The Meaning of the Cross

Good Friday is not “good.”

Jesus died. We barely study Friday and Saturday of holy week. We focus on Easter. We want parades that ignore the suffering of the cheering crowd who gathered to protest evil’s oppression. We want life without punishment, without the silence that follows a beloved child’s plea for his father to show his face. Perhaps we have heard a message of the cross that is too difficult to digest, even with a bite of bread and a sip of wine.

Traditional language calls Jesus’ death on a cross a “sacrifice,” “substitute,” and claims Jesus “paid the penalty” for our wayward lives. This state execution, encouraged and supported by local religious co-conspirators, is described as a tool in the hands of an angry God. God exacted punishment for crimes against humanity from his own kid, who did nothing wrong.  Who wants to be friends with that?

Is there an alternative?
I believe these unstudied words miss the point and lead us to abuse our power with the illusion of redemptive violence. Death on the cross was a sinful action of sinful human beings. I believe God chose to unite with us so thoroughly (incarnation) that it meant God, in Jesus, would die a human, mortal death, like we do, and then ended up enduring injustice, like many of us do. In the case of Jesus, his “crime,” was showing evidence that we could live together in peace.

Jesus died on a cross, not to please God, but to keep people in positions of authority and wealth and perceived safety.

Christ’s life, offered to us, demonstrates a new way of being human.  
Justice invites us to equitable sharing of power, of resources, it provides shared access to healing, shared economic wealth so everyone has enough to eat. Kindness asks us to pray for our enemies. This new life trusts God is doing a new thing that refutes violence, even the possibility of redemptive violence.
Easter is the answer
That new thing, God’s answer to the cross and our wayward way of living, was always going to culminate in resurrection. Without fear of death as final, we can brave the life we are living on new terms.

Let us be resurrected, transformed, through Christ’s courageous and healing work of reconciliation, even if it leads us to pick up a cross ourselves.

Happy Easter, happy life! Peace,

Rev Bev
Credit: Awake My Soul,Mike Moyers, httpsdigliblibraryvanderbilteduactimagelinkplRC57138-retrieved-January-28-2023-.jpg