What is so good about today? What is the logic in celebrating someone’s death? And what does it mean in the current context of enforced isolation? Growing up in a Christian home I was taught that #GoodFriday is the day we pause to think about the death of Jesus. It was on this day that he was brutally crucified on a cross to pay for the sins of humanity. But what does that mean exactly? Why Jesus? And how does that translate in a multi-faceted religious context such as we find ourselves in today?
This two-part series will attempt to dissect the theological framework through which we can understand the significance of the events of this weekend and particularly how this framework can give us a sense of comfort during these difficult times. So, where do we begin? In order to understand the significance of the cross event it is necessary that we consider it within the context of the history of Israel. From a Christian perspective, faith can be traced back to this group of people chosen by God to represent his mission to the rest of the world. The role of Israel was to reconcile humanity back to God whose sole desire has always been to have a relationship with the world.
Like a lot of people in elected positions of power today, the Israelites constantly took their election for granted assuming that they were better than the other nations because God had chosen them. This sense of entitlement repeatedly interfered with their actual mission, which was to let the other nations know that God was interested in a relationship with them too. Because it goes against who God is to ignore disobedience (evil), the Israelites found themselves being annihilated constantly. However, God’s intention remained and so he always left a remnant who he entrusted to carry on his mission of relational redemption of all of humanity. This is the core theme of the first half of the Christian scriptures. Immediately a hero appeared on the scene who showed signs of being able to succeed in fulfilling God’s plan, they gave in to the temptation to use their election for their own fulfilment and thus the cycle continues.
Just when it seems as though all hope is lost, in steps the final hero. This Israelite is chosen as the final attempt to fulfil the seemingly mission impossible. Additionally, he claims to be the son of God, a king of a heavenly kingdom whose resume is stacked with numerous examples of him validating this claim by defying natural forces of life. From his birth there are multiple attempts to prevent him from fulfilling his mission including attempts on his life. However, he consistently overcomes these attacks as well as the temptation to make his election about him, a temptation which rendered his predecessors powerless. One witness recalls how each time he did something signifying his royalty, it was followed by a counterattack on his life and mission. This relationship between him and evil continues to escalate until we finally get to the point where we find ourselves today, evil finally has the victory and he is killed.
Today marks a great day for the forces of evil because they finally succeed in annihilating the one human who was able to communicate the message of God without giving in to the temptation to believe that his election was for his benefit. In this human we finally find a true hero, one whose mission was never ultimately about him but rather was always directed towards the ultimate benefit of the entire cosmos. Today also marks the day when despite his obedience, evil was able to overwhelm him. Evil so encapsulated him to the point where God was unable to continue his relationship with him. On this day we find our hero at his death experiencing isolation like no other. Abandoned by all his mates and now by his own Father he goes to the grave alone!
In a very real sense, as we face this Good Friday in isolation, we get a little taste of what his experience was like. With this whole COVID-19 pandemic, it would appear as though history has repeated itself and once again evil is victorious. Whether or not we believe the Jesus story, we are all currently experiencing, in one way or another, the effects of isolation that are enforced on us by evil. Is this how the story ends? Are we doomed to always succumb to the forces of darkness? Is there any hope for humanity? Tune in on Sunday for the second part of this series where we further explore these existential crises.