It is Good Friday. That is a somewhat strange title for such a gruesome day. After all, it is on this day that we are reminded that God was not the one demanding the cross, we were. On this day we stood in the crowd and told Pilate: “You are no friend of Ceasar’s if you let this man go.” Even as Pilate returned from questioning Jesus and said he found no fault with the man, we were not satisfied. We yelled, “We have no king but Ceasar! Crucify Jesus! Crucify him! Crucify him! We demanded that a life be taken.
But the “Good” was not found in us… it was found in him. Jesus had told his disciples he would be raised up and would draw all nations to him. The crucifixion, of all things, would be the very means by which God would draw people to God (John 12:32)! God transformed the instrument of our violence (the cross) into an instrument of God’s peace and reconciliation. Miroslav Volf helps us think about this deeper: “Christ is not a third party inserted between an angry God and sinful humanity; he is the God who was wronged embracing humanity on the cross.”
Remember the night of Jesus betrayal? In that “Last Supper” with his disciples, Jesus took the bread and after giving thanks, he broke it, saying, “This is my body…” Likewise, he took the cup and blessed it, saying, “This is my blood…” It is only with time that the disciples begin to better understand that God’s taking on flesh through Jesus, God’s participation with humanity, paves the way for our participation with God. His flesh sanctifies our flesh. His life becomes our life. In Christ, God becomes accustomed to “tabernacling” with humanity and humanity becomes accustomed to living with God. The cross becomes the means by which God demonstrates God’s unfailing love for the whole of creation. It is the tangible action showing God is willing to go to the very depths of hell to save all of Creation. God received our violence while pouring out his grace.
In the final moments on the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” By the tree in the Garden of Gethsemane, sin and death entered this world. By the second tree, the cross, sin and death have been conquered. Christ became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Reconciliation. Redemption, Recapitulation.
With his last breath, Jesus “gave up his spirit.” At this moment, the veil that separated the Holy of Holies was torn in two. The earth shook and the rocks split. Everything that had once seemed so sure, so rock-solid… everything was shaken to the core. Sin, the means by which we live for ourselves, secure our desires, and maintain “control” – shaken. Enmity between humanity and God – shaken. Our inability to live obediently as God’s people – shaken. Death, the bedrock of all we know – shaken! All these things had given way to a more solid reality: God’s Love.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the punishment of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned—For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5: 6-11;15b-21).