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Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday / Black Friday

Today is "Good Friday". I don't know why this is called Good Friday and the day after Thanksgiving is "Black Friday".  In reality the two terms would do well to switch. It wasn't very good for Jesus Christ.
In the hours between his final meal and last instruction to his best friends, he was betrayed, captured and brought before a kangaroo court of Romans and Jews who each had their own reasons for wanting Him silenced, and who played each other for their own political ends. Jesus came into a world that had been enslaved by legalism and regulation to the point of frustration by the Pharisees and Sadducees, and perpetually occupied by one foreign force after another. From the Persians to the Greeks to the Romans, Christ had come for a people who had been so often overrun that they had to compromise their integrity for the little taste of freedom the Romans offered. (Roman policy was to allow most local customs to coincide with that of Rome so long as the Emperor didn't feel those customs betrayed his near deity or appeared disloyal) So the Jews motivation for betraying Jesus and demanding His crucifixion wasn't so much because He claimed to be God, (although this was the charge they leveled in order to get Pilate to pay attention) as it was fear that He would try to establish a kingdom, and bring the Roman grip tighter around their throats.
The Romans merely wanted peace. They wanted it their way of course and sedition couldn't be tolerated, so when the Jewish power players brought Jesus before them on charges of sedition and unrest the Roman governor had to listen. After "finding no fault in Him" Pilate would have let him go but the Jews would not abide this. They were wise men and they knew what to do and say when Pilate asked them about Christ's Kingship. "We have no King but Caesar!" was their reply. With that declaration, Jesus' fate was sealed. Pilate could not release a man his own people rejected. He would appear himself a traitor had he done so.
So Jesus was lead to a flogging station and his back was laid open like a side of beef. The cat-of-nine-tails is a vicious instrument and a good portion of those who face it never survived. The shards of glass and sharp stone and metal tore through his flesh until his ribs showed through from behind. The Roman soldiers carved him like a steak and spilled his blood with brutish severity.
In all this, Jesus Christ, son of God, never spoke a word. If he cried out as the lashes fell we have no record of it. If He had doubts about finishing the task at hand we can only tell by scripture that he dealt with them the night before in the Garden when he wanted out of this deal so badly that he wrestled with his own Father's answers three times when he asked that the cup pass from him. Three times he asked...three times he got no reply. He wrestled so hard trying to change the way of salvation that his capillaries burst under his skin and his sweat became infused with blood. But his obedience was perfect and he uttered the hardest words written in red in all of Scripture... "Nevertheless...don't do what I what you want"
Jesus was made to carry his own cross. The equivalent of a prisoner being forced to clean and load the rifles that will be used to execute him. This after a night of beatings and sleep deprivation and a flogging so severe that he was literally unrecognizable as a human being. The Romans were progressive when it came to politics amongst those they conquered, but they were savage and thorough when it came time to dispose of their enemies.
And dispose of Him they did.
Calvary is romanticized in Christian thought and literature but it's not a beautiful "Hill Far a
Away".  It was--in Jesus' day--a garbage dump. Literally. It was outside of town and the locals in Jerusalem took their carts of trash there. Even today it's a steep, barren cliff about 15 feet above the ground below. Today they park public transportation buses beneath the ledge where Christ was slaughtered.
It was the trash heap of it's day. That's fitting for a man who was raised in the "City of Trash"...Nazareth. Because Nazareth lies in the upper corner of Israel and three major crossroads all converged there, it was always the first town occupied by invaders. The people of Nazareth had grown weary of the continuous thumbprint of someone elses army and someone elses rule. Being occupied of course, they could own no weapons so their only means of protest was to dump their garbage out the window each day. The streets of Nazareth were lined with trash, waste, debris and unspeakable filth. The occupying soldiers...whomever they might be...had to walk through this mess each day. This was the only way the locals could make their defiance known. Thus the town became know as the "City of Trash".
Jesus was definitely from the other side of the tracks.
So here he is...born in a cave, raised in the City of Trash and killed on a trash heap. He was the Son of God with spit running down his face, suspended between two worlds on a brutal cross on the outskirts of town. He was whispered about and mocked and betrayed by those closest to Him.
And I have entrusted my soul to this man...
If you came to his birthplace looking for a King you'd have left disappointed. If you had been standing nearby watching His death you would have been broken hearted...and maybe even disgusted. The shear brutality would have unnerved you and His claims of being the only begotten Son of God would have likely seemed insane. Nobody of greatness dies this way. Nobody of royalty is brutalized in such a fashion. But he was.
The only way you can reconcile his claims with his fate that awful, terrible black Friday is to understand that he permitted it all. Either he was who he said he was or he was not. And if you believe he was who he claimed to be then the one and only conclusion you can arrive at is that he allowed this entire savage procedure to take place. He did it willingly. The question is "why?"
The answer is "you".
Jesus made the pronouncement, "I am the Way the Truth and the Life...NO ONE comes before God unless they come through me"
No one.
So in deference to Oprah, and Eckhart Tolle, and Ghandi, and Brigham Young, and Joseph Smith, and Buddha, and Mohammad, and Depak Chopra, and everyone else who ever tried to find another route. To all those who insisted on arriving West by sailing East and avoiding passage through Jesus Christ I say...look at this man.
Look at a man with the Creation of the Universe on his resume and wonder at how he permitted...he permitted those Roman butchers to strip him of his flesh and his dignity. Look at the King of Kings speaking only words of comfort, salvation, and need as he hanged suspended on the butchers block of crucifixion. Look at the darkened sky and quaking earth as his own Father rejects him for our sake. He did this willingly. He chose obedience to death so that death would obey Him and not be our conqueror. He did this out of love.
Look at this man and mouth the words of the Roman soldier..."Surely this man was the Son of God"

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