Today is Good Friday. At noon today about 150 folks will gather in our sanctuary to face the ugliness of the execution of God’s beloved child. When we hear the story of the crucifixion our beautiful gold cross will be shrouded in black cloth. The service will end in a pain-filled silence.
Most of us, me included, want to skip right over all of the unpleasant scenes of death and dying while getting ready for the trumpets of Easter. We would just as soon avoid all of the pain and the problems that are so evident and get right on to the party. I mean, really, who wants to face a dying Jesus?
Before you try to answer that question, I must let you in on a theological truth that too many treat like a secret: A Jesus who never dies, an antiseptic Jesus who never experiences pain, will never bring us to the deep joy that God intends for every one of God’s children.
Have you seen Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ? When I went to see it I took my Moleskin notebook to make notes about it. I found many theological and artistic flaws in the movie.
My wife, Julie, watched it a few weeks later. I was curious about her view of the film. Julie is one of the brightest theologians I have ever met. Her sense of the Bible and some of the deeper issues around faith are amazing. Her eyes filled with tears as she described her reaction. She said, “What would it have been like to be Mary, to see your son, your boy, beaten, whipped, tortured and killed?”
Do you see what she did that I was unwilling until that moment to do? I wanted to keep it all in my head and my mind. I wanted to write a term paper, but she followed Jesus. She stood with Mary at the foot of the cross. She went with the women to the tomb. She was willing to face the pain, the blood, the sweat, the tears.
In that moment it dawned on me that only a broken Christ can heal a broken world. When we get lost in the abstract discussion of who Christ really was or what he really might have said, we lose sight of our faith.
Life is broken. You may be too young to know that but someday every one of us will know that life breaks all of us. In God’s world, though, the breaking is the new beginning. As Ernest Hemingway’s immortal words remind us, “We are strong in the broken places.”
May your journey to the empty tomb begin at the cross,