The dying breath of a living Lord blew over the arid lands of Palestine 2000
years ago. The one I profess as Lord and Savior hung on a cross and
surrendered his spirit to God.
Jesus' torture began in the pastoral Garden of Gethsemane when Judas
betrayed Jesus with a kiss. From there, the Temple police took Jesus to
Caiphas' house where he was hit, spat upon, insulted and imprisoned. The
ordeal continued Friday morning with more false accusations, then an
appearance before Pilate. At the insistence of the crowd, Pilate authorized
Jesus' flogging then crucifixion. Ultimately the one Christians profess as
the Son of God died. Paradoxically, this day of death and torture is called
For many, the intensity and brutality of Jesus' death has been brought to
life by Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ. Jesus endured a
savage beating - scourging as the ancients called it. Many modern critics
say the movie was overdone. Gibson retorted, "Every drop of blood was
What could be good about a brutal death of any person, much less the death
of the one professed as Messiah and Savior? The Roman centurion present at
his death provides a glimpse of the good. According to Mark's Gospel, as
Jesus died a Roman centurion who had witnessed his death looked upon the
cross and said, "Surely this man is the Son of God."
Therein lies the good of the day, the redemptive hope. In the voluntary
suffering of Jesus, we see the depth of love God has for his people and his
creation. Repulsive? Absolutely. Intense? Without question. The cross is a
stumbling block to faith even today. And that is exactly why God chose the
cross as a means to redeem the world.
I have seen Gibson's movie a couple of times. Each time it evoked emotions
ranging from shock to pity to an overwhelming gratitude. The viewer cannot
help but be moved by pity toward Jesus, then to realize that all that he
endured he did it voluntarily for me. Such love is piercing and has brought
millions to faith in this self-giving God.
Jesus' life shows God hiding in the broken beneath the very things the world
calls weak. In that weakness, God's strength is made known. In the story of
a pitiable widow who gave her final coin, the mite, we see remarkable
strength of faith, courage and generosity. The cross provides a lens of
perspective on the Gospels and on life. Through this lens we recognize that
the cross of Jesus turned the world's values upside down. Strength comes
through submission. Glory comes through servanthood. Life eternal comes
through death. The cross is a witness against a pursuit of worldly success.
Martin Luther understood this power of weakness as the theology of the
cross, and such theology stands over and against a theology of glory. The
theology of the cross is lived out in sacrifice, humility and compassion.
The false theology of glory is lived out in self-aggrandizement, pursuit of
power and honor, and a triumphant spirit that marches over the needs of the
Good Friday calls Christians home to a place that is at once sad and
redemptive - to the story of Jesus' enormous suffering. There in the
suffering of a faithful servant, the secret of God's kingdom is revealed.
There, in the cross of Jesus, we find God's forgiveness of our sin and an
invitation to the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of love, compassion and
(Glenn Ethridge is senior pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.