“Christmas and Easter can be subjects for poetry, but Good Friday, like Auschwitz, cannot. The reality is so horrible it is not surprising that people should have found it a stumbling block to faith.” ~W.H. Auden
Years ago, when The Passion of the Christ came out in theaters, I was eager to see it. I had read the reviews and I knew that it was going to be a bloody, gruesome movie, but I also heard it was well written and acted and would give me a more realistic understanding of the Crucifixion. I remember finding a seat in the crowded theater only to realize that I was sitting next to a small girl, probably no older than 8. As the movie progressed and became more graphic, I heard the little girl next to me whimpering, and moments later she was crying. As they whipped Jesus and the blood ran down his back she buried her head in the shoulder of the woman she came with and cried. As they nailed him to the cross, (a scene I had to turn my head from watching) I heard her wail, “Why are they doing that to Jesus?!?” By the end of the movie, I could tell she was not the only traumatized person in the theater. There were people crying everywhere, and I would be lying if I said there were no tears in my eyes.
Now I am not going to get into whether or not that child should have been in the theater in the first place, my point is she asked a very valid question. Why are they doing that to Jesus? And since that day, when I stop and think about the Crucifixion, her question surfaces in my mind.
If I am honest with myself, the answer to that question is that they were doing that to Jesus because of me! And the horror of that reality is life changing. You see, I tend to think of myself as not that bad. After all, I was raised in the church, I follow the rules, I think I make pretty good choices.
But when I stare at the cross, and the full weight of its implications settle on me, all my good deeds are stripped away and what is left in the vacuum is my pride and selfishness. Daily I do things that should separate me from God, but for the cross I would be lost, because it was there Christ took my punishment. The cross was bloody and gruesome and horrible, but the physical death paled in comparison to the devastating emptiness when God turned His back on His son. The punishment that by birthright was mine, fell on another, so that in doing so I could be restored! So I cannot boast of my good deeds, or my virtues, for they have played no role in my redemption, but rather I cling to the promise of that bloody cross, for it is only by the arms and feet that bore those nails that I have been redeemed!
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” ~Galatians 2:20
“I am wholly deserving of all the consequences that I will in fact never receive simply because God unashamedly stepped in front of me on the cross, unflinchingly spread His arms so as to completely shield me from the retribution that was mine to bear, and repeatedly took the blows. And I stand entirely unwounded, utterly lost in the fact that the while His body was pummeled and bloodied to death by that which was meant for me and me alone, I have not a scratch.” ~Craig D. Lounsbrough
“It is to the Cross that the Christian is challenged to follow his Master: no path of redemption can make a detour around it.” ~Hans Urs con Balthasar
“But the resurrection without the crucifixion is empty optimism, an optimism that gives credence to Freud’s notion that wishful thinking is the sum and substance of our faith. Include the crucifixion–and our role in that bloody moment–and the whole picture changes.” ~Mark Galli