Good Friday

Under most legal systems through history death has been both the greatest crime and the greatest punishment. It is irreversible, absolute, and that is one reason why it is so terrible.

Another, of course, is that it is the loss that laces all losses. In anything we have ever had taken away from us by force or accident the fear of death has been aroused. When death finally comes it seems to prove that this fear is justified: eventually everything goes; so everything is ultimately meaningless.

Jesus would have died anyway at some point. The conclusion of birth is death. It is not only that he died, but also how and why he died that makes this Friday good. How is his death different from that of the two thieves crucified on either side of him or of the other people who died on the same day in the course of nature?

Firstly, there is the extraordinarily lucid light that the accounts of his death shine into his mind and heart. We don’t see everything because no one can know everything that passes even in his or her own mind, let alone in that of others. But we see enough to know that he suffered the rending loss of his connection with the beauties of the world. He underwent the ultimate separation from those in whom he found human companionship and who had walked on this lovely earth with him as their shared home.

He knew death as every human being knows it. It had to be accepted and he surrendered to it. ‘Into your hands I commend my spirit.’ We are not told that there was a voice that whispered, ‘don’t worry this is all just for show, you’ll be ok’. It was for real, the shutting down of everything he knew and was. To surrender everything does not mean to be certain that everything given will not dissolve into nothing but will be transformed and returned.

Yet in the climax of this particularly terrible and lonely death we see - because he experienced - something that didn’t prevent his dying but illuminated it. As the light of life flickered and expired another light shone more strongly from another source. The love that he had known in his deepest knowledge of himself during his life was proved to be real, more real than death. We know this because at the moment of ultimate loss he gave himself in love to those who were taking his life from him. He gave and forgave and the for-giving puts ancient death in a new light. What this light is, we have to wait and see.

 

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