Good Friday, March 29
Morning: Ps. 22
Jesus is dying. A company of evildoers has encircled him. They have pierced his hands and feet (Ps. 22:16). They have spilled his blood (1 Peter 1:19). They have left him without help, groaning and forsaken (Ps. 22:1), as have we (John 13:36-38). And soon, later today, Jesus will die, and his friends will claim his body, which they will bury, bound and spiced, in a new tomb where no one had ever been laid (John 19:38-42).
1 Peter 1:10-20
John 13:36-38 or John 19:38-42
And all of this, all of this suffering and dying, all of this piercing and bleeding, all of this affliction and abandonment was done so that we might be ransomed from our futile ways, from the passions and ignorance inherited from our fathers (and mothers, certainly!), ransomed, not with perishable things that offer short-lived salvation, “but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:14-20).
This is good portion of the faith we confess: that on this day we were saved by Christ’s sacrifice, by the Lamb that was slain.
It is a difficult faith, not because it’s hard to believe, not for me at least, but rather because it’s hard to get right, to specify its content and live in accord with its confession. And heaven knows we have too often gotten it very wrong. As the critic Kenneth Burke has pointed out, we Christians have too often fixed our attention on the killing and the dying, on the victim and the perpetrators, and not on Jesus. This is misplaced attention, he thinks, because it puts the murder of our Lord, not the self-sacrifice of Love, at the center of our faith, and this in turn, tempts us to seek revenge against injustice instead of remembering a friend Who was willing to suffer loss for our sake and identifying with a brother Who would teach us how to love. The trick, according to Burke, is to concede Christ’s passion without denying Love’s agency and to identify with that Love without denying His distinctiveness.
And so with the psalmist we confess: “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plenteous redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (Ps. 130:7).
Professor John Bowlin