People like to stake their lawns with weird things, like pink flamingos and gnomes with spinning arms. But this morning I saw a yard staked with white crosses. At first I was confused why my neighbors’ lawn looked like a graveyard, and then I realized what day it is today. Today is the day when we remember that Jesus was executed; Good Friday.
How ironic since just yesterday I was remembering the execution of another significant person by watching the movie Zero Dark Thirty, the story about the capture and execution of Osama Bin Laden. As I recounted where I was the day 9/11 happened and the sorrow it gave my country, I watched the reenacted killing of the main man responsible for it, as his wives and children screamed in the background. It left me feeling empty and angry inside. On the one hand, I long for justice, we all do. But violence brought to justice by more violence? Even the children of terrorists scream at the sound of their daddy’s blood splattering the walls. But if he had been allowed to live, how many more children would be screaming? I waded through the murky waters that began to surface inside of me after the credits rolled, sifting through questions about justice, about wickedness, about love and God.
I, like Jacob in the bible, have frequent wrestling matches with God, needing things to be redefined for me when I can’t make sense of them anymore. As I wrestled with these thoughts, for a moment my life experience and all the things I believe to be powerful and important and real, seemed wimpy, pathetic and useless.
In the end, my life and all that I’ve done with it will be consumed by death. Death appears to be the ultimate justice, the ultimate power. Whether wicked or righteous, we shall all be relegated to the grave. This messes with my theology. I thought God was the ultimate justice, the ultimate power?
In the face of wickedness and death, how does God win?
Here on Good Friday, you probably know the story of how God wins. Say it with me, God sent himself into the world in the person of Jesus, Jesus was executed on a cross, and then he rose from the dead. We can hear this so many times, see the crosses, the churches, the billboards, the fanatics… it begins to mean nothing to us.
But stop and wrestle with it for a moment.
Look again: God wrapped himself in flesh, gave himself the name Jesus, and allowed his own creation to stake him to the system of justice we live by and execute him there, on a cross, where He died. And then he defeated death.
Did you hear that? He defeated death. Think hard on this. Jesus superseded death.
In the history of the world, has there ever been such an audacious hope?
The grave which consumes us and all our deeds had been the only inheritance we knew, the only assurance we had, the only power that rules every one of us.
Do we understand what Jesus means? Jesus means hope beyond wickedness, inheritance beyond the grave, assurance beyond death. Jesus means a new system of justice where violence does not triumph over violence. A new life where death does not rule us, wickedness does not master us, terrorists do not own us. Jesus means that my God won. My God lives. My god promises to make me live beyond the clutches of death and evil.
We all look for something to stake our hope in, to find security in a world ruled by death and wickedness. Love. Money. Power. Yet they all come to ruin in the end.
If our hope does not resurrect the dead, how can we call it hope?