The Double Meaning of Good Friday

Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth for blasphemy against Israel’s God and insurrection against the Roman Empire. Only in light of God’s act of raising Jesus back to life again on Easter morning, can Good Friday be called “good.” It is “good” only in view of the part it played in God’s plan to reconcile the world to himself in Christ (2 Cor 5:18-20) and because it demonstrated the depths of divine love (Romans 5:1-11). The cross of Christ is, as Paul never tires of saying, something in which to glory—an irony indeed because crucifixion was designed to shame the victim to the extreme measure. There is much to ponder in this reversal. However, on this Good Friday I found myself thinking of another divine revelation made known in the events of that day.

On the first Good Friday, God displayed his wrath on the world and pronounced his judgment on all flesh. In the persons of Judas the betrayer, Peter the coward, the Jewish religious leaders, and the Roman Empire, all humanity betrayed, rejected, denied, and murdered the Messiah and the Son of God. Whereas the Jewish leaders and the Roman Empire acted to judge and condemn Jesus, in fact they judged and condemned themselves. In their act of judicial murder, God revealed the corruption and futility of all human efforts, religious and political, to bring about salvation. Democratic politics can do this no better than Imperial politics. The Christian religion will fail just as the Jewish religion failed. Coercion will not work. Nor will persuasion.

Every new generation thinks it can do what no other generation has been able to do: If we evangelize the world, the Kingdom of God will be established! If we put all our energies into social causes, we can create a world of justice, love, and peace. Just one more war, one more revolution, one more election, one more treaty, one more freedom achieved, one more scientific advance…. But the glorious future never arrives. It never will.

Good Friday stands as the definitive refutation of optimism in human capacity for goodness. When the very embodiment of justice, love, and peace—indeed the exact image of God—appeared on earth, the “best” of men condemned him to death. They still do.

6 thoughts on “The Double Meaning of Good Friday

  1. fgsjr2015

    I realize that what I say may not be scriptural ‘fact’, but [for me] Jesus was most viciously murdered in large part because he did not in the least behave in accordance to such corrupted and greedy human conduct and expectation — and in particular because he was nowhere near to being the vengeful, wrathful behemoth so many people seemingly wanted or needed their savior to be and therefore believed he’d have to be.

    Maybe Christ died in large part because people consciously or subconsciously want(ed) and/or need(ed) their creator’s nature to be a reflection of theirs. And, yes, Jesus also offended some high priests, money changers and Romans in-charge.

    I, a believer in Christ’s unmistakable miracles, can imagine many ‘Christians’ likely finding inconvenient, if not annoying, trying to reconcile the conspicuous inconsistency in the fundamental nature of the New Testament’s Jesus with the wrathful, vengeful and even jealous nature of the Old Testament’s Creator.

    While he was no pushover, Jesus fundamentally was about compassion and charity. He clearly would not tolerate the accumulation of tens of billions of dollars by individual people — especially while so many others go hungry and homeless.

    Today, when a public figure openly supports a guaranteed minimum income, he/she is nevertheless deemed communist/socialist and therefore somehow evil by many institutional Christians. This, while Christ’s teachings epitomize the primary component of socialism — do not hoard morbidly superfluous wealth in the midst of poverty.


  2. Dr Jonne Smalhouse

    Hello Ron,
    Joy to you (and The Lord is Risen!)

    1 Cor 10:23
    Liked your comparison of the democratic and the imperial. Enjoy the Schneewind book…
    The trouble with organizations that make laws is that ‘they’ have no ‘mouth’, and therefore, not only do they not “need to worry about what comes out of it” as Jesus warns, but they are heartless and conscienceless.
    Yet we give (allegedly) power and authority to them in trust of goodness? I still find it intriguing that we apportion moral or ethical individuals’ values to ‘non-entities’.
    Good luck with your imbrications, i think that there will be a lot of surprised christian philosophers when they get to the Kingdom of Heaven!
    A blessed Easter to you.
    JS x


  3. Dr Jonne Smalhouse

    Hello again Ron.
    The multi-faceted, scintillations of ‘good’ friday, take two- part two. Or, ” i shouldn’t read you when i’m busy, thinking i’ve read you, when i haven’t (in fact remotely read you, Ron)!”.
    Apologies (yet again), so much more meeting the mind than the eyes can see in your words above.
    Please forgive me.
    There is a point during the synoptic narratives of the crucifixion where we may have been told, or lead to believe that it was the “wrath” of God that “shook the ground, opened the earth, darkened the sky, cracked the graves, raised the dead and other things in the temples”. But what other evidence is there in vital scripture? Either said by preachers, saints or in newer common sense theology (soteriology).
    Well, in addition to a most excellent book on soteriology, by himself, we can always question the ideas or prejudices, and treat with disdain of equal measure, the ‘angry God -loving God’ tautology.
    What do i mean to say?
    Crucifixion: you will find that God the father could not look upon His son, as his flesh died; so, in this infinitessimal increment is it possible that all of the above, recollects that instant in which Jesus Christ actually passed over into the spiritual plane ( as God’s plan and ability, kind of ‘designed or destined’ Him to do)– moreover, that when ‘you’ pass a God-like entity through such dimensions, then these are the obvious, unavoidable physical results? It is often preached that when Jesus specifically commands ” Lazarus to come out!” that, had he not used his name, all souls in that vicinity would arise from the dead. Do we sometimes apply “the Crimson Robe” special effects images ( Charlton Heston) to our sincere thoughts and conceptualizations, when adjudging the “wrath” of God? Try not to. God is much much greater than these, in both power, patience and temperament.
    Moreover, if the dark skies parted, and God’s infinite light gaze had ACTUALLY looked down, past the surface of the earth and following the passage of His son’s spirit and Soul into pergatory, then the trivial results reported would not by any means whatsoever, have described the “wrath” of my God. No sir. And in any case, are we to assume that the crucifixion was a surprise to the Godhead? In some ways at least, we should focus upon the reasons in time and temporality why hell exists; as Ron puts it ” things do not change {in time}” nor will they change, so we need to refocus upon the eternal.
    Perhaps we can apply other such ideas and senses to our supposed understandings, as my friend in Christ, Ron does in his pioneering book “The New Adam”.
    God bless.
    Your servant, JS



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