200410 – Good Friday Reflection – Look At It

Look at it.

It’s such a simple device, one shorter horizontal beam fastened at a right angle to a longer vertical beam.

It’s made of wood so the materials are plentiful.

It was effective both as a tool and a symbol.

As a tool it was used to execute people who had crossed the Roman occupiers.

As a symbol it stood menacingly along the roadside reminding all of the awful power of the oppressor.

It’s a device of torture and suffering designed to kill agonizingly slowly.

Its purpose was to degrade and humiliate a person utterly, to reduce them to a non-person.


Look at it.

The cross we see is empty, clean, idealized.

It has been transformed from a symbol of death to a symbol of new life.

It has been glorified and mythologized and sanitized.


A word we’re hearing and understanding far more deeply these days.

These days, where every day feels a bit like Good Friday in some ways.

But that draws our focus away from the cross.

And the cross deserves, demands our focus today.


We casually wear it as jewellery and embrace it as a promise of renewal.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

It is absolutely that.

The empty cross and the empty tomb are our ultimate symbols of life.


But they are only symbols of life because they became empty.

They didn’t start that way.

The tomb had a body in it.

The cross held a man aloft.

There is no symbol of new life without the harsh reality of a death that preceded it.


That’s why we gather today – to pause, and reflect, and to never allow ourselves to forget that this is really real.

Jesus really was nailed to that thing.

Jesus really did die an agonizingly slow death.

It wasn’t pretty.

It wasn’t clean.

And it wasn’t good.

There was nothing good about that Friday.


Good Friday is a terrible name for today.

It almost feels insultingly sarcastic.

The only way we can see it as good is to look back upon it in the full light of Sunday and know that something very good came from it.

But that day itself?

Not good.


We are an Easter people, but we couldn’t become that without Friday – without the cross.

No, we didn’t put Jesus on the cross.

No, you are not responsible for his death.

No, God didn’t punish him in your place.


That is hateful theology.

That is not God.


Did Jesus choose this death?

That’s a complicated question.

Did he plot and scheme a way to draw attention to himself and make himself a martyr for God?


But did he know that a cross was waiting for him should he continue on the path he was blazing?



Look at it.

See Jesus on it.

Did it hurt him to die that way?

Of course it did!

But his death would have been much longer, and slower, and more painful if he sold out, if he turned his back on God’s way, if he took the path of less resistance and traded what was right for what was easy.

That is a much worse death.

That, is hell.


Jesus was nailed to that cross because his unflinching commitment to loving God, loving people, and loving his disciples ran him afoul of both the religious and political authorities of his day.

Jesus was killed because society values power over communion, control over compassion, and individuality over connectedness.

If we don’t engage the world differently maybe we are responsible for his death.


Look at it.

It’s such a simple device, one shorter horizontal beam fastened at a right angle to a longer vertical beam.

The vertical grounded in the earth and reaching for the heavens.

The horizontal stretching out like two arms embracing the world.


How can such a simple device have such depth of meaning?

How can it evoke such a powerful response in us?

How can it be both death and life at the same time?


Perhaps it’s those questions and the thousand other questions that race through our minds about God and God’s Way that are the real power of the cross.

Perhaps the point is the deep breath and the pang in our gut when we contemplate it.

Perhaps it’s the stark reminder that new life must be preceded by some kind of dying.

Perhaps it reminds us to trust God’s light in the face of abject darkness.


Perhaps that’s why we call this day “Good”.