Good Friday tends to bring up lots of questions: How human was Jesus? How divine was he? Could he have avoided the pain? Is there magic in his blood? Did he really have to die? Where did he go for those two nights? Did he become God on the cross or was he always God? Why did he have to die for everyone’s sins? Even Christians are all over the map in their answers.
We have a lot of conflicting beliefs and doctrines, and I bet there’s a bit of right and wrong in everyone’s way of thinking. Some things we have to leave to the beautiful mysteries of God, but some we definitely need to understand and let sink in to the core—like forgiveness.
It’s right in the crucifixion narrative. In Luke 23:34 (ESV), while Jesus hangs on the cross, tortured by every breath he takes, he says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do…” According to Scripture, Jesus could have retaliated and destroyed the soldiers who crucified him.
Not only did he not retaliate, he asked God to forgive them, to forgive us all.
Jesus took our sins onto himself and paid the price in full. “It is finished,” he said, before giving up his spirit, having completed his mission. He tore away the barriers between us and God.
He also commissioned us to pick up where he left off.
“…But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” Matthew 20:26 –28 (ESV).
Love and Surrender
Jesus is the perfect example of love and surrender, the example we strive to follow. We are to be people who go “the way of love.” Obviously it’s a narrow path though. Sometimes I wonder if Jesus is pulling his hair out as we take his example and live our lives in exactly the opposite way. In an age of extreme political and cultural polarities, the cross of Jesus has become a painful reminder of how neutralized the Gospels’ central theme of forgiveness has become. Just look at social media. Christians are right in there hurling insults (at best) and threatening with violence (at worst) those who disagree with them on major (and minor) issues. We are being ruled by fear and are trusting too much in ourselves.
It puts us in a mindset of it really isn’t “finished,” the new Kingdom that Jesus established isn’t enough.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love,” 1 John 4:18 (ESV).
Jesus challenges us to follow his way of love and surrender, to declare nothing in this world as legitimate foes because our battle “isn’t against flesh and blood.” Fear is no longer a factor because Jesus, the ruler of another kingdom has perfected us in love. Jesus calls us to “die to self.” (You didn’t think this was primarily a “just try and do good and avoid bad” admonition did you?)
No one but the Father is good. CHECK.
No one is righteous, not even one. CHECK.
On Good Friday, Jesus demonstrated “dying to self” in literally giving up his body—his sacrifice rooted in perfect love. “It is finished.”
All Things New
On the third day, on that first Easter, Jesus’ resurrection made all things new. He created a new world order, a way that says “as long as we love the way he loved, we can smile because it is finished.”
Instead we yell louder. And we aren’t saying, “Father, forgive them.”