It’s Good Friday today, and all across the world Christians are going to church to remember the death of Jesus.
To the uninitiated this might seem back to front. If Christians really believe Jesus was God, why focus on his death, instead of his life? Why not celebrate his teachings and ministry, instead of his most wretched day?
Jesus taught “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” and he meant it.
He did it.
People often view God as an angry old man in the sky, waiting for the opportunity to smite or judge. Yet on Good Friday, as Jesus hangs, dying, on a twisted implement of torture we see God exposed. At his most vulnerable. Arguably the truest reflection of himself.
Faced with the viciousness of men, Jesus did not resist or take the path of violence; instead he showed us a better way. He broke the cycle of animosity by refusing to respond in kind. He liberated us from the power of hatred and retribution. In doing so, he showed us the heart of God
Author and activist Parker Palmer wrote “It was on the cross that God’s heart was broken for the sake of mankind, broken open into a love that Christ’s followers are called to emulate. In its simple physical form, the cross embodies the notion that tension can pull the heart open. Its cross-beams stretch out four ways, pulling against each other left and right, up and down. But those arms converge in a centre, a heart, that can be pulled open by that stretching, by the tensions of life- a heart that can be opened so fully it can hold everything from despair to ecstasy. And that, of course, is how Jesus held his excruciating experience, as an opening into the heart of God.”
This is why we remember the cross, why this particular Friday is ‘good’, despite the awful and inhumane events that took place.
God revealed the depths of his love to humanity.
For you. For me. For all of us.
“God is love”, said the apostle John in his letters to the early church. How did he know? Because he met Jesus, he lived with Jesus and he saw Jesus die. He saw Jesus pray forgiveness over those who were tortmenting him.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if as his disciples, we could display the open heart of God in how we live. Point people to the cross by our self-sacrificial actions. Show and receive grace abundantly. Love extravagantly. Forgive generously.
This, I think, is the movement Jesus had in mind when he spoke about the Kingdom of God.
Few have embodied this Jesus way of living more authentically that Martin Luther King Jr, and it’s with a quote from his appropriately named ‘Love in Action’ sermon series that I’d like to finish;
“Jesus eloquently affirmed from the cross a higher law. He knew that the old eye for an eye philosophy would end up leaving everybody blind. He did not seek to overcome evil with evil. He overcame evil with good. Although crucified by hate, he responded with a radical love.”