The clear minded instinctively turn away from suffering. When confronted with the pains and sufferings of life, it is quite normal to change topic, scroll away, look elsewhere. Part of this is the glory of being human, we were made to love that which is aesthetic, formed, beautiful. On the other hand it is that we have difficult time understanding the good in suffering. Yet, life’s journey and the scriptures are filled with stories, events and statements that are difficult to face. What do we do when confronted with them?
Our God is different. His transcendence alone sets Him so beyond the realm of human comprehension and understanding. Often when humans attempt to grasp the mysteries of God they wrongly bring Him down to their terms and experiences. They limit Him and His actions to familiar terms: love, warmth, power, anger. When doing this, they draw on the short catalogues of their own experiences of love and power, project them onto God and then take pause to decide if they accept or reject what they see.
Good Friday calls the believer and unbeliever to consider something that normally causes us turn away. The excruciating stab of betrayal. The unimaginable suffering of crucifixion. The terrible injustice of condemning an innocent man to suffer its torments.
Firstly, it is called “good.” What can possibly be “good” about the suffering of our Lord? Or that of any person? Good Friday is good because it calls us out of human decency and into the realm of the divine. The Cross forms a bridge between that which is acceptable and certain and that which is mysterious and chilling. A voice calls to us on this day, “Will you come and consider this Man’s suffering? Will you see and call it good?” On good Friday we leave the fairy tale realm of strong kings that endure no suffering and sojourn into the heart of a tender God who humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Let us go on a journey through the suffering of our Lord. We do not need to rush, for in doing so we tread into the unknown, into the transcendence of God. The Resurrection will come, but let us not rush to it. All resurrections require death. We are invited to behold the crucified Lord and not flee from Him.
He is despised and rejected by men [including us]…He was despised, and we did not esteem Him…(Is. 53:3) – we have all rejected the perfect Lamb. Don’t run from this truth. Dwell on it. Consider it’s meaning. Let it afflict the soul and emotions.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him (vs. 3) – we all have hidden our faces from His suffering. We could not look at it. It was embarrassing. It was extreme. It was gory. Yet, do not push past this reality that we shared in His betrayal.
Smitten by God, and afflicted. (vs. 3) – “By God,” in considering these word we are face with the difficult truth that the Son was smitten by the Father. Why would a Father do this to His Son?
He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth (vs. 7) – Our Lord did not defend Himself. How many times even when we are guilty, if not only partially, do we fiercely defend ourselves? Yet, He stood silent, giving no defense.
Yet it pleased the Lord to [crush] Him (vs. 10) – the Father didn’t simply allow the Son’s death, but it pleased Him. The word pleased here means “took delight in.”
[God] has put Him to grief. (vs. 10) – The Father put Christ to grief.
Good Friday invites us to consider suffering. But more than consider suffering, but embrace Him, embrace the crucified Lord. In it we are forced to ask difficult questions and feel painful emotions. Insight is given into our own un-redeemed state and we must confront those issues, and bring them to our crucified Lord. We remember that in all the world’s suffering and affliction God does not look away, they do not avoid it, they feel it. Let us do the same with our Lord.