Good Friday

Good Friday / Bad Friday: a Meditation

Phuc Luu

I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with the name “Good Friday” for a day that celebrates the killing of an innocent person, a victim of the political and religious powers of his time. Christians around the world will celebrate it as a day when “Jesus gave his life to redeem humanity.” This is indeed a good thing.

Imagine the scene from a film were the soldier jumps on a grenade to save the lives of her comrades. She willingly does this, without force of coercion. She can be praised and commended for this brave act. But if she was forced to do this, if someone pushed her onto this grenade instead, then this is another matter, perhaps another theology.

On Good Friday, we must not celebrate the killing of an innocent in order to satisfy wrath, whether human or divine. Jesus’s purpose, his life and ministry, was not to go to the cross, but to bring healing and wholeness to the world. The cross was only the unbearable consequence of this work of restoration. In other words, God’s true gift was not in the sacrifice of God’s son, but the gift of God’s son to the world, in order to renew and heal the cosmos. Humans, who could not deal with this alternative vision of the universe, who could not see God in this way, sought to kill what was true, good, and beautiful. Jesus was the target, a scapegoat, of religious orthodoxy and political empire. This was Bad Friday.

What is good about Good Friday takes place on Sunday. Friday is good because of the resurrection of the Son of God from the clutches of death. Sunday reinstates Friday and shows God’s work against the forces of evil.

On Friday, Rome orders an innocent man to be nailed to a cross.

On Friday, all the disciples except the women and perhaps John, abandon Jesus to die.

On Friday, Jesus is flogged and stripped naked. He is forced to carry a cross he could not carry all the way. He given a crown of thorns to wear. He is mocked. He is nailed. He is stabbed. 

Then finally, when God’s son could not take what the world was giving him, he dies. But with his last breath he asks for forgiveness, not because the cross brought about forgiveness, but because God was a forgiving God. 

If the events of Good Friday, did not happen, could God accomplish what God was doing in the world? Of course, because God was doing this in the life and ministry of Jesus. Friday attempts to put an end to all of this. No more sight to the blind. No more giving life to the dead. No more healing of the sick. No more teaching about the kingdom. 

How can Good Friday be called good?
How can government executions be called good?
Lynching trees?
Gas chambers?

What was good was in God’s continued loving kindness.
God took our cruelty and ugliness.
God took our mistreatment of those different from us.
God took our need to blame the outsider for all our shames and fears.
And God did not return it for evil, but brought good out of it.
No wrath here, except what came from humans.
Healing came from woundedness. 
But not yet, not yet. 

So, Friday should be a day of mourning, not for celebration. I save that for Sunday, with anticipation and hope, with fear and trembling.