to us for our formalized rejection of God’s claim over our lives – unbelief.
The result is perfect grace, amazing grace, grace which accepts Jesus death in place of our eternal spiritual death. Therefore we are free.
By George Robert Iles