I’ve seen a lot of cartoons going around facebook today explained Good Friday. There is a B.C. cartoon where one character asks the other why the day is good. The response is “If you were going to be hanged that day and he volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?” The response was “good.” So there you are.
My gut reaction was to think “I wouldn’t feel good, I’d feel guilty.” I’ve seen the cartoon posted several times, and each time something would just rub wrong. It wasn’t until the middle of our Good Friday service tonight that it finally clicked . . . no one ever wanted to hang me.
Jesus was killed because of the things he taught, because of the life he lived. He was dangerous. He spoke out against the Roman government, and he acted in defiance of the religious leaders. He gave authority to the outcasts and sinners. He listened to women and empowered them to lead. He healed those who had been suffering, gave sight to the blind, and called back those who had been dead. He spoke of a new order where the last shall be first, where the oppressed shall be free, where the poor shall not want. He spent his time with the unclean, but had a voice that compelled the masses. And as the Low song states, “if you were born today, we’d kill you by age 8.” Dangerous people make enemies. And Jesus had many. He was put to death because he needed to be silenced.
I, on the other hand, am far too timid to be dangerous. After all, in his last days, Jesus said “those who love their lives will lose it.” As it turns out, I have loved my life. And because of it, people haven’t needed to kill me. I have died already in my apathy.
Jesus didn’t volunteer to die in my place; rather, he invited all of us to follow him to the cross. We are to stand alongside him and call out the places of injustice. We are to stand with those in pain. We are to hold up and cry with those who weep. We are to lead the sort of dangerous lives that make us targets to the powers that be.
If Good Friday doesn’t make us call out “Lord, have mercy on me,” then we’ve somehow failed to read the story of Jesus’s life and death. Because we are in no means off the hook, merely indebted to a God who would sacrifice God’s own life so that we don’t have to die. No! We are to take up our crosses and march right there to Golgotha. And lest we think ourselves righteous enough to say that we do that, remember that even Jesus was sweating drops of blood in the garden before he was betrayed. This isn’t easy or light. It literally requires our lives. We are to die with Jesus.
And that’s where I have failed.
When I hear of human rights atrocities around the world and walk away, I let Christ die alone.
When I hear of sex trafficking in my own state and think “well that’s too bad,” I let Christ die alone.
When I see hungry people on my street, but have dinner privately in my apartment, I let Christ die alone.
When I hear statistics about the number of people in American prisons and don’t ask questions, I let Christ die alone.
When my gay brothers and sisters are killing themselves to end the bullying and hatred, I let Christ die alone.
When people die of preventable and curable diseases, I let Christ die alone.
Because you know what? I believe in the Kingdom of God. I believe that the way of Jesus is good news. But I live as if I love the Empire that oppresses. Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.
Good Friday is no good if we walk away thinking ourselves righteous. Good Friday is only good if it motivates us to pick out our nails and get involved in giving our lives to the things Jesus lived for — to the things good enough to die for.
Read more from Jennifer Harris Dault at her blog.