In almost every Christian church I have ever been in or seen – there is a cross. Some are bare crosses – some are a crucifix – each telling the story of this day on which we commemorate Jesus death on the cross.
Some of us wear crosses as jewelry – as a sign and symbol of our Christian faith. But if we think about that it is a startling symbol – the cross was the electric chair or the hangman’s noose of the Roman Empire. It was a way to execute criminals and enemies of the state. It was a slow cruel, painful death. The injuries though serious were not life threatening. But it required that in order to breathe the person crucified had to pull up on the wounded hands and push up with the wounded feet to be able to breathe. As pain and muscle fatigue took their toll over hours and days death came as a result of suffocation – not blood loss or traumatic injury.
So why would we wear this horrible instrument of death as a sign of faith? Why do we call this day on which we commemorate the death of the prince of peace GOOD Friday?
Simply because through it we see an ultimate victory. Jesus was not compelled to be arrested. The Garden was outside the wall of the city across the Kidron valley. It would have been simple for him to climb the Mount of Olives and disappear into the Judean wilderness. Jesus had the opportunity to run away into the Judean wilderness where he could not have been found. He could have let fear turn him from his mission to let humanity know of the encompassing and embracing love of God for us all. He had the opportunity before Pilate and the Sanhedrin to renounce his teaching and to recant. But Jesus had the courage and the integrity to be fully who he was – to face what he needed to face – to as St Paul says “suffer death… even death on a cross.”
The Roman empire through Pilate thought they had won. The troublemaker died. But the teaching, the presence, the power of his life and death would outlive the empire – outlive many empires and eras.
Good Friday is called Good as it was the day on which God’s great love of all God’s people was shown in the willingness of Jesus to die rather than betray who he was and what his life stood for.
It was and IS God’s Friday. It stands as an example of the courage and strength we need to emulate in being God’s people in a world that in many ways is still hostile to the message we bring.
Whenever we see the cross, or put on a cross let it be a reminder of the love of God for us and of our baptism into a fellowship that is called to love, fully and sacrificially, one another and the world God created. Not giving in to fear or discouragement but living fully into the truth Jesus embodied and lived.