We rightly interpret Jesus’ death as God’s response to our personal suffering, sin, and death. We truly were “there when they crucified my Lord.” His messages from the cross speak powerfully and redemptively to our individual needs.
But the cross has implications far broader than the forgiveness of our personal sins and solidarity with our suffering and death.
The crucifixion of Jesus by government officials and religious establishment is clearly a political act! The coercive and destructive politics of Herod the Roman ruler and Caiaphas the high priest and the reconciling and redemptive politics of Jesus collided on that fateful day we call “Good Friday.”
It is the clash of two worlds, two kingdoms, two forms of power!
On the one hand is the world of political and religious corruption, deception, coercion, exploitation, and violence. It is the exercise of power for personal gain at the expense of justice, compassion, integrity, and the common good.
It is the world of deception, manipulation, bigotry, us-against-them, fear mongering, exclusion, win-at-all-cost, betrayal, and death.
In the leadership forefront of that world are Herod, Pilate, Caiahpas, Judas, and the mob shouting “Crucify him crucify him.”
On the other hand, the world embodied by Jesus is one of resolute integrity in the pursuit of God’s reign. It is the world of unrelenting compassion, uncompromising justice, untiring generosity , all-embracing love, and boundless mercy.
It is the world of kindness, honesty, humility, hospitality, empowerment of the weak and vulnerable, faithfulness, and abundant life.
Those worlds clashed dramatically, cataclysmically, and cosmically on a hillside appropriately named Golgatha, “skull.” Here the empire’s politics of violence opposed God’s politics of peace! The power of cruelty and hatred contested with the power of love and forgiveness.
When Jesus mumbled, “It is finished,” and his bleeding head bowed in death, it appeared that the politics of hatred and violence had won! The world grew eerily dark! It was as though the light of God’s loving presence had been extinguished.
Evidence abounds which indicates the world of Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas, and Judas won! Political corruption and abuse of power at the highest echelons of our government threaten the fabric of democracy and common life.
The earth is awash with instruments of violence and war. Bigotry, exclusion, exploitation, and division continue their stranglehold on nations and religions. Injustices of poverty and economic disparity go unabated.
Compassion, justice, generoisty, kindness, forgiveness, integrity, integrity–these seem hidden from much of public and private life, sealed in the tomb of despair.
Indeed, the gloomy world of Good Friday’s evil surrounds us! We are tempted to hide behind our closed doors, or acquiesce to the prevailing corruption and cruelty, or retaliate with our own vengeance and hatred, or give up in despair.
But hold on! Keep vigilant! Sunday is coming! Easter is on the way! God’s final word is yet to be spoken! A new world is about to dawn!