Good Friday always raises questions for me. Here are some of my 'why' questions.
On Monday the world looked to Paris and wept for they sensed the loss of something sacred, even if they don’t believe in God. But maybe the weeping is for the loss of the sacred in their own hearts, for an emptiness that can only be satisfied by the One who is sacred. Good Friday is about the sacred sacrificed so the world can know sacred hope once again.
Today we go back to the darkest day in history, the day when God dies for his creation. Without Jesus’ death, all hope in the world is lost and all creation lost with it. Yet whenever I return to the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross, so many questions flow through my head and heart.
Jesus goes quietly with the soldiers when they arrest him and goes through 2 crazily unfair trials that end with him convicted of blasphemy against his Father and treason against Rome. I end up with a whole lot of ‘why’ questions that keep coming back.
The first ‘why’ is ‘why does everyone hate Jesus so much?’ It’s not like he’s some cruel tyrant; he’s spent the past 3 years offering healing, hope, forgiveness, and grace. He’s been teaching how to love God and how to live well with our neighbour so that the people can experience the shalom, the peace of God. There doesn’t seem to be anything that would justify such anger and yet Jesus did say that people would hate him and his followers. Jesus turns our world upside down, he challenges rules-based faith, pride filled leadership and calls us to humility, extreme generosity, and service instead of being served. People push back against Jesus because he calls us to be all in for him, no holding back. You can’t just kind of follow Jesus, he demands your whole life, and lots of people find that hard to accept.
I ask, ‘why death?’ Why does Jesus have to die? Over the years I’ve had so many people ask me this question, along with, ‘If God is all-powerful, couldn’t he have chosen a different way?’ God has always been clear what the penalty is for sin and disobedience. Genesis 2 tells us, “15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Blasphemy is one of the bigger sins. The Jewish leaders believed Jesus blasphemed against God by saying he is the Son of God. Blasphemy is when you make God smaller while making yourself bigger. The leaders are afraid that if they don’t punish Jesus, that God will punish them. In Leviticus 24, God says, “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. 15 Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.” God takes blasphemy seriously.
‘Why two trials?’ Why does Jesus have to go through the mockery of a trial before both the Sanhedrin and Pilate? The Sanhedrin don’t have a lot of power. They can do the religious trial, but they have no power to really punish Jesus, this is why they need Pilate, only Pilate can sentence Jesus to death. But this means they have to find a reason for Pilate to put Jesus to death. In Luke 22, we discover that the chief priests tell Pilate that Jesus claims to be Christ, a king, and that he opposes paying taxes to Caesar, a form of rebellion against Caesar. Jesus’ first trial is for blasphemy while his second trial is for treason. Both trials are about Jesus claiming power for himself from the ruler of the universe and the ruler on earth.
‘Why doesn’t Jesus defend himself?’ Jesus didn’t have to walk this path to the cross, he chose to because this is his father’s will; the way our sin is paid for, washed away in order to make us holy in God’s sight. I know this and still part of me cries out ‘unfair, it shouldn’t be this way.’ It does make me appreciate Jesus’ commitment and love for us even more. Jesus accepts the injustice and overcomes it in the journey to the cross; his lifelong suffering and death on the cross making us right with God again.
Jesus knows that defending himself isn’t going to make a difference. Justice wasn’t the goal of these trials, getting rid of him was. Jesus knows the words of the prophets and fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 53, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Jesus, the sacrificial lamb for our sin, remains silent in front of his accusers!
‘Why is Pilate so afraid’ and feels he has to sentence Jesus to death. Jesus is taken before Pilate so he can give Jesus a death-sentence. Pilate’s afraid of the Jewish leaders. Early on in his governorship, Pilate did some extremely cruel things against the Jews, so cruel, the Jews sent a group of people to Caesar to complain. Since the Jews have a history of rebellion, the governor’s main task is to keep the peace and so Pilate is given a harsh warning from Caesar to smarten up. In John 19, the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be king opposes Caesar.” And then a few minutes later when Pilate asks, “Shall I crucify your king,” the Jews shout, “We have no king but Caesar.” Pilate’s afraid of Caesar’s anger, so he hands Jesus over to be crucified.
‘Why crucifixion, why such a painful death?’ The penalty for sin is death, but why on a cross? This is where Deuteronomy 21 comes in, “anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse.” Jesus goes under God’s curse for us, taking our place. His family stood under the cross watching his life drip away. By taking God’s curse on himself, we receive God’s blessing in return. On the cross, Jesus enters into the kingdom of Satan, hanging between heaven and earth, rejected by both, and it’s here in Satan’s realm that Jesus defeats Satan and claims victory over him, overcoming death 3 days later. Satan is still frantically trying to twist God’s good blessings so they’re no longer good, but his power is limited because Jesus went to the cross under God’s curse and claimed every part of creation as his.
So many questions. Asking questions is good because it keeps us returning to Jesus and the Bible. When we get answers, we often stop thinking, reflecting and searching, so the Holy Spirit keeps raising up questions to keep drawing us closer to Jesus, the Jesus who went to the cross, who hung between heaven and earth because of angry frightened people, who defeated Satan and death so that we are made sacred again in the eyes of God.