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Good Friday A Gospel

John 18:1-19:42

Brent Peterson

“The Hour Has Come” and “Why is Good Friday, Good”

Theology of this Text

This is the Good Friday narrative told through the lens of the Gospel of John. Taking a step back beyond this passage to all of Scripture it is important to reflect on this powerful day in the Church year. This day is called Good Friday, yet, why is this day good? Without delving into the multiplicity of atonement theories, it is always important to let the texts speak. It is noteworthy that our passage in John is not offering an atonement theory, but proclaiming a story that is both tragic and the foundation of Christian faith and discipleship. In fact, perhaps one of the first things we need to do with such a text is not start explaining it away with antiseptic shallow theological platitudes. For many Christians this story of Jesus being crucified all makes sense. We have made it fit our theological system. In doing so we have lost the scandalous nature of the killing and murder of Jesus.

At a basic level I want to suggest that this Friday is not good because the Jews and Romans conspired to kill Jesus. By the way as I read these texts both parties are at work in this killing. Yet beyond simply blaming the Jews and Romans we are to begin to see that all of us are the Jews and Romans. In a very real sense Jesus Christ is dead and we have killed him. All of humanity is culpable as conspirators in this vicious and evil act.

This day is good because Jesus Christ, submitting to the will of the Father not to flee or flight, allowed himself to be killed as an act of love to the Father and to Creation. This day is good because the Father handed over the Son, Jesus Christ to death, wherein God in Christ experienced full victimization of those who have received the blows of sin. This day is good because by the power of the Spirit, the Father and Son were joined in their surrender to both demonstrate and provide a victory over sin and death. This day is good because love triumphed. Love trampled over sin, violence and death, not by violently participating in it, but by absorbing it.

We must invite the church to hear this familiar story again for the first time. We must invite them to hear it in agony and pain. Lent invites us to despair over our sin. Cheap forgiveness becomes toxic and corrupts the life of holiness. We must invite them to see their culpability in it. We must invite them to see how God is present to those who have also been the victims of evil and God did not prevent it. We must invite them to have their understanding of love and power redefined by this act of submission to the hands of sinful humanity. We must let them experience the despair of Jesus’ death. Clearly Easter Sunday is a day of victorious jubilation, but until persons have sat and let the despair of Jesus’ death seep into their bones, the Good News of Easter may ring hollow.

Context of the Text