Even if you skip the beatings Jesus had before his execution, crucifixion is a brutal way to die. Your arms and legs are impaled to a rough wooden cross, which is then stood upright. You’re typically naked during your execution. What remains of your life is a choice between easing the pain in your feet and arms–at the cost of not being able to breathe, or pushing up on them to catch a breath.
It typically took hours to die. Breaking the legs of the condemned was considered a mercy, as it prevented them from pushing up and catching a breath. Death soon followed.
God allowed us to do this to him.
Love is giving someone permission to deeply hurt you and God certainly did that.
Personally, if you tortured me to death and I had the ability to call down a legion of angels to avenge me, anyone who participated in what happened would be a smudge on the ground.
Most Christians celebrate Easter, with Good Friday as a weigh station on the route to the resurrection. Good Friday is a bummer. Easter is a triumph, a chance to celebrate Jesus’s beating death and saving us all.
(If God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, then we already had the route to salvation; we just didn’t realize it.)
While Jesus rose on Sunday, it’s how he handled Friday that we should look to as a model, especially if you call yourself Christian.
A lot of American Christians say they’re persecuted, unable to practice their faith without some sort of risk. My pastor put that in perspective last weekend when he described discussions he had with Chinese pastors and the threats to their lives. Last I knew no one in the United States was disappeared for proclaiming Jesus.
But Jesus wasn’t about amassing power. If he were, he’d have been the political savior the Jews of the time were looking for. Instead, Jesus was an itinerant preacher. He allowed us to execute him in one of the worst ways we ever invented. A mighty leader who wanted political dominion for himself and his followers would’ve broken the people trying to execute him. Instead, he submitted both to the Roman and the Jews, but also to his Father’s will.
That means we’re called to be the same.
We aren’t supposed to worry about accumulating political power or demonizing our enemies or worrying about Lil Nas X’s sneakers.
Jesus didn’t die to make us powerful; he died to make us free. He died to show us that we could stand in front of God, having done our worst, and God wouldn’t destroy us. We know this because he didn’t destroy us when we murdered him.
We forget that too often. We assert our power in his name as if Jesus agrees with us. We spend too much time on the triumph of Easter Sunday, as if it were our triumph. When really Good Friday was our pardon, the tangible proof that God loved us so much that he wouldn’t avenge himself even when we murdered him.
In that regard, maybe Good Friday is the point and Easter is the end flourish that proves the point.
God literally had every right to destroy us and he didn’t. That’s love.
As a result, we’re not supposed to be loud and proud and powerful. We’re supposed to be moved to profound gratitude that God showed us that we could literally do our worst to him and that he wouldn’t destroy us.
PS — I’m not good at any of this.