Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

There's nothing good about Good Friday. That was my mantra for many years, even though I professed to be a Christian. There's nothing good about pain either, except to give you a frame of reference for when it quits hurting. I take drugs when I'm in pain. Jesus had no drugs.

When I'm sick or injured I want people to leave me alone. I don't want you to see me like that, sighing or moaning, groaning or crying out. My polite manners are the first to go when I hurt. Next comes my good humor and finally my balance. My focus is fixed on my pain, nothing else. That's embarrassing. Leave me alone.

Jesus was in torturous physical pain on Good Friday. He had no drugs and no privacy. So in addition to the physical, he endured the emotional pain of embarrassment and ridicule. That was the point. Punishment for high crimes, in his case, treason against the state, needed to be cruel and public. It was supposed to be a deterrent to others who might harbor the same terrorist views. Of course it didn't work then, just like it doesn't work now.

He was allowed no privacy in his agony, no quiet corner in which to die. Insult to injury.

But there was a third pain Jesus was feeling that day... the pain of abandonment by the one person he trusted to take care of things... his father. Where was God now?

There's a saying in the advertising industry: "What have you done for me lately?" You can't ever rest on your laurels. Last year's award winning campaign was last year. Israel's deliverance from Pharaoh's tyranny was way back when... what have you done for me lately, God? Where are you now? That thundering voice that spoke at his baptism: "This is my beloved son. In him I am well pleased." And later at his transfiguration, "This is my son, my chosen one. Listen to him." That voice was silent now.

Psalm 22 begins: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It's repeated every Good Friday in churches that observe the seven last words of Jesus. This was the moment where the rubber hit the road. Jesus was alone in all of this and he knew it.

It is, in fact, our human condition... that we are alone in this world. Cast adrift by God on a planet teeming with life—life that is not like us. The same shell of flesh and bone and blood that encases us to protect us in this world also traps us. Because we are endowed with intellect and spirit and we know we are incomplete. To be created in God's image is a double edged sword. We get glimpses of the greatness of God when he stands before us, but we are only flat mirrors of his reflection and when he moves, out of our line of sight, we are sure he is gone.

When I was younger I had a theory. I imagined myself sitting at a table with God talking over all the things I would experience in my lifetime. At the time I was leaning toward reincarnation, but this conversation still works for me if all I get is the one life: God says... okay this time I'm going to give you some artistic talent... and here are the lessons I want you to learn. It was all laid out in rough parameters and I understood it and agreed with everything we decided. Then I was born.

The catch was: I couldn't remember any of the conversation. I knew I'd forget going into it and I agreed to do it anyway. Why? Because I was standing in God's presence when I said yes. I had no clue how terrible it would be to be alone.

But God knew. He knew because He had already done it Himself. In the person of Jesus he felt everything we as humans have ever felt, experienced everything we'll ever experience and more. This sacrifice was more than atonement... it was a demonstration of how to live and how to die. We've forgotten our conversations before we were born, forgotten why this lesson is so important.

So God provided a tangible example. Himself. For no other reason than love.


HeyJules said...

Today, my friend, you have truly blown me away.

I think that might just be the most moving thing you've ever written.

ACey said...

I read this twice. Then I linked it from my blog. It's just everything it should be, and then some.