Today we celebrate the death of Jesus Christ. Yes, we celebrate his death. We celebrate it because Jesus’ death pays the price for our sins and wins for us our redemption. It is also a sign for us of God’s limitless love for us. There is nothing God will not do for us.
The Jews had been expecting a great political messiah who would defeat their enemies in battle. Jesus was not a political messiah. The enemy that Jesus defeats for us is sin and death. It is a battle won not with swords or guns but by sacrifice. And what greater sacrifice is there than to give up one’s life for a people?
The Jews expected a political messiah who would be victorious in earthly battle. Our first reading for Good Friday (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) does not speak of such a political messiah. Rather, Isaiah speaks of a suffering servant. There is debate about who the suffering servant is; is it an Old Testament figure; is it Isaiah himself; is it the Israelite people? In some ways it is all of them but it is Jesus who shows us what it truly means to be a suffering servant.
The gospel on Good Friday is always John’s Passion narrative (John 18:1-19:42). In John’s passion narrative Jesus is very much in control. He is not defeated by Pilate or anyone else. What happens is all according to God’s will. Jesus suffers because he chooses to suffer for our sake.
When we suffer, we may feel abandoned by God. God does not want us to have to suffer. Some of our sufferings are our own fault. Some of our sufferings are because of choices made by people around us. Some of our sufferings are not any one’s fault or caused by God. No matter why we suffer God is right there with us. God knows what it is like to suffer, even to death.
At the end of the passion, Jesus lies dead in the tomb. There is more to come on Easter and what comes fills us with hope.