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Archive for April 5th, 2012

Reflections on Good Friday

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Tomorrow is Good Friday, the day Christians observe Jesus’s crucifixion.  It can be a very depressing day, partly because the idea of anyone being crucified for any reason is abhorrent, mostly because Jesus is adjudged one of the best people who’ve ever walked the face of the Earth even by most non-Christians.  (Of course, Jesus is seen as the Son of God by Christians.)  But he died via crucifixion, in agony, despite his goodness/divinity.

Yet for whatever reason, most non-priests would rather speak of Easter than Good Friday.  Granted, Easter is a much easier holiday to speak of as it’s a day of celebration, forgiveness, and hope.  (I wrote about Easter last year.)  It’s a day that should be celebrated.  But we also need to consider the importance of the day that preceded Easter — the day made Easter possible.  That day is Good Friday, one of the worst days in the history of the world . . . the day the Son of God was “cut down to size” and forced to endure horrible suffering, then death, mostly because the politicians of his time were afraid of him.

Without getting too much into Jesus’s story (that’s for the Bible to tell, not me), I believe the reason we still observe Good Friday is because as a people, we cannot believe that perhaps the best person ever created was treated this terribly.  Most religions, aside from Judaism, see Jesus, bare minimum, as a very good man: for example, some Buddhists see Jesus as a bodhisattva — someone who’s delayed his entry into the positive afterlife because he knows people alive on Earth need his help.**  Others see Jesus as an important prophet, even if not the very last Son of God; the religions who see Jesus this way include the Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) and all branches of the Muslim faith (including my favorite branch, the Sufis).

That the politicians of that time could see Jesus, a very, very good man who helped others and went out of his way to do so, as some sort of threat to themselves still rings true 2,000 years later.  That even the Son of God could be treated this way, with such callous cruelty, does not sit well with anyone of any reputable faith. 

The good news is, we haven’t forgotten what happened to Jesus, and others like him (many other Christian and non-Christians).  And because we haven’t forgotten, such terrible things as crucifixions became less common in the Western World within decades, then nearly extinct within a few hundred years.

Of course,  the fact that Jesus was killed in this particular fashion — the most revolting, scary, dishonorable death known to the ancient world — resonated with anyone who heard it as the disgusting, disgraceful act that it was, which might be why crucifixion eventually died out.  (Yes, Emperor Constantine I abolished it throughout the Roman Empire in 337 due to his faith in Jesus.  But many others were disquieted by it before Constantine took his first breath, otherwise Constantine wouldn’t have been able to outlaw this form of punishment.)

Christians view what Jesus did as transforming the worst imaginable form of death into a sacred thing.  Jesus took the pain of the world on his shoulders (and hands, and feet), and was able to largely keep from bitterness.  Then, he was cut down from the cross and laid in a tomb.

Jesus died on the cross and is said, by Christians, to have saved everyone else who believes in Him from sin, and that is a weighty message indeed.  But to put it in plainer, more secular, terms, we should try not to lose hope no matter how bad things are.  Because no matter how bad we think it is, there’s always the possibility something better can happen.  Which is why the death, and resurrection, of Jesus Christ should be of interest even to non-Christians.


** Please excuse this very rough way of looking at Buddhism; while I know better, I can’t seem to explain it any better than this.  My late husband Michael was a Buddhist, and my late best friend, Jeff, admired Buddhism also . . . I’m sure they’d do a better job explaining Buddhist views on Jesus, but I hope this will serve.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm